Relationship Repair

About Relationship Repair Counseling

For most of us, trust plays an enormous role in relationships. When we trust, we take the most tender aspects of ourselves and make them vulnerable to another’s actions. What the other person does or does not do with those important parts, and vice versa, ultimately defines the relationship. Trust is what makes possible the paradox of intimacy: we are simultaneously unguarded yet safe.

Relationships in distress are relationships in which partners can no longer trust. The need for emotional safety that is so vital for secure functioning is now up for debate. The answer to the critical questions “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter to you?” is  “I’m really not sure.”

Sometimes trust is broken quite blatantly, as is the case with lying, infidelity, and other betrayals. But very often emotional safety is eroded through more subtle injuries or neglect. Couples frequently come to therapy without a clear understanding of how they got where they are. The fact is that most of us do not learn the skills necessary for cultivating great relationships, and it is only in the throes of crisis that we gain the motivation to do so!

Fortunately, the concepts of trust and secure emotional bonds needn’t be so nebulous as in decades past. Research is increasingly illuminating with incredible specificity the exact kinds of interactions that build love and connection. I often say that relationships are built and broken in 10-second increments. How partners respond in these pivotal “feeling moments” is crucial to the development of trust. If a feeling moment is met with compassion and generosity, the couple takes a step towards deepening their emotional bond. If it is dismissed, ignored, or worse, belittled, the couple takes a step towards alienation.

If both partners are willing, even trust that has been severely damaged can be rebuilt brick by brick. The process is not always pleasant; it often involves speaking and hearing difficult truths. But if a couple can weather the storm together, experience shows that on the other side is a kind of safety that often exceeds both partners’ expectations.

Note: Relationship Repair Counseling is most appropriate for those couples in which both partners have committed to salvaging the relationship. If either of you are on the fence, consider Discernment Counseling to assist you in getting unstuck.

Benefits of Relationship Repair Counseling

  • Identify and interrupt negative interactional patterns that erode trust and emotional safety
  • Learn more productive strategies for pursuing relationship needs
  • Become increasingly sensitive and responsive to one another’s vulnerabilities, which may differ considerably
  • Begin rebuilding broken trust systems
  • Learn to effectively manage “thirds,” including parents, children, friends, work, hobbies, substances, and other entities that can potentially interrupt a couple’s bond
  • Lear to respond more constructively to a partner who is experiencing emotional pain
  • Gain practical strategies for building more positive interaction
  • Learn how to de-escalate conflict to avoid “compound fractures”
  • Become “caretakers of one another’s nervous systems”
  • Learn to “turn towards” one another rather than away
  • Connect more body-to-body, or as I like to say, cultivate “love without words”
  • Build consistency and reliability while also cultivating novelty and play

Common Reason for Seeking Relationship Repair Counseling

Infidelity and Affair Recovery

Nothing throws a couple into crisis quite like an affair, but an infidelity can also sound the alarm, snapping bother partners to attention. Research shows that as many as 2/3rds of couples survive an infidelity. I have personally worked with many couples who have not only navigated the crisis, but transformed their relationship into something way more fulfilling. Whether you’re still reeling and need some guidance, or you’re ready to re-envision your relationship post-affair, I am here to support you every step of the way. Learn More.

Loss of Trust Due To Addiction or Substance Abuse

I often think of drugs and alcohol as “thirds” that a couple must learn to manage together. I never moralize the use of substances, but if one person consistently turns towards a drink or a drug over their partner, trust is bound to be eroded even if the use falls short of full-blown “addiction.”

At more extreme ends, substance abuse can involve dishonesty, aggression, DWI’s, legal and financial troubles, and other consequences that shake trust at a foundational level. Mistrust can persist long after a partner has gotten sober or reduced the offending behavior. In fact, it’s not uncommon for those who feel abandoned by their partners’ substance use to feel equally abandoned by their recovery efforts!

Substance use is a complex phenomenon that deserves empathy, understanding, and a personalized approach that aligns with the individual and couple’s goals. Unfortunately, persons seeking help are often stigmatized and met with simplistic labels (“addict or not”). I have experience supporting individuals and couples using a variety of approaches including and beyond traditional 12 Step treatments. If your relationship has been affected by drug or alcohol use, I am here to help you and your partner build a plan that works for you.

Busyness or “Workaholism”

For many of us, careers are wrapped up in life purpose, personal identity, and meaning…not to mention the paycheck that allows us to survive and thrive! Often, careers feel at odds with another important part of life: relationships. Balancing between the two can feel like a never-ending juggling act.

Unlike many other, “-aholisms,” workaholism is socially accepted and even encouraged. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t disrupt a relationship. If you or your partner’s workload is impacting your connection, I am here to help you manage both of these important aspects of life. I can help you

  • Renegotiate boundaries around work
  • Effectively manage conflict about work and family
  • Clarify priorities and goals
  • Establish rituals of connection and carve out more couple time
  • Improve quality of couple interactions
  • Manage work stress that may be impacting relationship
Attachment Injuries

Attachment Injuries are events that damage trust in some profound way. I often define them as “instances in which a basic assumption of the relationship is violated.” They are characterized by a sense of abandonment and betrayal during an intense moment of need.

You may be dealing with an Attachment Injury if:

  • The hurt partner keeps bringing up the hurtful experience despite the other partner’s apology
  • The hurt partner relives the hurtful experience when they think about or talk about the event
  • The hurtful experience becomes a defining moment in the relationship such that there is a “before” and “after”

Left unaddressed, Attachment Injuries can fester and compound. They become recurring themes around which the couple organizes., and partners can become anxious, withdrawn, hypercritical, and/or controlling in an effort to meet their needs for emotional safety. Often, a couple’s distress cycle can be found to have originated with some Attachment Injury.

The good news is that Attachment Injuries, whether recent or longstanding, can be healed. I facilitate this process by helping the injured party (often both partners!) identify the event and articulate what was lost. I also help the other partner to understand the significance of the event and begin responding in ways that are restorative.

Emotional Neglect

Relationships can be thrust into crisis by an explicit event, but they can also quietly slip into disrepair through neglect. In fact, research shows time and again that the number one reason for divorce is not infidelity, but emotional distance.

Many of us lack the tools to build the kinds of relationships we truly crave. We expect good connections to just “happen” and then are surprised when they don’t! Fortunately, we can develop the vision and the skills to cultivate emotional closeness. If your relationship has slipped into emotional distance (even, and perhaps especially, if only one partner thinks so), recognize how serious this situation is, and recognize that there is help available to you.

Unintentional Betrayals

Often, partners erode one another’s trust in unintentional but extremely damaging ways. Some common unintentional betrayals include:

  • Lying, whether straightforward deceit or lying to avoid conflict
  • A non-sexual affair
  • Conditional commitment
  • Withdrawal of sexual interest
  • Breaking promises
  • Coldness or indifference
  • Forming a coalition against a partner
  • Unfairness around finances or housework

It’s easy to fall into the trap that a lack of malice ought to make the event less damaging. After all, no one wants to be the Bad Guy. But it’s important to realize just how destructive these incidents can be. The injury is often compounded when it is met with dismissiveness. If you or your partner have been on the receiving end of an unintentional betrayal, it’s time to get help!

Recommended Resources

  • An Open Letter to the Broken-Hearted, Hayden Lindsey
  • Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships, Diane Vaughan
  • No Breakup Can Break You: The Definitive Recovery Guide for Men, Nick Dawson
  • Divorce After 50: Your Guide to the Unique Legal and Financial Challenges, Janice Green
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron
  • Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After, Katherine Woodward Thomas
  • Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship, Mira Kirschenbaum
  • The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Surviving Through and Recovering from the Five Stages That Accompany the Loss of Love, Susan Anderson

Ready to Meet?

Fill out the form below and I will get back to you within 3 business days.

1 = not very distressed; 10 = very distressed. N/A if not applicable. This will help me to prioritize your inquiry.