By Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
I believe that just about any relationship can be saved – even in cases of adultery, sexual or otherwise. If both people are willing to commit to the relationship and work through the problems they face I believe that there isn't much that's insurmountable. To that effect, I wrote my book, Make Up Don't Break Up, which includes the accompanying DVD Falling in Love and Staying in love. Of course in extreme cases or in traumatic situations I highly recommend finding a great therapist which helps take the pressure off both people to “fix” everything themselves. But even in my practice with couples that come to me after infidelity, or with issues of non-communication and so forth there are a few things that I almost always recommend. I've included some of them below and you'll find more in the book.
Smart Heart Skills and Dialogue: the idea here is to provide a safe place where each person can feel comfortable talking about their fears and frustrations. These types of habits can be the glue that helps to create passion in a relationship, even during and spite of disagreements and conflict. When I instruct couples to use Smart Heart Dialogue, it's as a way to move beyond the anger and blame that typically is placed when an argument or disagreement comes to a stalemate. It can be used for smaller, more inconsequential arguments as well - what I like to call “the glue when the relationship is new” - as larger conflicts, even when faced with infidelity. I encourage having a weekly ten minute “Smart heart”-to-heart with a figurative emotional "bullet proof vest" to protect from hurt, anger and defensiveness, as you listen and echo back what you heard.
Fight Fair: Fighting in a relationship doesn't have to signal the end – but rather, it's HOW we fight that makes all the difference. I've long been teaching couples how to fight fair and now new research shows that it's things like our tone of voice, words we use, whether or not we hear each other out that contributes to how effective and productive fighting can be. Fighting doesn't necessarily mean a relationship is on the rocks, in fact, couples who argue well are happier. Perhaps surprisingly, there's also little distinction made about the so-called differences between arguing, fighting, bickering or even nagging – they're all forms of expressing dissatisfaction with a situation or a person and learning how to convey these feelings, and how to respond to them, can make all the difference.
Break up to make up or “brush with death”: A temporary break up can help resolve certain issues, and creates a shake-up that many couples need. In certain circumstances, this is the only thing that will create an action step which will make reconnecting and making up easier to do. Remember that creating this strategy – and it MUST be a strategy, not something entered into half-heartedly - is not the end of the relationship, but rather a new beginning.
Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil has been an internationally acclaimed relationship therapist for thirty years. New York magazine named her one of the city’s top therapists and Psychology Today named her one of America’s best therapists. Her books are available on her site, http://doctorbonnie.com/