Going Beyond "Making It Work"
Making your marriage or relationship work seems like a great goal, right? I imagine this to be the case, particularly in scenarios when it doesn’t feel like the status quo is necessarily working. “Making it work” might, for some, mean patching things together, mending the fissures, and re-establishing solid ground. There are times when “making it work” is a very necessary starting place.
The thing is... most people don’t enter relationships because they found someone with whom they think they can only “make it work.” Perhaps that’s a part of it, but the thing that draws people to one another is usually bigger than that. For example, maybe the world feels expanded by this person, perhaps you feel closer to who you’d like to be within a particular partnership, or maybe you just feel a sense of belonging with a certain person.
The forces that draw people into relationships are even sometimes (though not always) described as “inexplicable,” “transcendent,” and “put together by the universe”.
As relationships go, unprocessed trauma expresses itself in relationship conflict, previous attachment wounds make themselves known in the relationship space, all while the “feel good” chemicals of new relationship wear off. These things don’t mean a relationship is over. In fact- it may mean the relationship is being invited into a new phase that requires more intention, awareness, and healing than the first phase of falling/being in love requires.
When couples embark on a journey of growth and relationship-work together in couples therapy, perhaps “making it work” is a great place to start. It very well could be a smart way to triage the deepest ruptures and start to build a more solid foundation.
What I’m saying is, I don’t think couples need to stop there. Through trauma healing, strengthening your attachment to each other, and working toward emotional attunement together, “making it work” only has to be the beginning of what could be a deeply fulfilling, authentically functioning, and nourishing relationship that gets better and better as time goes on.
Krissy Mulpeter is a Couples and Individual Therapist in Eugene, Oregon. Read more about her here.