Out of the blue I received this message through the web site. It said nothing more and nothing less: “Can I have a new marriage please.” No name, no other message and no proper email address, just a disembodied voice from cyber space in a little comments box.
It felt like the beginning of a film. I half expected Angelina Jolie, or Julia Roberts to walk through the office door and begin telling me about their marriage (they didn’t by the way, just in case you were wondering). Nothing happened except that I stared at this message for a very long time indeed. I stared at the screen thinking about this for such a long time that when I looked up it had gone dark outside. The sun had just set behind the mountains and bats were flitting about under the street lamps.
It’s an intriguing idea isn’t it; to what extent is it possible to wipe the slate clean and start again? Can we change our lives and our relationships as easily as changing channels on the TV? Is there a default button that we can press that will re-start everything from neutral?
It led me back to an old question, which now feels as comfortable as an old friend, who despite going away from time to time you know will always re-surface, usually when you least expect it (although I wouldn’t usually expect them to materialize through a comments box on a computer screen).
Is It Possible To Change So Much So Quickly?
The short answer is “yes.”
I have known people make enormous changes in almost no time flat; to decide to stop drinking alcoholically (and stay stopped) within one 40 minute session, to re-locate to the other side of the world leaving behind job, family and friends (three 40 minute sessions). I could probably go on remembering instances like this for a very long time, although I can’t remember any 2 people deciding to wipe their marriage clean and start again.
I can’t help feeling that it’s a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water, isn’t it? Is their nothing good that you want to salvage…is it all for the rubbish bin? No good memories and happy times?
I can understand wanting to improve any relationship, to use Couples Therapy to improve, enhance and maybe repair, but to simply wipe the slate clean and start again? All the work that it would take in forgetting and forgiveness…everything! Wow, that is a lot.
Starting Over Again
There are many ways to re-start a relationship, but it might be worth making a list of what you want to keep and what you want to change. After this you need to decide what you can and can’t change and what you will need to accept about each other. This process often requires a bit of outside help, which is why good couples therapy really does work, especially if its in a retreat setting where you can spend concentrated time working these things out.
Here is a technique from our Couples Therapy Retreat that helps this process of deciding what to keep:
- Think about what you would miss if you never saw your partner again. What was it that first drew you to them? Was it their sense of humour, their sense of adventure, spontaneity…what do you remember falling in love with?
Make a real list with good old fashioned paper and pen and use this as your starting point for working out what to keep and what to change.
After you have done this the real work of changing begins.