Compared to individual and group patients, couples come into my office the most urgently. Typically, and sadly, most couples wait too long to get the needed help for their hanging-on-by-a-thread relationship. As if I am some relationship emergency room doctor, they want me to “fix” them instantaneously. There they sit, in the throes of a dying love, and they desperately need hope that the end is not inevitable. They want encouragement that I not only can keep the partnership alive but that I can give them the wherewithal for relational vitality and sustenance.

Practically speaking, there are four factors to consider as to whether or not a couple can recover, heal and move to a more conscious healthy relationship:

1. The degree of childhood woundedness that remains unhealed. The more the partners in a relationship have unprocessed leftover emotional pain, the less likely the relationship can move to higher, improved ground. In other words, if the folks that make the mix do not have the character flexibility necessary, relational health cannot be created;
2. The degree of woundedness in prior relationships. The amount of unprocessed leftover pain that remains from each partner’s relationship history will impact negatively the current relationship;
3. The degree of woundedness in the current relationship. The depth and length that partners have injured the other and thus, injured the relationship, directly correlates to the chance for recovery. In other words, the greater the damage, the poorer the prognosis;
4. The willingness for each partner to work his/her edge. Even in the midst of deep and overwhelming woundedness, I have seen long-gone relationships not only revive but also blossom into a never known newness. It can be done if both partners are committed to the work required – both within themselves and within the relationship.

Bottom line?

Do your own emotional work so that you are in the best shape possible to be a healthy, intimate partner.

Learn early the relationship skills needed as to prevent destructive patterns of relating from embedding and damaging your relationship.

If consistent troubles emerge without constructive resolve, seek help early as opposed to waiting until it is too late.

Work your relationship as your life’s art – the one with the opportunity for the highest dividend of investment.