David Bulitt now enters the conversation. He describes the state of a couple who chooses the alternative path. They are seeking divorce rather than engaging in a remarriage (Bullitt and Bulitt, 2020, p. 9):
People who have been together for years don’t take care of themselves. How they dress, how they look. I see it all the time in my office. The person you got involved with a few years ago doesn’t look like she used to, she doesn’t take care of herself like she used to. But there is more to it than letting oneself down physically. It’s paying attention to what the other has to say, put the paper down when your partner is talking, don’t check your phone during dinner. People need to continuously be working on keeping the relationship happy and healthy. And what happens if they don’t? Better be ready to spend several hundred dollars of your hard-earned money on someone like me sitting on the other side of a desk so that a stranger in a black robe can make decisions about the ‘future of your family.
Even if, as David suggests, a couple doesn’t continuously work on their relationship, they do need to stop every so often to declare: “hey, it ain’t working for us right now. We need to step back and do some reflecting, re-examining and even re-working of our relationship.” Otherwise, as Julie Bulitt suggests, there might be a bill awaiting for couples therapy, or as David Bulitt notes, the even bigger bill (emotional if not financial) required to complete work with a “stranger in a black robe” (who is mediating impartial justice—that often ends up being destructive for both parties). I would suggest, if nothing else, that couples view Marriage Story, a powerful (and often very painful) movie that displays what can happen when the legal system (insensitive to relationships) takes over from a domestic system (intimate enduring relationship). The pain of remarriage is usually much less intense and encompassing than the pain of divorce.
A somewhat different perspective is offered by John Gottman, one of our other guides, Gottman is founder of the Gottman Institute and has run a “Love Lab” for couples that yields quite impressive results regarding the nurturance of intimate relationships (Gottman, 2015, pp.8-10). Gottman writes about something that he calls “repair attempts.” I would suggest that these are often mini-remarriages or at times full-bodied remarriages. A brief account is offered by Gottman (2015, p. 27):
In our research, we have a technical name . . . repair attempt. This term refers to any statement or action–silly or otherwise–that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. Repair attempts ”are a secret weapon of emotionally intelligent couples—even though many of these couples aren’t aware that they are employing something so powerful. When a couple have a strong friendship, they naturally become experts at sending each other repair attempts and at correctly reading those sent their way. But when couples are in negative override: even a repair attempt as blunt as “Hey, I’m sorry” may have a low success rate.
Gottman (2015, p. 27) is offering a distinctive insight when he noted that the foundation of any successful repair resides in an ongoing friendship among the partners.
The success or failure of a couple’s repair attempts is one of the primary factors in whether their marriage is likely to flourish or flounder. And again, what determines the success of their repair attempts is the strength of their marital friendship. If this sounds simplistic or obvious, you’ll find . . . that it is not. Strengthening your marital friendship isn’t as basic as just being “nice.” Even if you feel that your friendship is already quite solid, you may be surprised to find there is room to strengthen it all the more.Download Article 1K Club