(As told to Aarti Pathak by Consultant Psychiatrist Rima Mukherjee)
Dr. Rima Mukherji MBBS, DPM, MRCPsych (London)
After gaining 7 years of experience in the UK, Dr. Mukherji set up the renowned Crystal Minds, a mental wellness centre (with a multidisciplinary team offering a wide range of psychiatric and psychological services for all age groups) in Kolkata. Over the past 20 years she has won several laurels to her name due to her fierce passion and her vision for a safe society that is geared towards living without the fear of stigma, experiencing awareness and promoting positive mental health.
Getting back after breaking up? How to heal the wounds and put away the bitterness that was? What to keep in mind when rebuilding a relationship and giving it a second chance? Counsellor Rima Mukherjee takes us step by step on how to rebuild the relationship that you don’t want to let go of. Along the way, she tells us to also take a look within and introspect; what could we have done differently the first time?
1. Stop the blame game
The first step to rebuilding a relationship is to let go of the baggage. The anger, hurt and tears? Leave it all. Drop it and don’t look back at it. From now on, no looking back and no blaming. Yes, this is easier said than done, but the couple can achieve peace after attending therapy and counselling sessions.
Related reading: Six things to let go of in a long-term relationship
We are all born with our own insecurities. This would be a good time to introspect if it is an old insecurity of ours that is leading to our issues, which are in turn affecting the relationship negatively. Analyse with a calm mind and seek counselling if you feel the need.
Related reading: 10 signs you need counselling to fix your marriage
3. Choose the good over the perfect
Why is your relationship at a stage where you are trying to rebuild it? Think just for a moment about if you were chasing an elusive ‘perfect’ relationship and in the process were not satisfied with the ‘good’ one that you have. Many of us have a notion of how a ‘perfect relationship’ should be and what ‘love’ should be. Once we let that go, we can see love and relationships for all the wonderful things they can be and are.
Related reading: Have you fallen into the comparison trap?
4. Identify the root problem dispassionately
What brought you to this stage? Abuse? Cheating? Angry fights? Alcohol/drugs? In-laws? Financial troubles? Incompatibility? Insecurity? Go past the frivolous fights and find the core issue. Lead yourself up to it. Away from all the noise and confusion all around, address that core issue and speak with your partner about it. Tell them ‘This hurt me’ or ‘Please don’t drink so much’, ‘It hurts when you make fun of me’, ‘Let’s meet a counsellor for your addiction’, ‘Let’s discuss our finances calmly’, ‘I am facing difficulty trusting you after you cheated, we need couples counselling’, ‘I am sorry I strayed, let’s sort this out please. I want to be with you’ and so on…
Related reading: Communication mistakes couples make
5. Be genuine in your efforts as individuals
Most couples know the point when their relationship begins to show cracks. They know exactly what mistakes they made in the relationship and exactly what they could have done to prevent things going wrong. So when they attempt to get back together, they more often than not, at some level know what they should do differently this time. When trying to get back together – be genuine in your efforts. If you say sorry, mean it. When you say you will control your alcohol, join an AA, if need be. If you say you will control your temper from now on, work towards it. When the spouse sees your efforts, the trust will rebuild. When words are followed up by concrete action, it reassures the partner about your commitment to the relationship.
6. Be genuine in your efforts as a couple
Work together as a team. Plan together. Discuss. Brainstorm. Attend counselling. Together decide to not to be mean to each other.
Related reading: Here is why you can’t fix bad relationships with fake smiles
7. Address the ‘reason’ why you married
Both the individuals in the relationship must take their mind back to why they agreed to marry each other. Think of the good things and the positives. No point mulling over the negatives of each other.
8. Focus on your own growth
When individuals take charge of their own happiness, they respond better to being a couple. Do not put the entire burden of your own happiness on your partner. Your partner cannot be your parent, friend, guru, source of entertainment… Fill your life with your own joys, do things that make you happy. Your relationship will benefit from it.
Related reading: 7 reasons to have your own friend circle distinct from your spouse
9. This is a new marriage/relationship
And so the couple must treat it as a new relationship. It has changed due to whatever tore them apart (the affair/the differences/the in-law issues). It will never be what it was. But from our experience in years of counselling couples, we see that is can be a sounder and stronger relationship. One that has weathered the storm.
10. List the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship
Focus and celebrate the strengths (how you enjoy each other’s humour/how they respect your parents/how your partner always stands up for you) and work hard on removing the weaknesses (losing temper soon/saying bitter things to be regretted later/not spending time with children.. and so on).
I always say, positive change cannot be brought about by being negative.