In a survey conducted a few years after couples divorced, 70 percent of the respondents said they wished they had tried harder and longer to save their marriages. But according to psychoanalytic psychotherapist Daniela Roher PhD and Jungian analyst Susan E. Schwartz PhD, even though most spouses would like to save their relationships, they often don’t have the tools or skills to turn things around.
This is the central theme in a useful new book by Drs. Roher and Schwartz, called Couples at the Crossroads: Five Steps to Finding Your Way Back to Love. Drawing from more than 60 years’ combined experience working with marriages in crisis, the authors present a detailed, step-by-step roadmap to help couples navigate through obstacles in their relationship that are driving them apart. They give readers a wealth of skills they can learn to save their marriages.
What I admired about this book was the authors’ unsentimental view of relationships. Marriage is work. It requires intense self-questioning, self-examination, and the willingness to take responsibility for one’s part in the conflict. It takes commitment on the part of both partners to work as hard on changing themselves as they do on healing the rifts in the relationship. In the true sense of the word, this is a workbook.
The authors return frequently to the idea that the crossroads—that moment in a marriage when both people genuinely don’t know which way it’s going to go, or which direction to turn—often occur at the confluence of external stressors and unresolved issues from one’s past. They say the things that rupture marriages—such as one’s inability to communicate, cope with negative emotions and reactions, enjoy intimacy and sex, or let go of past hurts—may have more to do with oneself than with one’s spouse. It’s not the easiest truth to swallow, especially in a marital struggle where blaming the other partner is the prevailing knee-jerk response.
Drs. Roher and Schwartz lead couples at the crossroads through five steps. Step one asks the reader to identify how he or she feels about the other spouse, learn some healthy communication strategies, and then be the one to make the first move. Step two delves into the Jungian idea of “shadow” emotions, what our unconscious mind and dreams are telling us, and how to move from blaming to self-examination. The third step is a primer on letting go of past hurts and learning how to forgive and feel empathy for one’s partner. Step four is all about repair: rebuilding trust and reawakening intimacy and sex. The final step is a detailed section on how to build 10 “connecting bridges” with one’s spouse, ranging from reinforcing shared values to affirming each other’s significance.
Couples at the Crossroads differentiates itself from other marriage manuals by offering strategies that are based on a vast body of research in developmental and social psychology, neuroscience, clinical psychology, and anthropology. Readers can’t help but learn a great deal about themselves—their unconscious mind, behavior patterns, neurochemistry of emotions, dreams, gender traits, and more—in the process of finding their way back to love. This is a smart book that’s ideal for couples to read and use together.