Bypass Your Conflict to Jumpstart Love Again

“My heart skipped a beat.” “My heart was racing.” These are the comments of someone experiencing excited new love or infatuation. But these feelings don’t compare with the strong, steady heartbeat of a stable, loving marriage.

What about spouses who fall out of love? Sometimes a couple loses all but a glimmer of hope and thinks it won’t be possible to work through a stalemate that is blocking all loving feelings. Yet, bypassing the hurt can often be a much better strategy than working “through” it.

My father had open heart surgery yesterday, following the urgent discovery of two badly placed blockages that closed 95% of two arteries.  His surgeon didn’t fix the arteries by clearing the blockage; instead, he stopped the heart, grafted a new vein around the blockage and restarted the heart. Through miracle of technology, divine intervention, or the good fortune of his 63-year-old genes, he was sitting up and talking this morning. The doctors said working through the blockages was not a successful strategy, but the workaround was a success.

Michele Weiner-Davis, a progressive marriage counselor and author of the very popular book Divorce Busting, explains this “bypass” strategy in her book and in various writings. Whereas some therapists, especially in decades past, focus on a couples’ hurts and the deeply rooted causes and effects of negative behaviors, Weiner-Davis advocates a couple change strategies entirely to focus on a time when they were happier and on behaviors that they know in the past made their spouse happier.

For example, a wife might recall that in their newlywed years they took off for fun weekend excursions, so she might plan a similar getaway to reconnect. A husband might recall how much his wife appreciated it when he paid her more attention and was a more active father. Then, he might choose to adopt those behaviors and not focus on a conflict they were having or a negative trait he sees in his wife. Soon, the feelings are following their actions.

The sad fact is many conflicts we have with our spouse will NEVER be solved. (That’s true of all marriages.) But if your marriage is 95% blocked and you see no way out, find a work-around; don’t throw in the towel. If your life were on the line, you’d find a skilled surgeon. You’d take risks. You’d try experimental treatments. You might even change your lifestyle.

You can indeed restart the loving feelings if you reach down to locate the fond memories and experiences of your past, and use them to graft a bypass around your problem.

I’m celebrating my 15-year anniversary today (happy anniversary, sweetie!) to a guy who isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty close. We have, of course, had our problems and frustrations. But I have such a wellspring of positive experiences with him from which to draw upon.

I can cause myself to have more positive feelings toward him when recall the great days—strolling through Paris, exploring wine country, dancing with our children, celebrating in Vegas—than when I think about our struggles or his perceived faults. In actuality, thinking of these positive times makes my heart skip a beat.

If you’re having a rough time or a difficult conflict with your spouse, change strategies and work on a bypass. Have you ever tried this? If so, was it successful or not?

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12 responses to “Bypass Your Conflict to Jumpstart Love Again

  1. Hey Lori:
    I can understand your relief over your dad’s successful surgery. I too had by pass surgery ten years ago where they replaced all 5 top arteries to my heart. Made me as good as new and still good ten years later.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I tell clients to adopt the playground strategy of a “DO OVER”. In other words start over again with a fresh start and allow each other some grace admitting that you have both made mistakes but that you are going to try different strategies in the future.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  2. I really appreciate this post Lori. It doesn’t gloss over the fact of how very difficult marriage is, but at the same time, offers a fresh perspective on how a couple can get re-acquainted and re-grounded in what is positive about their relationship.

    Honestly, I think sometimes that it is when we relax, extend grace and rest in the imperfections that we find what is rich and authentic about our relationship. I’m not an advocate to ignore really critical issues, but too often I think what is causing the most strain in marriage is TOO MUCH focus on minor annoyances… things we need to just let go. Anyway, thanks again! Love your stuff! Blessings! Julie

  3. I agree critical issues shouldn’t be ignored. I think we need to determine if something is a deal-breaker, or if it’s even important, before giving it too much of our focus. Thanks so much.
    Lori

  4. Thanks for the great and timely advice. After almost 38 years of marriage, I need these “GEMS” more than ever. I wish I had been able to get a constant dose of them for the last 38 years, something I would recommend to newlyweds and “oldyweds” alike! You gotta love technology!

    • Glad to help. Hey, after 38 years of marriage, I’ll bet you’ve learned a thing or two. Be sure to share your lessons learned in the comments.

  5. Lori – A very interesting idea, I will have to study it some.

    A very happy anniversary to you and your man – may your marraige continue to grow deeper, stronger, and become a greater and greater source of intimacy, comfort, joy and pleasure!

  6. Thanks, Paul!

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  8. I think this is really good advice. My personality, I seem to grab onto things and really dig into them and try to figure them out, rather than just realizing that thats life and my hubby is just a human . . . bypass, what a great analogy! By God’s grace, I think thats truly possible. :0)

  9. Lori,
    Thanks for referencing my book, Divorce Busting. You are absolutely right- getting stuck rehashing the problem over and over won’t get couples anywhere. On second thought, it will get couples somewhere- a divorce attorney’s office! This is not to say that when I work with couples, we don’t discuss the problem or find creative solutions, we do. But simply outlining the difficulties and discussing the feelings associated with them is not enough. You need to find effective ways to get around them. Focusing on problem-free times is one way. There are many others.

    Your message is so clear and strong. When people become hopeless, they need “open heart” surgery and bypassing long-standing problems is a direct route for feeling more loving and connected. Bravo!
    Michele Weiner-Davis

    • Michele, thank you so much for your positive comments. It means so much coming from someone who has worked tirelessly to develop better strategies to save marriages. I’d love to talk to you about other useful strategies. Best to you,
      Lori

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