Can you fix a broken marriage?

In this interview with Andrew Van Der Reest we ask, can you fix a broken marriage and finding a new way to repair your relationship with counseling.

So Can you fix a broken marriage? – Streaming Interview

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Here is the transcript of the call:

Michael James of OJar.com:Tell me who Andrew Van Der Reest is.

Andrew: Well, Andrew Van Der Reest is an organizational wellness psychologist, so I’m a licensed psychologist. I work mainly with organizations conducting seminars. My background is counseling psychology. So I counsel lots and lots of people, but it was always aimed at businesses so we provide employee assistance programs (EAP) which provide counseling for people who work in companies.

Michael James of OJar.com:And how did you get started in all of this? Like, what made you choose that particular topic?

Andrew Van Der Reest: Well, the main way I got started in seminars was because we provided counseling to businesses. A lot of people from the same department would come into us for counseling one at a time, and it would be 10 people from the same department. It was going to take forever to get through all these people so we talked to the managers then, and we started group sessions. And then, I found doing group sessions the main issues that people had at work, the ones we dealt with, at least, were how do we get on with the people we have to work with. So, our company is called Discoveries and our tagline is helping people at work play nicely in the sand pit. So, it’s all about how do we get people who are well intentioned, well meaning still heading in the same direction, working all together.

Michael James of OJar.com:You’ve got a book called “Relationships Made Simple”. Can you tell me what it’s all about?

Andrew Van Der Reest: Yeah. It’s literally all about making relationships simple. Often, well mainly, we over complicate relationships. In fact, they really aren’t that complicated. Relationships really work, in my mind, like a bank. If you have an account with a bank currently, then your current account balance is simply a reflection on all of the deposits and all of the withdrawals that you’ve made in that account over time, which means that if you had made more deposits in your bank balance over time, you’d end up with a higher balance right now. Whereas, if you’d made more withdrawals, then you would have ended up with a lower balance right now. We could say that relationships work exactly the same way. In our minds, we could say we have a bank, and in that bank we store accounts. And we keep tabs on those accounts. So, all of the people that we’ve met and have a relationship with on any level over time, there’s an account with their name in our head, and we’re keeping tabs on that account. And those accounts are simply a reflection on all of the deposits and all of the withdrawals that these people have made over time.

Michael James of OJar.com:Can you give me an example of what a deposit and withdrawal is when you come to a relationship, so we both understand what that means?

Andrew Van Der Reest: Well, basically, it means, depending on the type of relationship you have, anything at all that people like will earn you points and anything at all that people don’t like will lose you points. So, if you’re in a work relationship, being nice and courteous and respectful and saying ‘good morning’ in the morning and all of those things will earn you points. And being disrespectful and insensitive and letting people flounder and not helping them out when they need a hand will simply lose you points. All of our interactions over time are simply earning and losing us points, and all of us are keeping tabs. In your head right now you have a whole list of accounts, and every one of those accounts has a name. And you know roughly pretty much what their account balance reads. You know, pick anyone at all and you’ll know–you might know if it’s got 1716 points, but it’s not really meaningful. But you’ll know if it’s 100 percent full or 50 percent or overdrawn. Our interactions simply equal transactions, and if we want to have a good relationship, we need to earn more points. It’s simple!

Michael James of OJar.com:When you’re dealing with another person, how do you in your own mind make sure you gain points, not losing points?

Andrew Van Der Reest: Yeah, that is a spectacular question. It depends on the relationship that you have. The first book that I’ve written is for couples, so in terms of relationships with our partners, it’s a good idea to talk about these things. Now, obviously, we know certain things that just kind of annoy them and so we need to do less of those, and we know certain things they really enjoy, so we can definitely do more of those. One of the common mistakes and you’ve hit the nail on the head is that we often think that we are doing something that’s earning us points and, in fact, really, we’re losing points. And so, we really just need to learn to speak very effectively, very precisely about those things that earn us the most points. So, we need to be clear on what our needs, expectations, desires, wishes are in a relationship and communicate about that.

Michael James of OJar.com:This is different from other books on relationships and how you actually came up with this idea of points and keeping a balance.

Andrew Van Der Reest: I think the main reason why it’s different is because it manages to just simplify relationships in a book that’s about a hundred pages rather than taking 400 pages to cover it. It often makes it more complicated in people’s minds. Just over years of counseling lots and lots of couples, reading a large, diverse range of materials, studying lots on the topic and trying to find ways of helping people work through their relationships, that’s why it’s possible just over time to put together this concept about earning and losing points. And it gets things to work. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot. I used to counsel a lot of people. It just seems to stick with people. They go: we can do something with that. It’s something that we’ve been subconsciously doing all along, and all that I’ve done is put it into literal words so people can do it on purpose.

Michael James of OJar.com:Can you give me a couple of points, what you think are the most important factors in a good relationship?

Andrew Van Der Reest: OK. Well, if we talk about a relationship like a personal one, like husband and wife partners, I think that the simple, easiest, most important points would be probably threefold. First and foremost, we need to understand that everything we are currently doing in our relationship is already earning us, and losing us, points. And we need to be aware of that. Ah, secondly, we need to learn to specifically communicate exactly what his and her expectations are, and about their needs and how they differ. And thirdly, a desire and willingness to become an expert on their partner’s needs and wishes, and actually fulfill those. So that would be probably the three most important steps.

Understanding we’re already earning or losing points, so we might as well be aware of that. Find out exactly what they are, and then actually do that.

Interviewer: When a couple gets into trouble, how do you use this idea of the points to try and steer them back on the right path?

Andrew Van Der Reest: Well, the book really goes into an enormous amount of detail about that. And so what we normally do in counseling is we cover the normal pathway of a normal relationship. We talk about column number one, which is the courtship phase, where we are earning lots of points. And then we sort of get in a permanent relationship, and we start losing them. Now it doesn’t matter what it is that we’re doing that loses us points. We need to be aware of that. So some people lose points for simply not tidying up around them. Other people lose points for not spending enough time at home. Other people lose points by spending too much of their money on gambling. And if you really, really want to bankrupt your account, then infidelity would have to be on top of the list. And so once we’ve now established that where the respective account balances are, we’ve got a starting point. So say he has been unfaithful to her. Then in his account. Then he has an account with her, and it’s still probably reading reasonable. But in her head, there is an account with his name, and it’s just massively overdrawn. There you need to do a stock take, and say, “well, this is where it’s at right now”. We need to understand this is where it’s at. And our feelings for each other now are simply a reflection on what our account balances read. The more overdrawn you are, the less interested you are in that person, and the less interested you are in working it through. So if you look to the future and say, “where do we want to be in the future,” we can sort of bypass our current feelings, and start saying, “well, we need to do things that earn us those points back”. And what are those things going to be? So we need to embark on a journey together, and say, “number one, do we want to move forward, or do we just want to bow out, because we’re too far overdrawn, and we’re not interested in fixing it? If we are interested in fixing it, then what are those things specifically that we’re going to need to do to start earning our points back?” And then you can start embarking on a journey that will facilitate that. So, really, number one is, diagnose where people are right now. And they can get literally an account balance from each other. And when people do that, it’s really quite remarkable. It really puts it into plain English, where we’re at right now. And exactly how much work is going to be required to get it where we need it to be. And even healthy couples should get an account balance update regularly. And then we just need to work through what needs to happen.

Michael James of OJar.com:Does the book address how to make the other person aware that they’re losing points with you?.

Andrew Van Der Reest: Definitely. Absolutely. It cover all the language that people then need to use to figure out, number one, what are, you know, things that lose you points? It also covers things that are really quite nasty. But one of the processes we cover is the five to one ratio. Basically means that every time I do something nice, on average, I’ll earn a point. But every time I do something on average that’s not so nice, I’ll lose five. So often we feel we’re doing a fair bit of good stuff, but then we slip in couple of things that are annoying, and we end up losing a lot of our points again. So we do need to be aware of the ratio as well, and actually start working on the things that lose us points, and stop doing those, as well. So that’s actually quite effective.

Explain how that can help to save a marriage?

Michael James of OJar.com: You talk about communications over rated, which I’m sure makes a couple of professionals cringe when they hear that. Talk about that, and explain to me what you mean – and how that can help you save a broken marriage?

Andrew Van Der Reest: The word “communication” is very misused and over used. People often make statements when I do counseling, or when I’m doing seminars. “Yeah, we just don’t communicate enough”. Or he won’t communicate properly. If all we did was this more communication, we’d be fine”. And it’s simply not the answer. We are always communicating. I’ve never met a couple in counseling, or in seminars, who weren’t communicating. Standing there with your arms crossed, you’re communicating. Giving someone the silent treatment, then you’re communicating. I actually like one of those comedians who said, “you know, for us guys, you women probably don’t need to know. But when we’re traveling in the car, and you give us twenty minutes of silent treatment, you are communicating.”

Michael James of OJar.com:[Laughs]

Andrew Van Der Reest: If you abruptly end a conversation, you’re communicating. So it’s not the fact that we’re not communicating. The communicating that we’re doing isn’t specific. It isn’t positive. It isn’t solution focused. It probably often just makes things worse. So what we really need to do is to learn to communicate effectively. Positive and solution focused communication. And my main aim in the book is to get people, couples, and whoever else reads the book, the tools really needed to precisely communicate about those topics that are very important. And in a relationship, the word “communication” is very over rated. Learning to very specifically communicate is what’s really required.

Michael James of OJar.com: Thanks, Andrew. And we’ll talk soon again.

Andrew Van Der Reest: No worries. Thanks for all that and we’ll stay in touch.

Michael James of OJar.com: Very good. Bye now.

Andrew Van Der Reest: I thank you. Bye.

Andrew Van Der Reest – author of Relationships Made Simple

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