Repairer or Despairer: Looking at Spelman and Couple’s Therapy

Therapy can be a place where you can have a breakthrough during a relationship or a fallout in a relationship. It is a safe place where couples find the truth about their relationship and realize the path they should take to continue with this relationship.

I would consider myself blessed for being in a family who has had minimal problems in the past causing my siblings and me to have a great life. But, many of my close friends at home have told me the problems that their parents have gone through and how it affected them. My best friend would tell me stories about how she would not be able to sleep at night because there was constant yelling going on during the middle of the night between her parents which would lead to her mom sleeping in her parent’s room and her dad sleeping in the guest room. I would hear multiple stories about the minimal amount of sleep my friends were getting, the minimal amount of attention they were getting, and the events that they would miss, for example a soccer game, because their parents were so consumed with fighting that they did not focus on the needs of their children. This is not an uncommon thing anymore. because divorcing has happened more often than way back then. People are starting to become more and more prevalent to divorce in the era we live in now.

Before 1970, divorce did not happen as much as it does not, but there are ways that couples can go about to help fix and mend their relationship back into what it used to be (Marriage and Divorce). One ultimate repair approach that many people can agree on is therapy. People view therapy as a place where broken humans can be reconstructed, restored, and mended back into a whole. When we think of couple’s therapy, we think about two people who were once in love or in a happy place in their lives, but other factors in life caused the two to split apart and either stop loving each other, start arguing more, or have other distractions that push them apart. But, there are times when couple’s therapy does not always have positive outcomes which leads to couples staying broken and moving on from each other. Therapy correlates with Spelman’s book Repair in many ways. Spelman explains that repairing can be a slow mending process as well as sometimes repairing is not the best option because it could cause more harm. She also touches on apologies and how they are only effective if the other party accepts it. These examples go hand in hand with therapy, especially couples therapy. Couples therapy is an place where repairing is the main goal, but often times there are conflicts within the relationship when the process of therapy repair does not work.

In this essay, I am going to touch on the main points about what happens to relationships after there is a crack in the it and how people can go about ways in fixing the relationship. But, sometimes there are instances when people realize that their love is no longer there. This is to show, as Spelman says it, that repairing sometimes is not the best option for the couple. Instead, a split between the two past lovers would be best. I also will talk about how apologies are meant to be interpreted with the clients in therapy that will tie in with what Spelman says about apologies. I will also talk about how couples that have kids sometimes causes a crack within a relationship also causing people to split up. Kids cause a great amount of stress on a couple especially if he or she is having a rough time as a couple in the first place. Sometimes relationships that go to couple’s therapy can be solved and sometimes it is best they the relationship is not solved.

Relationships are supposed to be a positive, loving thing in life that creates happiness between two people who are so consumed with each other that nothing could get in their way of their love. But, sometimes couple’s relationships actually have more negative outcomes than positive ones. How a person is nurtured and brought up throughout life is how he or she will grow up and be like during his or her life (Aducci 350). For example, if a girl is abused by her parents when she was growing up, there are high chances that she may be abusive as she gets older due to the fact that she was brought up thinking that was the way to handle situations. When humans have a hard upbringing, there are high chances that there will be some disputes between a couple, friends, and possibly their kids. When parents are raised with a past that is not the best, most times than not they will raise their children like that as well.

We all go through experiences that cause us to be the person we are and react to things the way we do. We are all brought up and taught in different ways that will mostly likely be how we develop and raise our children. Our past causes what will happen in the future. Usually when people have a hard past, they have a hard future which causes many people to go to therapy. In Herbert Strean’s book Resolving Marital Conflicts, he says,

If life during a child’s formative years was gratifying, the chances are high that the individual will be propelled toward a gratifying relationship in marriage. On the other hand, if the child experienced a great deal of frustration or was dealt with ambivalently or inconsistently, in all probability he will have a marital relationship that is frustrating. (Strean 25)
Often times, kids can be a reason families start to argue and fight. Children are big stressors in a couple’s life because it needs to be the main focus of the relationship.

Even though these characteristics are taken out in a relationship with the parent and child, the child often grow up to be parents and have this relationship with their children. People with backgrounds that have a long lasting effect on them cause their children to have the same upbringing. If a person’s past hinders on their life, it is prone to hinder onto their child’s life as well. This can cause major damage to a relationship, and when couples have a rough relationship, they often go to therapy to resolve their problems. This makes couples want to learn how to release the bad feelings and memories from when they are little. As well as learn how to not have a bad relationship with their child as well. This can be very damaging to the child because they may start to inhibit these abusive, hurting habits from their parents. The couples want to hear that this they will get through this and that as time goes on and the parents learn how to control their anger towards each other and possibly their kids, that things will get better But, there needs to be an apology said as the first step of this moving forward process between the parents so they can start to move on in their relationship. The parents have to understand that just saying the apology does not mean that everything is better because this process is a gradual process of fixing.

When couples first go to therapy, there is sometimes a lot of tension and emotion between the two people. The reason people start therapy because they realize they need to fix what is going on in their realtionship. This photo accurately shows how emotional this process can sometimes be.

The slow mending process is how relationships are able to sometimes move past their broken or hurting self and become one again with their significant other. The process takes a very long time and there are mini sub goals that are set in order to push forward in the mending procedure. Spelman explains that apologies are a way to say you are sorry for an action you regret doing. This goes hand in hand with couple’s therapy because when there are intense situations, for example maybe domestic violence or an abusive relationship, the one who did the wrongdoing, there has to be an apology said. This apology is the first step towards the two becoming one again. Spelman says, “To apologize to someone is to say that there is a harm worth attending to, a relationship worth mending, a rule worth honoring, a community worth preserving (Spelman 83).” The spouse that physically hurts the other needs to realize that there is actual harm in the relationship. Sometimes love is blind and when the person who did harm apologizes right away, the other person in the relationship just accepts the apology and they move on.

When the harm is strong enough that they go to therapy, the apology that is said needs to be strong, believable, and sincere. The apology isn’t the only thing that takes the relationship farther into the fixing process. The therapist needs to have the other spouse accept the apology when he or she is ready. That is the second part to the relationship, as Spelman says. The text says, “The damage cannot be mended by his apology alone; without the forgiveness of the injured party, the relationship cannot be repaired (Spelman 85).” This is so important in a relationship that is learning how to fix what they broke. Once one apologizes and the other get acceptance for the apology they can start really moving forward in therapy. The couple can talk about the problems more seriously. The apology is a huge checkpoint in a broken relationship, but what matters more after the apology is how the person who has caused harm in the first place changes for the better of their relationship.

Divorce rates in America sky rocketed in the late 1900s, but they have slowly began to plummet since then.

Sometimes in situations where forgiving is unavailable, the end result in a relationship is divorce or separation. Taylor Segraves writes in her book Marital Therapy, “A comparison of data on divorce from 1932 to 1965 from those countries reporting data allowing international comparisons revealed the United States to be the international leader in divorce rates (Segraves 49).” This proves to show that in the mid 1900s, the United States had the highest rates in divorce telling the world that we are were the ones with the most marital problems. But, couple’s therapy may not only divide the relationship between the parents, the relationship between the parents and their children may be split as well.

This is a child being taken away from his family by the government. This replicates what happened with Tracy and her children. The therapist knew that she was not well to keep her kids.

In the journal article called “‘Ask the Person that Lived It. That Would Be Me.’ A Discursive Therapy Approach to Countering Social Inequalities in a Couple’s Therapy Session”, there is a study of this couple who has children, but is going through tough times in their relationship alone. The woman in the study was named Tracy who had been raped multiple times in her life as well as abused by her mother who was using drugs. Tracy was removed from her mother’s life by the state because her mother was not well enough to take care of her. When she finally had a relationship of her own with a man named Michael, it a terrible relationship that brought much trouble to her life. She had a daughter with the man who she was in a relationship with who allegedly raped her as well as three other children. Tracy’s children were all taken away from her because she was unable to care for them in her state of mind. The author mentions, “The challenge of working with the couple was attending to her complex traumatic past and working to counter her and Michael’s oppression, all the while ensuring for the safety of the children (Aducci 351).” The family needs to split in order for the family to fix what they have broken apart. Often times, when children are forced to leave the household because of either a parents wrongdoing or unable to take care of them.

Therapist who deal with parents who are like Tracy and Michael have to take matters into their own hands and not necessarily listen to their clients and what their needs are. Aducci says, “Taking such a “colonizing” position with the family, as they refer to it, seemingly works to place the therapist’s ideas, values, and expectations at the forefront of therapy, which leaves little respect for the desires of the client and discounts the family’s pace at working to make such ‘changes.’” (Aducci 352) The therapist needs to take charge and understand what has happened and continue to repair the broken relationships with their discretion. In this example with Tracy and Michael, it was not their choice for their children to leave them, but rather it was the choice of the therapist. The split between the parents and the split between the children and the parents are two situations that can be very hard, but the therapist knows best and is supposed to be there as a guide to help the problems in the relationship. This is the only best option otherwise there would be more pain going on throughout that family that would be detrimental to all of the members in the family. Sometimes actions can cause this same deal to happen where kids are taken away from their parents. There are three “A’s” as to why parents get divorced which cause families to split. Usually it is the parents fault because they have a bad hobby or addiction that just won’t go away. This article explains addiction, abuse, and affairs a great way showing that there are many ways kids are taken away from their parents as well as parents splitting from eachother.

This photo is taken from the movie Bad Moms in the scene where they are at the therapy session that turns out in a split between the two parents.

In Chapter 6, Spelman brings up an important aspect in repairing that sometimes there are things in life that are not able to be put back together. She says, “Not everything that breaks can be fixed.” (Spelman 102) This directly correlates with couples who are in therapy. There are sometimes situations when couples are not able to talk out their problems with a therapist. Some relationships are just so torn apart that there is no love, no happiness between the two people. This could be because of many different factors like cheating, the stress of kids, or just the loss of interest. I was watching a comedy movie called Bad Moms. In this movie, there is a mom who is filled with so much stress because of work, kids, being a part of the PTA, and coming home to a husband who is not helpful and lazy. One day after her long day at work, driving her kids around, and dealing with the stresses of being in the PTA, she finds her husband on FaceTime with a woman cheating on her. This was the last straw for the wife, and she finally kicked her husband out of the house. The couple finally went to therapy, and in therapy they were fighting more and never seemed to resolve their problem. At the end of the session, the therapist finally recommended that the couple just get divorced because they would not be able to resolve their problems by the way that session seemed to go. Even though that is a fiction example because it was in a movie not based on a true story or anything, this actually does happen in real life.

Another movie that deals with couple’s therapy is Couples Retreat. This movie has to do with four separate couples who are all friends. All four couples have a different story between eachother. One couple has been married since high school. One couple is married with two young kids. One couples is very organized and neat but cannot conceive. Lastly, one couple is a recently divorced man with his new girlfriend. The couple who cannot conceive are thinking about getting a divorce, but all of the sudden they find this website that has cheap flights to a tropical island for couples therapy. The other three couples wanted to just come for the fun and low expense of the trip. As the trip goes on, the other couples realize there are cracks within their marriage as well. This causes all four couples ending in counseling for their relationship. At the end of the trip, all the couples realized that it was going to be okay between eachother. The therapy helped them get out their bad spirits toward each other and helped each couple realize the love they had for their spouses. Even though this is just a movie, in some cases therapy does not always work out like this.

Cheating is a serious and very upsetting action that people do take part in. This tremendously damages a relationship.

Therapy does not always cause happiness and a great connection between two people afterwards. When Spelman speaks about the things that can’t be fixed she speaks about the members that survived the Holocaust and can’t get rid of the memories of it because it cause so much trauma and pain. This can happen in therapy as well. Sometimes relationships cannot be fixed because if cheating is involved, some people do not think this is forgivable. Sometimes the memories stick in the partner’s head and when brought to therapy, the memories are more distinct because they are brought up and forced to be talked about by the therapist. Therefore, sometimes the therapist in couple therapy causes more stress and sadness with some patients. When this happens, usually the relationship is not salvageable, and if there is a chance that is can be saved, then the relationship is mended very slowly with mini goals to achieve the big goal.

This is from the movie How to lose a guy in 10 Days. Even though she is creating havoc with this relationship, the therapy actually somewhat works afterward.

Throughout life, couples sometimes find themselves having some troubling times. It is inevitable for humans to argue when they are together all of the time and don’t get much of a break. But, there are times when the fighting just doesn’t stop and continues for a long time, to the point where couple’s therapy is needed if there is a chance at relieving the stress and stopping the split between the two parties. Roughly 40–50% of couples get divorced in the United States. But, couple’s therapy is helping this percentage slowly decrease as years are to come. Stats show that divorce rates have actually declined since 1980s because of many factors, but couples still seem to be getting divorced. (Marriage and Divorce) The therapist can be included a repairer in people’s eyes because it is supposed to help talk out family problems and mend relationships back together through a slow process.

The hopeful end result of couples therapy is that the relationship will be slowly resolved.

In Spelman’s book, we can assume that a therapist is just another Fred or Willie trying to fix something that was once in great shape in the past, but the therapist works on this mending in their own separate particular way. In this essay I showed that Spelman’s explanation of apologies goes hand in hand with how couples need to take part in resolving their conflicts. The points I tried to get across is that therapy is a well-known mending process for couples who have a crack or break within the relationship. Couples go through periods when there is some disagreement, and sometimes, as I have stated, there are couples that cannot resolve their problems and lead to splitting up. Sometimes when two people think there is no way that a relationship can be fixed, there needs to be a point where both parties understand that there is no repair can be done. As Spelman says in her book, there are times where repair is not the right choice. Couples therapy is a place where people can find their relationships salvageable if they work on this slow mending process with a trained repairer and trust that things can go back to the way they were by completing mini sub goals, but there are couples who do not gain anything from couples therapy creating a split within a relationship.


Aducci, C.J. “Ask the Person That Lived It. That Would Be Me. A Discursive Therapy Approach to Countering Social Inequalities In a Couple’s Therapy Session.” Journal of Feminist Family Therapy 24.4 (2012): 340–56. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

“Marriage and Divorce.” American Psychology Association. March 2016. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.

Segraves, R. Taylor. Marital Therapy, a Combined Psychodynamic-behavioral Approach. New York: Plenum Medical Book, 1982. Print.

Spelman, Elizabeth V. Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Boston: Beacon, 2002. Print.

Strean, Herbert S. Resolving Marital Conflicts: A Psychodynamic Perspective. New York: Wiley, 1985. Print.


I would like to thank my group members from my GTA group. They helped me pick the topic I wanted to talk about and helped me elaborate the topic I chose. My group members, Sonia, Elijah, Amanda and Travis, gave me great responses to my beginning work which made me think that the topic I chose would be a great example of repair. Amanda gave me great insight on my paragraph structure and how I could elaborate my examples in more of a professional way. Sonia gave me the website that I used. Elijah and Travis helped me transform my essay, when I read it with my group, into a more mature essay. My GTA, Seda gave me good advice on how to fix up some paragraphs and make the flow sound better. Mainly, I want to thank Professor Harris because he gave me positive feedback on my first few drafts. Repair is so broad, and one essay on one particular topic cannot explain the whole topic of repair. It was hard choosing my topic, but my mom guided me through the topic selection process. I am very happy with how this essay turned out, and I would not have been able to end with this final project if it hadn’t been for these helpers who pushed and guided me throughout my essay.