Someone once called me a “relationship mechanic.” Actually, the metaphor works well to describe the work I do with couples. The parallels between what a mechanic does and what I do are surprising, as well as those between relationships and automobiles.
Relationships often need a tune-up, repair or a major overhaul – just like a vehicle. Both can appear to be in good shape on the outside, but may actually not run very well. Or, they might look unsophisticated, even a bit ragged, but be quite reliable and trustworthy. That could describe some spouses or partners couldn’t it?
Relationships can run out of gas, have poor timing or be misaligned. They can run rough, be hard to start, overheat easily or no longer have the spark they used to have. (For a guy who likes puns, this is fun!)
Two cars are not intended to occupy the same space at the same time – we call those accidents and they damage both cars and people. Similarly, people are not intended to be in two relationships at once. Infidelity – physical or emotional – damages relationships as well. Like cars, the damage may be just on the surface or there may be deep structural damage.
Though some cars are damaged beyond repair, many can be restored even after a serious accident. Likewise, with help many relationships can recover from damage like infidelity and come out even better than they were before.
Some people take great care of their cars with regular washing and preventive maintenance to keep them in top condition. Others do very little and passively wait for something to break.
A new car is shiny and fun, and seems very reliable. It is easy to take it for granted, assuming it will always be there and do what is needed without much attention. Unfortunately, that is usually a set up for the car to suddenly fail at the worst possible time, bringing inconvenience, aggravation, expense, and less trust in the reliability of the car. Then when something major breaks, the owner usually rushes to a mechanic and asks for a fast and cheap repair. Sadly, major repairs are seldom fast, cheap or painless. And most could be prevented.
Relationships are a lot like that, too.
Some couples make the time to take care of their relationship. They do regular maintenance to keep their connection energized and fresh. They find time for each other, not allowing the demands of children and careers to drain the energy out of their connection. These are the ones who can spot trouble early and may even be able to do the repair themselves.
Unfortunately, others tend to take their relationship for granted, letting the details and stresses of life distract them from each other. These couples are destined for sudden problems, ‘accidents,’ or just a slow deterioration of the relationship.
I was talking with my wife this morning about this article and the seemingly endless parallels between relationships and cars, and between mechanics and couple therapists. She listened to my ideas and then observed: “Most cars nowadays have GPS systems that show the driver where they are and how to get where they want to go. Isn’t that something you do for couples too?” As usual, she was right.
Northern Illinois Men’s Counseling stands ready to coach, support, guide and challenge men and couples to be the best they can be. Call, text or e-mail if you have questions. When you are ready, you can schedule an appointment through the website without the hassle of phone tag.