Debra Macleod’s practical method of relationship help combines elements of her “hard” training in law, conflict resolution, communication and marital mediation with her “softer” experience as a marriage/intimacy author and relationship coach. It is primarily used by individual spouses who are working alone or taking the initiative to improve the marriage due to a less motivated or uncooperative partner, but can also be used by spouses who are working together.
Debra takes a “Fair, but Aware” approach. That is, she encourages spouses to be fair in terms of respecting each other’s needs, feelings, and perspectives, but also encourages them to be aware of how both of them are contributing to the conflict: this includes being able to identify and manage an unfaithful, indifferent or otherwise uncooperative partner’s behavior and possible manipulations in a purposeful way. (Read a full article on this approach.)
Debra’s method offers an alternative or adjunct to psychology-based couples counselling, one that provides people with an option for relationship help and avoids the possible pitfalls of couples counselling (e.g. the presence of an uncooperative spouse or a spouse with a different agenda, finger-pointing, an individualistic focus, divisive discourse, unnecessary psychoanalysis, a focus on the past or the negative, ongoing discussion without resolution, and prioritizing theory over practical ideas). It also offers an alternative or adjunct to other forms of marriage help, such as self-help books, couples retreats, church-based help or support groups.
The five goals of Debra’s method are to help partners:
1. gain information to better understand the general or typical nature of the marital conflict
2. better understand “both sides” of the marital conflict: this includes being fully aware of their own role in conflict as well as their partner’s role, perspective, feelings, interests, needs, behaviors, motivations, possible manipulations, etc.
3. exercise personal discretion and empowerment so that self-determination within the marriage is possible: the goal is to achieve a healthy and respectful balance of power and decision-making between spouses
4. resolve specific areas of marital conflict (e.g. an affair, disrespectful behavior, arguing, apathy, etc.) fairly, using carefully selected insights and strategies, thus creating an environment of cooperation, commitment and collaboration in the marriage
5. improve the communication, commitment, interactions and intimacy of the overall partnership so that future marital conflict or breaches of trust can be avoided and the needs of both partners can be met: the ultimate goal is to build or rebuild the marriage on the foundation of a romantic partnership
DEBRA’S METHOD: WHAT IT IS & WHAT IT ISN’T
Debra’s method is informational, reflective and discretionary in nature. It strives to provide a spouse with a variety of usable insights, skills and strategies from which they may thoughtfully choose in order to build (or rebuild) a successful marriage by restoring or enhancing commitment and intimacy, improving communication and interactions, and learning how to resolve and avoid marital conflict. There is an emphasis on understanding “both sides” of an issue and balancing the interests, needs and perspectives of both spouses for the overall good of the partnership. There is also an emphasis on the importance of self-determination within the marriage. This method focuses on a happy future more than an unhappy past, and on practical application more than theory.
Debra’s method is not psychological counselling or therapy and is not a substitute for these. While it may offer general guidance, it cannot and does not advise people as to what specific actions they should or should not take in their marriages or lives: the choice to use or adapt the information provided is always at the sole discretion of the client or course-taker. Debra’s method provides a non-therapy option for healthy, functional people and is not suitable in cases of abuse, trauma, mental illness/disorder, addiction, serious emotional distress or when crisis intervention is indicated. Those in such situations must seek help from the appropriate resources – such as the police, lawyer or mental health professional.