Kintsugi : When mending broken relationships becomes a work of art

Image credit : SakuraTenchi

The centuries old, Japanese art of Kintsugi (金継ぎ) translated as ‘golden joinery’; teaches us that when something is broken, there is more to be gained from piecing it back together, than there is in throwing it away.

The Kintsugi method takes the broken pieces of a cherished or favoured ceramic and re-connects them using lacquer and gold – intentionally highlighting the damage, resulting in a more beautiful object. When a favourite teacup or bowl is knocked or dropped, the breaks it suffers are truly individual. Given the random and irregular patterns that form when ceramics shatter, every repair is unique.

The more I work with couples, the more it seems to me, that repairing broken ceramics is a lot like repairing broken relationships. Opting to repair damage using the Kintsugi method, requires acceptance of the flawed appearance of the breakage. An understanding that flaws simply represent events in life that have allowed the item to evolve from showing a manufactured or text-book existence, into a unique and precious, object of beauty.

As an Imago relationship practitioner and ACT competent therapist; I believe that unless one or both partners have made a terminal exit from the relationship, then it just takes their willingness to show up and engage honestly in the therapeutic process, for positive change to happen.

Every breakage offers an opportunity to heal and a choice of whether to discard and replace or to gift a second chance at life. Breathing new life into damaged things generates a sense of hope, which is precisely what partners need when they show up to therapy nursing their broken relationship. Perhaps the hope is to return to how things were when the relationship began? Maybe partners simply want to feel more certain and have clarity of thought about the union? Whatever measure of hope partners show up with; the art of Imago – just like the art of Kintsugi, has the potential to elevate the relationship above and beyond what it once was.

Just as with broken ceramics, relational ruptures become of value to the relationship. Ruptures are an opportunity for partners to learn and grow together. Exposed during the therapeutic process; flaws encourage partners to stretch towards one another, becoming an enhancement to the relationship as opposed to a blemish. The therapeutic process reinforces the idea that perfection isn’t necessary to creating something strong and beautiful and there is, without doubt; something inherently satisfying in giving your time and energy to saving something you have once loved and enjoyed.

Relationships will never be the same having endured the painstaking process of repair. The Imago therapeutic process refines relationships; enhancing with, not least, deep understanding and abundant appreciation. The couple’s union is reinforced; proudly displaying character, history and a renewed sense of vigour. In coming forward for therapy, partners show courage, strength and resilience; their vulnerability rewarded with insight and enlightenment. Immersed in Imago, relationships become more valuable to the couple they belong to. The relationship has gone to war, survived and returned a hero – something to be honoured and celebrated.