Archive for Kintsugi

Rupture in a Relationship and the Idea of Kintsugi

‘The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love. It is perhaps the price we pay for love…’ (Dr C. M. Parkes psychiatrist St Christopher’s Hospice)

‘Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in…’ (Leonard Cohen)

Coupleworks often works with couples who fear that they cannot recover from, or continue after, an event which causes such a crisis in their relationship that they are driven apart. They can feel lost to each another – as if the partner, suddenly, is a stranger.

An affair or even, strangely perhaps, a new baby, can have a disorientating and disturbing impact on their understanding of each other. The couple come into counselling shaken and bewildered. A life which they saw as certain and secure appears shattered, and they no longer know what to trust. It feels as if ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.’ (W.B.Yeats) The comfortable patchwork of their relationship feels broken up and the counsellor is asked, ‘Is there hope for us?’.

A crisis is always a turning point and now things will happen differently. However, it can be an opportunity for positive change and growth. Embracing and engaging with change is hard, but giving up on love and belonging can be worse. There may be horrible fear and vulnerability but the experience of brokenness can shed a light on what has previously not been understood.

Through talking and listening, the means of recovery and repair and healing can begin to emerge. Safely exploring the issues with a counsellor can lead to the deliberate rewriting of the ‘contract’ – building a relationship that is different (and never could be quite the same). A relationship that is safer, deeper, richer, and more resilient than the one that existed previously, can be created. The vicissitudes of a committed relationship are recognised and, crucially, hurt is not disowned, dismissed or repressed.

Japanese ‘Kintsugi’ means ‘golden repair’ or ‘join with gold’. It is the Japanese art form of repairing ordinary broken pottery with seams of precious metal such as gold.

‘Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… The ceramic is, in fact, more beautiful after the break and after the repair’ (Christie Bartlett). Rather than throwing away the damaged article or trying to disguise or minimise the break, the pot or dish is transformed into a piece of art. Kintsugi is a way of acknowledging the history, and wear-and-tear, of an everyday object. The repair takes time, cannot be rushed, and is done with great respect, care, and consideration – and the result is beautiful.

The philosophy that ‘there can be treasure in life’s scars’ is at the heart of the craft. It challenges expectations of ‘perfection’ and promotes the concept of forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion.


Kathy Rees