Lord, relationships are so hard.
President George W. Bush has been pounded this week, accused of being weak and practicing cronyism. He's risking it all, the critics complain, chickening out on the chance of a lifetime. Just who is this woman, Harriet Miers, anyway?
Those are his friends talking. Boy, the love can go south so fast.
"Trust me" just isn't good enough, says Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), when it comes to Miers, Bush's former personal lawyer, his current White House counsel and now his nominee to replace the powerful Supreme Court swing vote of Sandra Day O'Connor.
Let's face it, there's some serious heartbreak in the ranks of people who have been devoted to the president.
People have got issues.
Which is why Maryrita Wieners wouldn't mind having Bush and any one of the disgruntled conservatives in her Washington office.
Wieners, you see, is a couples counselor, and in nearly 10 years of saving relationships, she has developed a Hubble-like eye for trouble.
"For me, what's important to rebuilding trust is connection," she says. "The way I build connection when I sit with the couple, I tell them that I have two different worlds here."
The worlds are where each adult lives, she says, and a key to solving their problems is learning what it's like to live in each other's world. This is called the "Imago" method of therapy, where communication and empathy are key to healing. Oprah loves Imago, Wieners says; Alanis Morissette swears by it.
But could this work for Bush and his base? Until a few days ago, everyone believed they were living in the same world, looking through the same glasses, dreaming the same Supreme Court dreams.
Bush and his emissaries have spent days trying to convince people that they still are. But there was the Weekly Standard's William Kristol on national television yesterday calling for Miers to step aside.
Wieners wouldn't mind giving this one a try.
"I'd say we've got two different cultures, two different worlds," she says. "The focus would be to really understand the other person. You'd take turns really listening."
Listening would also mean a new way of speaking, too. Learning how to use "I language," for example, and not "you language."
"You language," says Wiener, "is very judgmental."
For example, you say, "When I heard this I felt betrayed, and I felt betrayed because. . . ." Without accusing.
It's all a matter of "mirroring" each other and validation, Wieners says. "I'd ask him to imagine looking out of Mr. Limbaugh's eyes. You don't have to agree. . . . But you can imagine how he feels."
"They could do it. They might say, 'I can't do that' . . . but they could," she says. "It would be fun."
The president needs to practice patience right now, too, she says.
"He would be the one who had to do a lot of the listening. The one that's betrayed really needs to talk and say what he or she is feeling."
The administration and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman have certainly done a lot of listening recently, including several face-to-face meetings and a major conference call Thursday with conservative activists.
Audrey Chapman, another Washington relationship counselor, had just finished with a couple the other day who she said reminded her of this week's drama.
She said the woman "was talking about her feelings of betrayal, so one of the things I was trying to understand was . . . what's the story they have in their head about the betrayal."
She said she asked the man "did he realize when he made that decision, when he behaved in that way, did he understand the impact on her. . . . He said that he hadn't had a clue."
Chapman, who is also a psychologist, author and radio show host, happens to be a bit of a political junkie, too.
"It isn't just around the Supreme Court decisions that people have lost trust in George Bush," she says.
"The way you reestablish trust is you have to be more transparent. That's key. . . . At the press conference, he was still being very guarded around some of the questions. . . . He needs to give a little bit more. . . . I know some things have to be confidential, but he's got to be a little more giving, a little bit more willing to give the public a little more to chew on."
All this talk about counseling and relationships isn't sitting well with Kristol.
"I think it's not about Bush and me and Bush and other conservatives," he says. "It's not about relationships. . . . It's about the Supreme Court of the United States."
Paul M. Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, who hosted one of this week's meetings where conservatives spoke to Bush emissaries about their frustrations, is not much into the whole relationship thing, either, he says. But he's not in denial about the fact that there are problems in Bushland.
"Breach of trust implies something different than what I think happened here. . . . I really think that people had one expectation and got something different and were so shocked by it that a lot of them reacted very negatively."
Will it all work out? Do they need a session with Wieners or Chapman? That depends on Miers, he says.
"If she is overwhelmingly confirmed, then I imagine that most of us will just say, okay, fine, let's move on. If, on the other hand she does not do well in the hearings and would have to be withdrawn, there would be great bitterness, I think. . . . I think it would affect the long-term relationship."
Wieners's and Chapman's doors are always open.
Plus, says Wieners, in February, Imago followers are having a big Valentine's Day celebration. She adds, "Maybe we can get some of the political people to come."