Love is a Constant Process0
The Importance of Relationship Repair
Tanya Winje, Family Care Network Program Supervisor
“Love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing and finding deeper connection.” -Dr. Sue Johnson
The holiday season can be especially challenging if we have experienced a rupture in a valued relationship. Whether that tear occurred in the fabric of a friendship, work relationship or with a family member, and regardless if it occurred yesterday or 10 years ago, that unrepaired hole can trigger strong emotions and leave us feeling disconnected. In the thick of a season which celebrates harmony and peace in the world, a challenge for us all is to think about the repair work we may need to do in order to mend the fabric of our own interpersonal relationships. This healing work can help us increase our understanding of one another, restore trust and strengthen our relationship bonds.
“Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it.” ~Unknown
I am lucky to have an energetic, gifted and “slightly manipulative” tween in my life. At 12, she considered herself very “worldly,” in as much as the internet can make her so. For example, I have Pinterest to thank for getting her excited about dying her hair cotton candy pink, and YouTube for making her vegan for 10 hours (7 hours of which she was asleep), plus other sites for educating her on various pranks she could play on me (i.e., I was a non-voluntary ice bucket challenge participant). Recently, she and I had a falling out. She got very upset when she didn’t get her way, if you can imagine that. In hind sight, this loss (her not getting her way) was compounded by a lot of factors—her confusion surrounding her family dynamics, hormonal changes and her dealing with difficult peer relationships at school. Sadly, things blew up and I was the target of her anger. Now, a month or so after the initial blow up–which lasted for what seemed like forever–we are finally on the path to repair. To help with the situation, a family meeting was called to acknowledge the rupture and map out steps towards repair. Of course, when the meeting was called, she was not having it. She wouldn’t even look at me during the sit down, choosing instead to remain quiet. Regardless, I poured my heart out and shared my perspective, taking advantage of teachable moments as she sat with her hand covering her eyes. She left this sit down still angry and the fight still unresolved. In the end, time was the prescription for our discord. Happily, her silent treatment is over and our humor has returned. While the love never stopped for me, it was still painful to lose our special connection during that period. I lost sleep. I cried. I ruminated over how to mend our relationship.
Conflict, if left unaddressed, can build resentments, erode relationships, cause irreparable rifts, and leave two people as distrusting strangers. So how do you begin to repair a relationship that has ruptured? I have learned that simply acknowledging a rupture can often open the door to healing. This acknowledgement, however, is sometimes easier said than done. Fear can be a major obstacle—the fear of being vulnerable and revealing our insecurities might hold us back. Our emotions that surface from experiencing a disconnection can be very personal and intense. Conflicts often tap into deeply rooted concepts like our values, belief systems, motivations and perceptions. It is important to address conflict with tact, respect, a positive attitude (try to assume the best of the other person, even when it is hard) and a willingness to drop our defensiveness. Humility and being honest about whether you want resolution or if you’d rather just be “right” is necessary for mending a bond that’s been damaged. And don’t forget to listen, do your best to look at other’s perspectives, be empathic and ask for forgiveness.
Repairing my relationship with my spunky tween was important because I value our relationship. But equally important was my desire to show her how to mend a relationship and not just discard it. I wanted to model to her how to accept responsibility—even if it’s yours to accept—and resolve conflicts in her relationships. I wanted to demonstrate that it’s okay to make mistakes because relationships can be repaired as long as both parties work towards resolution. You can be humble, ask for forgiveness, be mature and communicate even when it is hard. For now, I will continue to find small ways to show her how to rebuild the trust between us, holding onto hope that my efforts to repair our bond will help us to deepen it. Perhaps a performance on YouTube of me lip syncing “Let it go” in an Elsa costume at Christmastime will bring us peace and harmony?
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