I sat with a couple last night where the need for repair should have taken place 2 weeks ago, at the time when the rupture first happened. But, neither was confident or knew what to do in these moments, so they decided to park it till our session last night.
Can you imagine what prolonged hurt and unresolved ruptures are doing to each of their nervous systems? How would they be experiencing their partner during this time? You would be right in thinking that both of them would be on guard, there would be tension and distrust between them and for sure, they would not be considering their partner as their friend but their foe. It is heart breaking to experience this in an intimate relationship because the implicit message is, we have each other’s back, we know how to protect the other in private and in public, we know how to be with our partner in ways that set them up to succeed and not fail in relationship with us.
I’m sure you would agree if I said that we are all fallible and none of us can get it right 100% of the time. The goal is to not aim for perfection, as that doesn’t exist, but rather to have enough humility to recognise moments when repair is needed, and be gracious enough to offer it.
When you or someone you love is in pain, it is important to mend fences. But what does that mean, really? How do you do it, and what does it entail? And what if you and your partner disagree about what makes sense going forward?
As you can see, repairs are complicated. This blog series will walk you through the complex process of making a good repair.
A good repair goes beyond saying “I’m sorry.” In fact, a good repair is a bit of an art form. It requires depth and honesty, not empty promises. I think you can make a good repair even if you aren’t ready to say you would never do it again. But I don’t think you can make a good repair without understanding your partner’s experience, emotions, and reactions. And make no mistake, a good repair takes patience. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. Tapping your foot because you are SO ready for your partner to be over it is not going to help. That’s a sure sign you missed a step or two in the process of repair.
A really good repair requires you to take a deep look at what happened for your partner and for you. If you do it well, you will learn a lot about your partner, and possibly even more about yourself. You will figure out what you want to agree to, and what you don’t. This will emerge as you discover what feels most important to your partner and to yourself. You will work together to make a plan that respects your differences, while also protecting one another from harm and responding with love and care to one another’s concerns.
It can be really tough to take responsibility for your actions and understand your partner’s pain without getting defensive, shutting down, becoming overwhelmed by guilt and regret, or digging in and protecting your right to do what you want to do. That is why this first installment will show you how to set yourself up emotionally to make a good repair.
- Ground yourself. Get in a comfortable position and take a few slow breaths, focusing on making a long, smooth exhale. Reflect for a moment, and ask yourself: Why am I choosing to make this repair, even though it may be an uncomfortable conversation? How will I benefit from making this repair? How does my choice to make this repair reflect the kind of partner, and person, I want to be? Get in touch with that aspirational part of yourself and ground yourself in it. If it can be boiled down to a power word or phrase, write it on your hand, or keep it at the front of your mind as a mantra.
- Allow yourself forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes. Treat yourself with grace, and honour yourself for doing the difficult work of taking responsibility for your actions and doing your best to repair any harm that occurred along the way.
- Prepare for some discomfort. If you’re hoping to experience ease, comfort, safety, and trust with your partner, you’ll have to show them that you can really hear things from their point of view. It can be very difficult to hear about discomfort or harm that you’ve caused without shutting down or getting defensive, but holding steady while your partner shares their experience is indispensable to making a good repair. Remind yourself, again, of why you’re choosing to make this repair, and connect again with your aspirational self. You can do this!
- Access generosity for your partner. If you come into this conversation feeling cranky, or wanting to just get it over with, it’s likely your partner won’t feel heard, and you won’t get very far. Your partner is experiencing feelings. Everyone experiences feelings. In fact, your crankiness is a feeling. Try thinking of your partner while accessing your most warm and loving self. Feel the warmth of your love and caring for your partner, and resolve to bring that spirit forward in your conversation.
- Settle in for an in-depth conversation. The point of taking these steps is to move towards making a lasting repair. A deep repair goes a long way; a quick one won’t make much of a difference. You’re going to need to be prepared to have a long and intense conversation, and possibly to return to the subject several times before you both feel a sense of relief, release, or a shift towards closure.
Breathe. Feel the warmth of generosity in your heart for yourself and for your partner. Take another moment to feel in touch with your aspirational self. You’ve got this!
Stay tuned for the next installment, in which I’ll walk you through the six steps you’ll take in conversation with your partner to make a deep and lasting repair.
In the meantime, if you need additional support you can reach me via my website or phone/text message on 0403 921 223.