In this next installment on relationship repair vs. perfection, we want to start out with a simple fact of intimacy – when you enter into an intimate relationship, you are guaranteed to experience some hurt. Intimacy requires us to be vulnerable, to open up to someone and let them into our tender places and occasional hurt is unavoidable. Unfortunately, people spend so much time avoiding hurting or being hurt by others, they lose out on a great deal of intimacy. This is why we want to introduce the idea that relationships are about Repair not Perfection. In relationships, we often try to be perfect and expect perfection from our partners. When we do something that our partner finds hurtful, we quickly defend ourselves, apologize or try to talk our partner out of their feelings. When our partner does something that hurts us, we go into critical attack mode or distance and try to “solve” our feelings on our own. We want to offer another idea – feelings are not in need of fixing, they just are. When a challenging feeling such as anger, frustration or sadness arises in a relationship, it offers an opportunity for deeper understanding, empathy, mutual support and, most importantly, Repair.
We have found the couples who are most joyful overall in their relationships are not the ones who never have conflict (relationships without conflict are usually intimacy-poor), but instead those who have learned to understand that hurt feelings are a normal part of a relationship, they don’t mean that someone is a “bad guy” or “bad gal”, but that in the day-to-day of living life and being who we are misunderstandings happen and old wounds can be triggered. Through years of doing this work with couples, we want to offer 7 Steps you can take when you or your partner has a challenging feeling. In the next 7 days we will post 7 tips about how to Repair when hurts arise!
Relationship Repair – Step #1
Shift Communication Gears – if you have been in a relationship with your partner for any amount of time, you begin to be able to read their moods, and feel when there are shifts in their nervous system. You can tell there is a feeling based tone of voice, facial expressions, clipped words, silence, body tightness, lack of breathing, etc. We saw one wife who said, “Oh, no, don’t let him fool you, that smile doesn’t mean he’s feeling better, it means he’s so mad it’s almost funny!” As soon as you see an emotional shift in your partner that registers on your Richter scale, it is time to shift gears and move to emotional communication.