You are in a relationship. You are both intelligent people who love and care for one another. You want your relationship to be great and yet, for reasons you cannot figure out, you end up in the same conversation or with the same fights over and over again. We call this The Relationship Vortex – it is the place where your deepest hurts touch your partners deepest hurts and their deepest hurts touch yours.
When both partners have their wounds lit up at the same time, both are in what we call the “trauma zone,” where you begin to go into habitual, protective behaviors that are familiar and seem safe but are hurting your connection and intimacy with one another. Here’s an example: Caroline has a deep wound around abandonment while Joseph was highly criticized as a child. Every time Caroline tries to talk with Joseph about her needs in the relationship, he feels criticized and shuts down. As soon as she sees him shutting down, she begins to feel that old familiar abandonment feeling and starts to panic, coming after Joseph even more. He finally gets so frustrated, he storms out, leaving her feeling even more hurt and alone. After a few days of distance, they tentatively reunite, but none of the deeper hurts is ever addressed and no one learns anything about what the other person actually needs in order to stay present.
When you learn to stay present, uncover the deeper wounds and the ways you are stepping on them, it is possible to have a connected, loving and productive conversation, even about the most difficult topics. Through these kinds of conversations and the experiential practices that go with them, some kind of resolution can happen so that new patterns and habits, based on trust and mutual understanding can build. After all, the most successful relationships are not those that avoid conflict, but those that know how to come back together quickly and continue to work as a team once conflict has begun. Working as a team once conflict has begun might sound impossible, but we teach couples to do this all the time creating so much more harmony in the relationship, which makes more time for the fun things in life – intimacy, fun, playfulness, sex and love!