relationship repair

August 7, 2023

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relationships are hard. 

pema chodron has a quote i think about when it comes to my experience with relationships. 

it goes like this:

“things fall apart and come together. they come together and they fall apart. then they come together again and fall apart again. it’s just like that. the healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

grief, relief, misery and joy? sounds like a relationship to me 🙂

in all seriousness, that’s how it goes: things come together and they fall apart, nothing really gets resolved. 

this is true for life, but it’s especially relevant when talking about relationships. 

one reason relationships are so hard is because we hold an expectation that is different from this Truth. 

we believe relationships are not supposed to fall apart. 

we think relationships are like tying your shoes or making a sandwich – something we can figure out and perfect.

at minimum, prevent them from falling apart.

but that’s not how it works. 

relationships fall apart, they come together, they fall apart. 

of course, falling apart is pretty effortless.

it’s the coming back together that takes practice. 

repair process

in the relationship world we call coming back together relational repair.

ultimately, learning to live more skillfully “in relationship” is about learning how to come back together more gracefully, more lovingly. 

this takes practice, of course. 

lots of practice. 

good news – you’ll get plenty of chances. 

3 steps

here is the the repair process in three steps. 

  1. ownership – how did you contribute to the “falling apart”?
  1. lesson learned – share what you intend to do differently moving forward. 
  1. begin again – ask permission to start again

EXAMPLE: i am working with a guy whose daughter was upset with him for bringing all of his stress (i.e. serious medical issues) into her already stressful life.  

her complaint was he would “dump all of his stuff” on her.

she was hurt by his insensitivity and put up a hard boundary – she stopped talking to him. 

for him, the repair looked liked this:

1) ownership: recognize and name her complaint:

“i hear you say i am dumping all my stuff on you, and it’s stressing you out.”

2) lesson learned: state what he intends to do differently:

“from now on, i am going to work more closely with my therapist.”

3) begin again: get feedback (i.e. where are we?) and a shared commitment:

“would it be okay if we started over?” 

your relationships will improve with repair because it’s through this process that we build trust and strengthen our bonds – through a process of coming together and falling apart, thousands of times.

easier said than done, for sure, but don’t give up on it.

you got this.

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