When you have issues in your relationship, big or small, how do you manage them?
Do you act like it’s not happening? If you feel you are the one at fault, do you compensate by being really nice in the aftermath and just cross your fingers and hope they won’t call you out and make you talk about it?
After a fight do you want to avoid the topic altogether? Or maybe you blame the other person for being too sensitive?
Over the past 24 years of my career, these are just some of the ways I’ve seen my clients and students manage conflict in their relationships, and, I’m sure you might have already guessed this but…these tactics are not the best.
In this episode, I’m breaking down what relationship ruptures and repairs are and giving you some quick steps you can take to help you stand up for your relationship and for yourself so you can build durable, lasting partnerships!
From a therapeutic point of view, we refer to the ebbs and flows of conflict in relationships as “rupture and repair”.
A rupture is an experience that disconnects you from your person. Something happens and you and/or your partner feel misunderstood, hurt, annoyed, sad, or angry and disconnected from one another.
First, let’s normalize having ruptures in relationships. It happens. It’s inevitable. There will be misunderstandings and miscommunications. We will get on each other’s nerves. We will make mistakes. Some days are just crappy, even in great relationships.
Conflict is normal and, believe it or not, can be healthy for a relationship if it is handled in a healthy way. Repair is the part where we try to understand each other better. It’s where we come back to one another, where we choose to soothe the other person rather than provoke, and work towards reconnection.
Learning how to repair after each rupture, big or small, is an essential part of creating a durable, vibrant lasting relationship.
If we have a lot of ruptures without repair, we can end up feeling bitter and resentful. Over time, resentment is incredibly corrosive in a relationship. It scratches away at the foundation of what you have built together.
You can think about rupture and repair as learning how to fight fair. It’s learning how to speak and manage conflict well together and the health of your relationship depends on it!
Behaviors that block repair are conflict avoidance, indirect communication, and passive aggression, just to name a few. You might have grown up in a household with these dysfunctional behavioral patterns. You might have never seen healthy conflict resolution modeled for you when you were a kid.
In my family of origin, anger was a forbidden emotion. Growing up, I couldn’t honor how I really felt if I was angry about something, and I certainly did not learn the skills to communicate effectively or to set healthy boundaries. When my husband Vic and I first got together, I was definitely the “avoider” when it came to conflict, so if this is you, I get it.
It’s ok. You can’t know what no one ever taught you, but you can learn these skills now. Behaviors that bolster repair are mindfulness, self-awareness, emotional regulation, active listening, and the ability to set appropriate flexible boundaries.
Let’s normalize fair fighting. Let’s normalize being sorry. Let’s normalize “us against the problem” instead of “you against me”.
One of the first steps to repair after a rupture is learning how to tune into your partner in a heated moment and choosing to say something soothing instead of something provocative.
In my relationship, there are simple phrases we use to get back on the same page. It’s different for everyone, of course, but for me, hearing Vic say, “Hey, we’re ok. We can talk this out,” is soothing. For Vic, I use some version of, “I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere. We will work it out.”
In this week’s downloadable guide, I am giving you some things that have worked for my clients and in my own marriage, but you have to know your person. I’ll give you some questions to help you find the information you might need to discover what would make you and your partner feel better in a moment of rupture.
I’ve also included some resources on my “fair fighting” rules, which are incredibly helpful, because, again, many of us didn’t learn this stuff.
What do you do when you are in a moment of rupture to move more quickly to repair? Here are steps you can take:
1. Take a breath to create some internal space and self-awareness. Try not to fall into old habits or emotional reactivity. Resist the urge to “win”. Remind yourself that it’s you and your partner against the problem, not you against them.
2. Say something calming and reassuring to your partner. You have a choice – you can say something you know will soothe them or you can say something provocative. You don’t have to let anger or defensiveness dictate your words or actions.
3. Move towards having a real conversation and problem-solving. If you need to take a break, that’s ok. It’s better to take a time out and agree to pick up the conversation later than to say things you will regret.
The beautiful thing about learning to repair after big and small ruptures is that you both commit to standing up for your relationship, and this practice builds rock-solid trust.
When you are in a committed relationship and you are committed to it being healthy, you don’t want something that could be over in 3 minutes to last 3 hours, 3 days, or a lifetime.
Remember: it is a shared responsibility to do this because you are both in the relationship. It only works if you are both in it. When you’re not in an activated or heated moment, have a conversation with your partner about what would make you both feel safe and loved while you are fighting.
I’ve been with my husband for almost 25 years and we have a great thing, but we have a great thing because we both work at having a great thing. You can’t assume your relationship will be magically good on its own. You’ve got to prioritize talking to each other and maintaining your connection. Actively choose to tap into what’s right about your person instead of what’s wrong. Create beautiful rituals together or moments in the day where you share what you love about each other and what you’re grateful for in the life you’ve created together.
I have more ideas in the guide for you on little things you can do to keep your connection vibrant and strong, so be sure to download it right here.
I hope this episode added value to your life. I want to hear from you, so drop me a comment here or connect with me over on Instagram @terricole and let me know what you learned, what questions you have, and what steps you’re going to take to strengthen your rupture and repair muscles!
If you are seeking more self-mastery over your emotions and a deeper understanding of what you feel, I am doing a really special masterclass with one of my besties, Lara Riggio, the most phenomenal energy expert trainer. We’re going to be talking about emotional regulation from a psychological and energetic standpoint so you can better manage your feelings and I think you’re going to love it!
I hope you have a beautiful week strengthening your repair skills in your relationship and as always take care of you.