How To Create Repair in a Relationship (Part One) - Teal Swan Articles - Teal Swan Jump to content

How To Create Repair in a Relationship (Part One)

We want to believe that we can find a relationship where all that occurs is connection and harmony. But the reality about relationships is that rupture is inevitable. In every relationship, at some point we will experience a breach or damage to the connection between us and them. At some point conflict will happen. At some point we will hit points of frustration. At some point, they may do something or fail to do something and that will cause us to suffer a hit to the trust that we have in them. Or we might do something or fail to do something and that will cause them to suffer a hit to the trust that they had in us. These ruptures can either be what ultimately breaks the relationship, or what makes it stronger and stronger. But all that depends on our ability to repair ruptures with someone when they occur. Today, I’m going to walk you through how to create repair when you are the one that created a rupture in a relationship step by step. 

Before I walk you through the steps, it’s very important to understand two things. The first is that, even though ruptures are inevitable in relationships, we should be doing our best in our relationships to prevent them. When we demonstrate the care enough for a relationship that we are active about preventing ruptures, we are building and building trust in a relationship and are adding to the health of the relationship. It’s not fine to create ruptures. To give you an analogy, it’s inevitable that a car will break down and have to go to the mechanic shop. But knowing that should not make you go “Oh -well, since it will happen one, day, I’m not gonna prevent my car from breaking down. It’s not as big a deal to not change the oil and let the tire pressure run down and not replace the brakes etc”.      

It's also important to know that ruptures in relationships are very similar to wounds in the body. If ignored or put off, they fester and get worse. So, the strongest relationships are between people who don’t have tolerance for the feeling of rupture and who put energy into creating repair as quickly as possible, if not immediately when they occur. 

It is WAY, WAY easier to repair things when they are very, very small, than it is when they are big. People teaching about relationships will often say, “To make a relationship work, you gotta let some things slide” or “don’t get upset over the little things”. And there is a real danger to this. The danger is that when what occurs is a little rupture, no matter how little it is, it will become big. And by not bringing it up to repair, the opportunity to repair is missed. And believe me, it is complete hell when you or the other person realizes, after a relationship is so damaged that it has fully broken, that everything could have been avoided if all those months or years ago, some initial rupture you or they didn’t even realize happened, could have been brought up for repair. Repair is a process. So, let’s dive in shall we?

  1. You have to recognize that the rupture occurred. There is an ease, a connectedness, a completeness and a harmony to a relationship that is doing well. The connection feels strong. It feels “on”. This is a feeling that will occur in your body. This is the feeling of being in alignment with the other person. When a rupture occurs, this feeling will be disrupted. It will feel like tension, discord, angst, anxiety, unresolve, and incompleteness instead. The connection will feel weakened, if not damaged. It feels “off”. When you get this feeling, this is your indication that something has happened to the connection. It may be really obvious what the rupture is about. But, if it isn’t, you need to investigate what happened. This should not immediately involve the other person because when you have done something obviously damaging to the relationship and you didn’t even notice, demonstrating that you didn’t notice, makes the rupture even worse. Start with a mental play back regarding what happened or didn’t happen that day, especially in the relationship. Ask yourself, Why Might This Person Be Upset? It’s a good idea to look for when that feeling of rupture started to occur and what was or wasn’t happening at that time. To repair a rupture, you must know exactly what the issue is. 

To give you an example, let’s imagine that Jason was late to drive Eliza to her prenatal appointment after promising to do so. He must recognize that this is a trust breach that is destructive to the relationship. And that Eliza is likely to feel bad towards him. He will feel that feeling of tension, discord, angst, unresolve, incompleteness and anxiety in his body. He recognizes that a rupture has occurred.   

  1. You have to bring the rupture up to the other person with the intention of creating repair. You start this by acknowledging verbally to the other person that you see that a rupture happened. It’s even better if you can acknowledge what it was. Name what happened and name your part in it. And it’s even better if you can acknowledge how they might have been hurt by it. If you don’t have the foggiest clue what happened, you need to ask the other person. This must be done in a sincere way, not a way that suggests that the other person is wrong for their upset. Something like “Hey, I can tell that something isn’t right. I really want to know what it is, so I can do something about it.” Or, “Hey, I noticed ever since lunch time, I’ve been feeling like we’re on two different pages and you don’t seem very happy. Can you tell me what’s up?” 

If you know what the rupture is, then you bring up that you noticed what happened.  Using our example, Jason would say “I know you’re upset because I didn’t pick you up on time, like I promised I would do. And that probably made you feel unimportant, unconsidered and alone.” The goal is to get out ahead of the why behind the other person’s upset. This actually builds trust, even during the conflict because it demonstrates to the other person that we are attuned to them enough to know them, which is the opposite of how people feel when there is a rupture. When a rupture occurs, people often feel like they aren’t seen, heard, felt, understood and cared about. They feel like if you did see, feel, hear and understand them, you would not do what you did. After all, the underlying contract in any relationship is: If you love me, you won’t hurt me. So, you must demonstrate that you do see, hear, feel and understand them. Or at the very least, put effort into doing so when a rupture arises and you don’t understand why. It’s important to know that when you’ve created a relationship rupture, it is YOUR job to repair it. 

  1. Invite the other person to speak to how they feel. See how it impacted them. For this step, instead of being defensive, since you acknowledged that you created a rupture, you are going to roll out the red carpet for them to express. Using our example, Jason might say to Eliza “Tell me more about how it made you feel that I was late picking you up.” And he would ask questions to understand it even deeper. But these questions are so that he can completely see, hear, feel and understand her. So, he can completely and accurately assess the situation. Say for example that Eliza says “I feel like you don’t give a damn about this family.” He would notice that anger as a protector for her fear and ask a question like “What does that make you afraid of, or afraid will happen?” And don’t ask these questions with a tone that suggests they are wrong for feeling how they feel. When you have created a relationship rupture, you need to hold a strong container for THEIR feelings.        
  1. Demonstrate understanding for the way they feel with empathy. Emotions need to feel understood and people need to feel that you are genuinely empathetic to them in order for them to trust you. This can take the form of validation or sympathizing or mirroring or apologizing or all of the above. For example, using our example, Jason might say, “Eliza, I see that you felt very alone today and you have every right to be upset. It’s not acceptable for a man to make you feel uncared for.” Or “I understand exactly why you felt afraid and not considered today. I don’t want you to feel that way”. This is not the time to give any excuse as to why you caused the rupture.
  1. Explain yourself regarding what happened in a way that does not suggest that you should be or expect to be let off the hook. This is not the same as coming up with excuses. An excuse is an attempt to lessen the blame, fault or level of offense. It is a defensive strategy. It is a self-centered strategy. Why this is really bad is because you have hurt someone, but now, you are the one acting like the victim. When you explain yourself, the intention of doing so, must be to help the other person to not make it mean what they are making it mean, unless it does mean that. Using our example, and only after Jason has empathized with how Eliza feels, he might say “The reason I was late is that I popped into the phone shop and thought it would only take 20 minutes, but it ended up taking them nearly an hour. It’s not because I don’t care about you and I will not leave you alone, even though today made you feel that way.” Notice that Jason expects of himself to be there for Eliza to make the relationship strong. So, he isn’t putting the blame on the phone shop, so as to take it off of himself. He expects himself to not put Eliza in a position where she and their relationship is at the mercy of the phone shop. 

You might have to face some painful things about yourself when you look at the real reason that you created a rupture in a relationship. It is essential to become aware of the real reason why you do the things you do. If you are unaware of the why, you might be able to repair a rupture in a moment, only to create that rupture again in the future. To learn more about this, watch my video titled: The Secret To Self-Awareness, Becoming Aware of The Why. Also, people can feel when you are not being genuine. For example, if Jason’s real reason he was late was that he prioritizes the status of having the newest model of phone over making sure his relationship is strong and his wife feels cared about, Eliza will be able to feel that. And his explanation will be empty. And Jason will have to seriously consider what kind of man he is, what kind of man he wants to be and what priorities he wants to align himself with. Because if he prioritizes status over the security of their relationship, having gotten into a relationship with Eliza, who prioritizes relationship security (and expects him to do the same) this is a recipe for constant rupture in his relationship with Eliza. They would have to confront workability or potential incompatibility if this was indeed the case.  

  1. Based on what happened, you find a way forward by settling on a way to fix or mend the problem that presented itself in the relationship so that the ease, connectedness, completeness, harmony and trust is restored in the relationship. This means, you cannot do what caused the rupture again. You must prove that you won’t. There is no “try” when it comes to repair. You either do it or you don’t. Whatever you choose to do to make it good with a person, fix the problem or re-establish trust, the goal is to demonstrate to the person that you deserve their trust because you are unwilling to leave them in pain and are committed to them feeling good in the relationship with you. 

Some examples might be that you set a new expectation in the relationship that makes them feel good and hold yourself to it. It might look like cleaning up a mess you made. It might look like making a new agreement with a person. It might look like empowering the other person in some way. Using our example, Jason might say, “I never want you to feel that way again. And while I may not be able to control every little thing that happens, I’m never going to try to fit everything I have to do into my schedule, when I have something important to do with you. What I should have done and will do going forward is to schedule ample time before our important appointments.” Or, he might say, “I don’t want to take any chances that you feel dropped by me. So, I’d really like to re-schedule these appointments for my off days.” 

He would also make sure to demonstrate the OPPOSITE of the pain that he put her through. So, he would step up regarding being extra present to her at the prenatal appointment. And being attentive to considering her regarding what food that would please her to eat or activity she would enjoy doing with him. Whatever he decides on as a repair and she agrees to as a repair, he is going to follow through. He’s looking to make the relationship predictable. And predictably feel good. This rupture just became an opportunity to strengthen the security of the relationship. Think of it like adding to the relationship security bank. 

When you are creating repair in a relationship, repeat offense is not an option. If Jason inspired the re-building of trust in Eliza and therefore created repair by guaranteeing her that it won’t happen again, and he does it again, he has damaged their relationship double or more so. He has demonstrated that his word is worth nothing. That he can see her pain, but not be moved enough by it to change because he can do it again. He has demonstrated that because of this, he can’t be trusted. And rather than keep the privilege of being able to soothe and reassure her, he has lost that privilege and is now demonstrating a pattern where she can expect to be hurt by him. This is why addictions ruin relationships so effectively. 

It's at this point that I need to mention the fact that if a rupture occurs and it becomes obvious that you can’t guarantee that the same thing won’t happen again, your repair has to accommodate for THAT. Your solution needs to be to find a way to take the other person out of the pain that you would cause them by continuing to do whatever it is that is causing the conflict. This might mean facing potential workability or even incompatibilities. Using our example, if Jason decides that status is more important to him than relationship security, he needs to recognize that this could put him in a pinch again regarding choosing between being there for Eliza and some opportunity to gain status, whether it is job related or activity related or object related or whatever. And he then needs to own up to that. He needs to explain that status is so important to him and why. From there, Jason needs to find a way to repair based on Eliza’s workability relative to this. Can she support him in this? Or will she forever be unhappy with a man for whom that is the reality? If she can, Jason might say something like “I see this really hurts you. And I’m not ok with you feeling that way. I will take it upon myself to arrange someone else that I trust and that you trust to take you to any appointment that I might miss on account of a status opportunity. And I will call you beforehand to tell you that is happening. It shouldn’t be your job to make up for my absence on account of my priority. That’s my job.” And reassure her that relationship security is still important to him, no matter how much he might care about status. 

If she can’t, then they have the very tough job of confronting their incompatibility. To learn more about this, you can watch three of my videos. The first is: Incompatibility, a Harsh Reality in Relationships. The second is: The Most Important Element of Compatibility in a Relationship. and the third is: The Difference Between Compromise and Workability in a Relationship.  

Rupture in a relationship is not pleasant to experience. But when you are committed to repair and begin to master the art of it, you will find that over time, you will no longer dread relationship conflict because it is an opportunity to grow the bond and the security and the trust between you.            



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