All relationships vacillate between moments of connection and disconnection. It is through connection with our loved one that emotional healing can take place, that our old childhood wounds get reworked and closure is reached. In today’s post, relationship expert Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT, examines this important issue and identifies the specific elements of a healing relationship.
Intimate relationships can be challenging at times and require TLC and effort to sustain them. And the reality is, they can get off track. If over time this happens enough, where resentment and other negative emotions build up between you, disconnection can occur. This break can lead to repetitive cycles of unproductive behavior such defensiveness, hostility and emotional detachment. This is usually fueled by the sadness you both feel that the other doesn’t seem to be there anymore.
If you’ve gone through tough times with your partner and have both been making an effort towards reconnection either via therapy or self-help methods, you have taken the first huge step with positive intention for change.
As a therapist who works extensively with couples, I have seen relationships at their worst – and at their best. It’s a very rewarding experience to observe couples coming closer to each other, the build up of positive regard and hope for the relationship. Hope is a wonderful and powerful force, indeed. It’s important to remember that it’s more than just better communication. There are issues beneath the couple dynamic that actually drive the quality of communication and it’s these that must be working well. So what are they?
Your relationship is truly healing if:
You are aware of and have empathy for your own – and each other’s – sensitive spots or early wounds.
You are attuned to each other enough to know when something is off. You both seek to soothe and are open to soothing.
You can emotionally regulate yourselves to avoid doing damage to each other in the future.
You have moved from inappropriate personalizing to more thoughtful assessment of meaning.
You have a clear understanding of the initial disconnection and are aware of potential pitfalls.
You have shifted from an adversarial to a collaborative spirit. You are on the same team.
You both can take ownership of your role in hurting the other and are tending to and repairing wounds that have occurred.
This list is not all-inclusive but it’s a good guideline for you to follow if you are doing the work of relationship healing with your partner. When the above are going on, the thing that you’d likely lost in first place returns; emotional safety. When you feel truly safe with each other, reconnection can occur. You will feel it. It’s what we desperately need from the time we are born to the time we die. There may be reasons why defenses have blocked that need but underneath it all, it’s the human core. We are wired to connect and seek security in each other.
If there is more work to be done in your relationship for a full reconnection, keep up the good work. If you are there, congratulations.
Lisa Brookes Kift is a marriage and family therapist, and creator of The Toolbox at www.loveandlifetoolbox.com, providing tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health. She is a frequent consultant for the media and has been interviewed, quoted or has appeared in numerous publications and online news sources including CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine. Lisa has an individual and couples therapy practice in Larkspur, Marin County, CA.
Rich Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist specializing in marital/relationship issues and creator of www.StrengthenYourRelationship.com. If you’d like to become a guest expert on his website, please feel free to contact Dr. Nicastro.
by Dr. Nicastro.