The Art of Repairing a Relationship

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The Art of Repairing a Relationship

Intimate relationships are about communication. What we say, how we say it, and whether we’re saying what we actually mean are all critical when it comes to building a relationship that feels like a safe space between two people.
There is absolutely an “art” to repairing a relationship that you can master. Ironically, the more you experience conflict, the better you become at recognising when things need repairing. The art of repairing a relationship is a skill re all need.

What Kind of Damage Happens in an Intimate Relationship?

Damage to a relationship can look like petty little incidents piling up over time, or it can be full-on shouting matches that make others stop, look, and awkwardly shuffle away. You can always trace back damage to behavioural stances in conflict. They’re the familiar, learned methods we may have (conscious or unconsciously) picked up as children from our own caregivers.
These behaviours come from an inability to communicate, and they look like:

  • Criticism
  • Contempt
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling

Addressing these issues is a corollary to speaking your partner’s “love languages.” That’s why communication is where the repair begins.

5 Steps to Repairing a Relationship

You need three basic commitments before you master the art of repairing relationships.

  • First, you need to approach the repair process with increased mindfulness and attentiveness.
  • Secondly, you need to keep coming from a place of empathy — even if it’s a struggle at first.
  • And, lastly, you need to take action because let us be honest, wounds need active tending.

With these three basic commitments, let’s take a look at the art of repairing a relationship.

1) Be Responsible for Initiating Repair

In an argument, you always know who’s “more at fault” than the other party. If that’s you, it’s time to own up to it.

Some partners who resort to defensiveness will take the victim stance continuously. These individuals feel that it’s never their fault — but it can be. If this sounds like you, and you have a small voice in your head saying as much, own up to it.

It’s your responsibility to initiate the repair process. And, likewise, if it’s your partner who behaved reprehensibly, it’s their responsibility to initiate the repair process.

2) Have Some Reliable ‘Tools’ for Repair

What does initiation look like? Believe it or not, this is where most couples falter. They want to reconcile, but they lack the tools or know-how for doing so.

This looks like:

  • Approaching your partner → being rebuffed → feeling hurt
  • Then your partner feels guilty → they try to approach you → you hurt them in the same way they hurt you → you get your “revenge” but you’re now both more alienated than ever

Sounds like an exhausting cycle, doesn’t it? It probably also sounds like a familiar one.

To break out of the cycle, use the Repair Checklist. It’s a set of prompts and cues you can use to initiate repair and powerful ways to diffuse anger.

3) Repair Often and Early

Once a few hours have passed, it’s time to enter into that conversation and revisit the conflict from a cooler and more level-headed place. Plan to use the Repair Checklist early in the conflict cycle — and often.

Remember, conflicts don’t go away, and they don’t get any “easier.” As you grow together, you’ll face new challenges. But there will be a bedrock of trust so that you know you can access the other side with the repair process.

4) Give and Receive Repair Attempts

For some people, initiating repair attempts makes them feel vulnerable and scared.

For others, it’s receiving these repair attempts that makes them feel insecure.

The Repair Checklist works on multiple levels. Over time, the prompts become more familiar. They feel impersonal and neutral but also very helpful. Using the checklist helps return you and your partner to a place of equilibrium.

Once on neutral ground, you can recognise your partner’s attempts at giving loving gestures or statements meant to diffuse a fight, appreciate them, and accept them as the best possible way to now move forward to the next stage of massaging the conflict.

5) Get Guided Support

Plan to have guided support in the beginning. Until you can successfully interrupt and hijack your own patterns, use the help and support of a couples’ therapist to act as the objective, third party voice you need.

In time, it will become easier to recognise those telltale signs of conflict and do the repair on your own.

When You Stick Around to Fight, You Have Something Worth Fighting For

There’s no doubt that having an active and connected sex life increases your emotional and physical intimacy with your partner. But the foundation of that aspect of your relationship is how often you and your partner are willing (and able) to repair your relationship.

Doing so is actually making love in the purest and most progressive sense of the term. Intimacy happens on multiple levels at once — and repair is just one of the ways in which you can strengthen your bond.

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