How to Make a Repair in a Relationship
We all make mistakes from time to time, and we all do things that trigger pain in other people.
Sometimes this can put a wrench in the level of intimacy in our relationships, but the beautiful thing about these emotional ruptures happening, is that they can also be repaired.
When it comes to making repairs in relationships there are a few important key things that need to happen, in order to rebuild safety and trust in the other person.
Ideally speaking, this ability to make repairs would have been demonstrated to us in our relationship with our primary caregiver when we were growing up. However, not all of us grew up in a world where our needs were consistently met. We didn’t all learn that the world is a safe place, and that we can safely ask for what we need in life.
This is why we experience the ruptures that we do in our relationships. Fights that seem to go on for days, disagreements that last for years even. We have never properly had it demonstrated for us, how to make these repairs, by rebuilding the safety and trust.
The good news about this, is that it is a skill, and all skills can be learned. Repairs CAN actually be made, and you can build an EVEN DEEPER and more loving connection as a result of repairing the rapture, compared to before it had even happened to begin with.
So how is it done?
Let’s say for example that someone yells at their partner because of something that happened that they didn’t like and were triggered by. I like using this example, because it’s actually fairly common with parenting as well, and this method can be equally useful to repair this relationship.
Person A. Does something that triggered the other.
Person B. Yells or aggressively expresses disapproval.
This is the rupture. Trust is broken, perhaps from both parties, and a feeling of insecurity arises. The situation no longer feels safe.
To make the repair.
It really doesn’t matter who starts this process, however it’s important to remember that it is only the ego that wants us to be right, and for the other person to apologize first.
In reality, whoever can apologize and take responsibility first, wins.
1. The first step is to take responsibility. Acknowledge the specific behaviours you partook in that were inappropriate, perhaps disproportionate to the event, and that participated in the feeling of pain in the other person. Express how you will ensure these behaviours do not happen again in the future.
2. Be honest about your own feelings and experience. Express why it was you responded in the way you did. What were the emotions that were triggered in you, and what you were actually needing. It’s important that you stay in check with your own emotions here, and take responsibility for what you were feeling. This is not a place to blame the other person for the reactions you had, or what triggered you.
3. Acknowledge the emotions of the other person. While you are not responsible for their emotions, it’s important that you acknowledge the other persons experience. It is only when we “feel felt” and understood, by another person that our nervous system can calm down, and we can regulate and create a feeling of safety and trust again within a relationship. (We can also do this for ourselves, given the situation, but it’s more challenging within a relationship dynamic, if the issue is never addressed).
Even if the other person doesn’t say what their emotions are, you can still guess how they would have been feeling. It also lets them know that you care about them and their experience, compared to just wanting to “get the apology over with”. It’s also important that the person knows their feelings are valid, and that it is okay for them to be having them.
4. Acknowledge the needs of the other person. Sometimes it’s even more important to acknowledge the other persons needs before having them acknowledge yours. It’s important to know for yourself what you’re needing, as in step 2, but don’t expect the other person to be willing to meet your needs, until after you’ve acknowledged theirs. Most people aren’t willing to meet someone else’s needs when they are still in pain, so it’s important to acknowledge their needs and feeling of safety first, before expecting it in return.
4. Find ways to help the person feel soothed. Maybe this is with a hug, or by rubbing their back. Meet them where they’re at. Use warm and inviting language. It may even be appropriate to do something light and playful after the repair has been made.
5. Make an apology from an authentic place. A true apology can only be made when a person is ready and willing to do so. This is when it feels the most sincere, both for the person making it, and for the person receiving it.
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Once this process is complete for one side, if it makes sense to do and if the person is willing, you can make a repair for the other side as well.
It is important to address issues quickly, but also to not rush the process. Once both sides have had a chance to express themselves, and be acknowledged for their needs, the problem and pain often easily subsides.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear about a time that you were able to make a successful repair, and if you’re brave enough to share, let me know about something that you still haven’t been able to resolve in your life.
Much Peace and Love