Due to stressors in life, it is not possible for us to be 100% emotionally connected and responsive to the important people in our lives 100% of the time. It is natural that we will sometimes snap at our partner or shout at our kids. We might be preoccupied by something, maybe we are feeling exhausted, or having a bad day. Whatever the case, sometimes we just don’t have the capacity to respond in the way that someone else needs us to.
This is called a ‘rupture’. A rupture refers to a momentary break down in a relationship, a disruption to the emotional connection we have with a loved one.
Relationship researchers, such as The Gottman Institute and Dr Dan Siegel, talk about how almost everyone stuffs up somewhat in marital conflict, and that the challenges of parenting lead to the inevitability of ruptures occurring with our children.
Research shows that one of the most important factors in the longevity of a relationship and the development of a secure connection, is NOT that healthy relationships don’t have ruptures. Rather it is how successful couples are at REPAIRING after a rupture. What happens AFTER the rupture is important.
John Gottman defines a ‘repair’ attempt is any statement or action (silly or otherwise) that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. It is about re-connecting and putting the breaks on conflict.
“I’m sorry. I overreacted before. Can we try that again?”
“I can see that was hurtful when I ignored you. I would like to hear what you have to say”.
“I’m feeling a bit stressed. Can we take a break for a moment?”
Why attempt to repair? Isn’t the damage already done?
- Repair is healing. Repair attempts can teach a child that life is filled with inevitable moments of misunderstanding and missed connections, but that these can be repaired. It is also about modelling healthy behaviour in relationships.
- Repairs can slow things down to prevent couples become overwhelmed or more hurtful things being said.
How can we attempt a repair?
- Sometimes we have to just swallow our pride and try to get back in tune with the other person.
- Focus on your partner’s efforts to repair.
- Look out for opportunities to attempt a repair yourself.
- Try to accept your partner’s effort to make things better.
The real success of repairs depends on the underlying qualities of the relationship (such as attachment style discussed in Darren’s earlier blog). Perhaps you might have a go at some of these repair attempts, or experiment in finding your own way…