We all know, and have experienced, the most consistent trajectory of relationships: we meet, there is an incredible connection, we fall in love, everything is great, and then something happens…and something else happens…and then we argue, blame each other and go our separate ways, hoping the next “amazing person” will be exempt from this pattern. They rarely are.
The truth is, for whatever reasons we are attracted to each other, and there are several variables, we ultimately end up being confronted by the things there are to heal within ourselves. There will always be something that has us feel “bad” until it is healed. And the way to heal it is with awareness and the intention to make it so.
In working with couples, and in my own life, I have found three methods to heal the energetic separation and return to love:
1. Decide that your partner is not your enemy.
When we are triggered and reacting to something, it is rarely the person in front of us that we are actually reacting to, especially if it is an intense reaction. We all have built up experiences from our lives that have shaped how we see things. Being human, we are “wired for survival,” which means that whatever pain we have experienced in the form of rejection, abandonment, abuse, etc., we desperately do not want to feel again. So, our brain looks for the warning signs to keep us protected; anything that seems remotely familiar to those past experiences becomes a threat.
My partner recently sent me a “can you talk?” text. Those three words sent me into a panic as that request, in the past, was followed by a break-up talk. The reality this time was she actually just wanted to talk and say “hello.”
If you and your partner both agree to do the work together, you get to interrupt those reactions by remembering that your partner is not the one attacking you, so that you can re-wire those old traumas.
2. Get Curious About Your Partner.
I love this one as it provides the opportunity for so much deep connection. Often, when we argue, the automatic response is to get defensive and look for the ways to score debate points against your partner. Usually, the result is a shutdown and a wedge driven into the relationship where resentment builds.
Instead, when your partner is upset, even with you, start asking questions. Come from that place of: “I see that you are upset and that was not my intention. Would you please tell me why?” If you can add in “I’m really sorry,” that helps tremendously in diffusing the anger as well.
When the anger is diffused, and when you ask questions (and listen to the answers), you get to learn so much about each other! You also get to grow your compassion and empathy, which lead to a deeper connection.
Some questions you can ask are:
Why are you upset?
How did that feel?
What was that like?
What can I do for you?
When you get answers to these questions, and whatever else you are inspired to ask, you can follow up with showing an understanding of what that must have been like: “I can totally understand that! It happened to me once, and I was so upset.” Or, “Wow, that sounds horrible! I am so sorry.” And, “I can relate! If that happened to me, I’d feel the same.”
Play with this. Be curious—not from a place of fixing, but from understanding and relating.
3. Turn Towards Each Other When Things Get Rough.
The genuine commitment to each other gets to be practiced here by turning towards each other. I used to be the guy that stormed out of the room when things got difficult, when I became frustrated and when I was not feeling that I was being understood.
While it provided a temporary release of tension, the “harmful side-effects” included hurting my partner, hurting myself and the reality that we would have to go through that whole process over again, anger and all, because we didn’t have this tool to process through the upset together. In addition to staying connected, this practice helps to solidify the energy of partnership.
To do this, face each other (seated or standing), and touch each other in some way; holding hands, hands on each other’s knees if seated, hands on each others waist…any way you can physically connect.
Gaze into each other’s eyes and breathe. Do not say a word for at least 3-5 minutes, and allow yourself to relax into each other. Just “be” with each other. Once you feel relaxed and connected, you can begin sharing with each other, in calm and gentle tones.
Speak, listen, and stay connected. Personally, I love when my partner gently strokes my arm or hand if she knows what I am dealing with has a lot of charge for me. For her, I touch her firmly on her thigh, or hand, so that she knows I am there and not going anywhere.
This process has worked miracles for couples I have had as clients who were on the verge of break-ups. It is so easy to turn away. When we can interrupt that automaticity and push ourselves towards each other, miracles happen.
The most important thing to remember in your relationships, and in your lives, is that you have a choice in how things go. This does not mean that a relationship will last forever if it is not meant to. There is no cure-all or process that guarantees a long-lasting relationship. In all honesty, not all relationships “should” last forever.
However, this does mean that you get to navigate these waters with a sense of power from intention. The techniques I have shared here are designed to support you, your partner and the growth and healing your soul desires.