Saturday, March 26, 2011

Making Repairs

When you buy a new home,everything seems perfect. If you live there a few years,however,inevitably it will occur to you that some changes and repairs are needed.It might be a leak in the plumbing,or fresh paint,or a desire to redo the backyard more to suit you. Relationships also need repairs and renovation.

How do we repair relationships?

When there are hurt feelings,tension, or distance between you and the other person,
you acknowledge it.You pick a good approach and time and have the difficult,emotionally brave conversation that is needed. You take responsibility for your part of the situation.You apologize for hurt you have caused. You ask the other person about what they are feeling and experiencing.Then you listen. You take any feedback to heart, and are non-defensive.

All relationships have arguments,misunderstandings,and conficts between each person's core needs.What matters is that in more satisfying relationships,people work through the issues and differences and seek to understand each other.When there is hurt or distance,healthy people make attempts to repair the relationship quickly,and healthy partners participate willingly in the repair. Relationship repair takes two.A healthy working through of conflict almost always makes each person feel more known and held in the relationship.

Psychology researcher John Gottman and his team at the University of Washington found that couples who begin difficult conversations with a good start,as opposed to a harsh set-up, are more likely to stay happily married.A harsh set-up includes blame and attack, and probably yelling. This is a sure-fire way to shut down communication with your child, partner,co-worker,or anyone else.Gottman's research suggests that in good relationships,people see the best in each other and accept repair attempts.

Why have difficult conversations at all? High-quality relationships require authenticity,genuineness,and honesty. They need both people to be all in.I love to see people develop their voice in therapy and become emotionally strong and courageous enough to say the truth about what they are experiencing in their relationships. Relationships cannot be great when the people in them don't feel safe enough to say the truth about what they need and want, and be open to the needs and wants of the other person.You don't need the other person to be just like you.They also don't have to be perfect.We just need to be able to acknowledge distance,conflict and hurt between ourselves and those we care about, and be able to talk about it and repair it in non-defensive and open ways.

When bones break in the human body and are set and healed properly,the bone actually can become stronger at that broken place than it was before.In close relationships, we want to acknowledge hurt and pain, and attempt to repair it with a desire to understand both ourself and the other person better.This is the stuff great lives and meaningful relationships are made of.See if you can make or accept a repair in one of your relationships this week,or be brave and start that difficult conversation that is needed.You're worth it.

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