“Repair, repair, repair” is what she said. We weren’t exactly sure what she meant at first. As we worked with our marriage counselor several years ago, we learned how sage this advice was.
Relationships are not always goodness and light. Whether at home or work, relationships sometimes break down and can go through difficult stretches.
While we teach and try daily to practice the ways of relating found in The Power of TED*, we know that such work is a lifelong learning process. As a married couple, and also work partners, at times we have differences of opinion and approaches to life and work. Recently we had a very angry and intense exchange.
We looked for ways to rescue ourselves from our intense feelings of anger, blame and sadness. Donna did more gardening, exercise and writing. David lost himself in travel and a business trip. Both strategies were opportunities to avoid looking deeply at the intense feelings we were both experiencing.
Gradually, as we re-centered ourselves and our nervous system calmed, we were able to reflect upon the angry exchange. The wise counsel of the marriage counselor came back to us. She often said, “When relationships break down, the key strategy is to repair, repair, repair.”
When we go into this “drama realm,” as we often call it, we reflect later how guilty and self-persecuting we both feel because we’re supposed to know how to be in empowered relationships. “We teach this stuff! Why can’t we stay out of our own relationship drama?” we ask (and so says the “internal Persecutor!).
What we have learned through our own relationship drama is that through the breakdown and repair cycle, there must be a genuine desire to repair the relationship. Moving past the blame and need to be right, we both take responsibility for our individual contribution to the situation. This is really hard because our hurt ego wants to defend itself and insist that the other person take responsibility first.
The next time you are in a relationship breakdown, ask yourself;
- What is my intention?” Only you can decide if you are willing to rebuild the relationship. “Choose to repair” is our motto and has served us well as a couple over the years.
- Is your intent to repair sincere, or only repair in appearance in order to get what you want? This requires radical honesty on your part. If your motive for repair is subtle manipulation, then the attempt at repair will be short-lived and inauthentic.
- Take responsibility for your actions and your role in the argument. This gives space for the other to also step into their contribution to the breakdown.
Relationship drama is a fact of life. Becoming more conscious personally and in relationship with others, especially those you love dearly, is a life-long adventure. As a couple and business partners, we know anger and disputes arise. The journey to reconciliation is smoother if the focus is less on who is right and, instead, to embracing the desire to repair and strengthen the relationship.
You are reading this essay as we travel to Paris and celebrate our wedding anniversary. We spent our honeymoon in Paris years ago. We may not have made it this far without the “repair, repair, repair” mantra!