Relationships are not always goodness and light. Whether at home or work, even the most trusting relationships go through breakdowns and 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.
David had just purchased another tub of his favorite Tapioca pudding—–his second of the week. (As if Donna wasn’t counting!) While putting away the groceries Donna observed, “David, this pudding is pure sugar. Do you really think this is good for you? Paying attention to our health is really important.”
David, who had also brought home an early Valentine’s gift for Donna, was immediately defensive. For him, it triggered memories of being scolded as a child and he angrily responded. Donna then retorted, “As your wife, can I never comment on eating habits that are obviously not good for you?”
We’ll let you imagine the downward spiral of our back-and-forth. We both had various perspectives on who was persecuting whom and who was the Victim (a dynamic we call “Victim, Victim… Who’s the Victim?”).
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 his puzzles and planning a business trip. Both strategies were opportunities to avoid looking deeply at the intense feelings we were both experiencing.
Gradually as our nervous systems calmed we were able to reflect upon the angry exchange. The wise counsel of a friend and therapist came back to us. She often said, “When relationships break down, the key strategy is to repair, repair, repair.”
Through our own breakdown and repair cycle, we have discovered there must be a genuine desire to repair the relationship and argument. Moving past the blame and need to be right, we both must take responsibility for our individual contribution to the situation. We have found that the road to mending our breakdowns is through our intention to repair, repair, repair.
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 genuine, or only in appearance in order to get what you want? This requires radical honesty on your part. If your motive for the repair is not based upon what is best for the relationship, then the attempt at repair will most likely be unsuccessful and can serve to perpetuate the drama.
- What was my contribution to the breakdown? 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. 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, we embrace the desire to repair, repair, repair.
By repairing, we can choose to refocus on our relationship as Co-Creators. With the repair practice, our recent argument has healed and has left us with a deeper trust that we can flow with the relationship drama that is part of all relationships.