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Moving Into Relational Repair – 4 Tools To Get You Started

Written by: Bev Ehrlich, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


How do we heal, grow, and thrive as people? I firmly believe it is in relationship. We are wired for connection. Who we are is shaped by our relationships. This means that when it comes to thriving and developing in a healthy and vigorous way, the quality of our relationships matters.

Healthy woman raised hands for praise

All Smiles!

Ed Tronick observed that our culture idealizes harmony. Our social media feeds are full of happy smiling pictures of our “perfect” lives. We freeze that one part of intimacy, where we're in sync with each other, and call that a “good” relationship. However, Tronick suggests that a good relationship is in fact one that moves from harmony through disruption, into repair over and over again.

Build Trust Through Connection

Learning to reconnect builds trust. Trust is created through the whole process of finding each other, missing each other, and finding each other again. Many of us have not received the necessary tools, neither from our culture, our society and not from our families of origin, that we need to move from disharmony back into repair. Disharmony is really dark and upsetting. You can feel like you're with the wrong partner, and you can feel helpless. All of these feelings don’t mean that you're in a bad relationship, they mean that you're in a real relationship. What makes for a good versus a bad relationship is how we handle those moments of disconnect, not whether we're having them or not.

The most important part of moving into repair is your willingness to do so. The first order of business is remembering the love and remembering that the person you're speaking to is someone that you care about and with whom you want to make things better.

Thomas Hubl reminds us that the young part of ourselves will not make space for repair. This part will try to move on regardless of the pain. Whereas the mature version of ourselves knows the importance of saying sorry. Or saying, “we need time to look at this.” “ I want to hear how you feel about this. I want to understand your pain and I want to re-establish intimacy.”

Maturity comes when the wise adult part of us remembers the relationship. When we are out of our wise adult, and triggered. We’ve left the present conversation and reverted to a younger state. We lose the sense of “us” and become adversarial. It’s now about “me” versus “you.” “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Only the wise adult part of us wants real closeness and intimacy. The adult part of us can see the whole picture and remember that we’re speaking to someone we love and live with.

Here Are 4 tools You Can Begin Using Straight Away To Come Back Into Connectedness With Your Partner:

1. Your Breath Is Your Friend

Urgency in personal relationships is your enemy while your breath is your friend. It’s been with you from the first moments of your life. It’s been with you through difficult times as well as through the most joyous of occasions. When you're feeling urgent, when things must be this way and not that, using your breath to calm down and slow down is a powerful tool. One of my favorite tools is Take a Deep Breath. However, you may find others that you prefer, on youtube.

2. Relational Mindfulness

“Reacting is acting before feeling. Responding is action informed by feeling.” Thomas Hubl

Relational mindfulness is a minute-to-minute practice. In this moment are you going to be triggered and react as you usually do, or will you stop, breathe and listen for what your partner needs from you right now? Will you respond from a present-, non-triggered part of yourself that recognizes that you’re talking to your partner at this moment, or will you react from a younger part, that hears your critical mother or angry father yelling at you? Taking a break so that you can move out of that triggered part to reregulate, and return to the present, is one way of dealing with your raw feelings of overwhelm at the moment.

Responsible distance-taking looks like this. “I'm taking distance, here's why, and here's when I'm coming back.” This is a 2-step process. “I'm going out for a walk because I feel I’m going to say things I’ll regret later if I stay. I’ll be back in an hour. This is not a rupture, it's a break with an explanation and a promise to return! This is different from just walking away and withdrawing. For more tips on how to leave responsibly visit here.

3. Clean Up Your Living Room

When we think of our relationships as the house in which we live, we know that we sometimes need to clean up the living room. We need to create time to tidy up what doesn’t work for us. Because every time we don't do the repair, it’s as if we take a little bit of waste and throw it into the living room. Our arguments are a repetition of throwing garbage into our common living area until it’s a huge mess and we don't want to live there anymore. Every time you scream and shout, your partner punishes and withdraws from you.

Eventually, we don't want to live in the same house. And this means we begin to turn away from each other and create distance and resentment. Unless we make a conscious effort to restore, replenish, and heal the hurt and the wounds, we will not be able to recreate relational intimacy. Commit to full respect and nonviolent living!!

4. At The Service Of Your Partner

When you are in disrepair with your partner, your goal is to help them come back into harmony with you. Back into closeness. The repair process is not a conversation. It’s a one-way street. You don't say, "Well, you're upset with this. I'm upset with that!" You are at the service of your distressed partner. When you go to the customer service counter and complain that your microwave isn’t working, you don’t want to hear that their toaster isn’t working. Instead of responding to your partner’s upset with “Well you did this and that made me mad,” try acknowledging your partner’s hurt and asking what you can do for them in this moment.

Your partner doesn’t want to hear a lot of excuses. They don't want to hear about you at all. Be generous and compassionate. This is about them. You’ll get your chance. Now it’s time for you to just be there for your partner.

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Bev Ehrlich, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Beverly Ehrlich is a relationship coach. She firmly believes that we heal, grow and thrive through healthy and cherishing relationships that show appreciation for each other’s strengths and build on them. Feeling helpless and strained when her husband of many years found himself in the depths of depression, they turned for support to Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy (RLT). She has since dedicated her life to bringing couples back into healthy connectedness. Beverly encourages her clients to stand up for themselves with love while cherishing their partner at the same time. She teaches strategies that help clients speak their truth so that their partner can hear them and come into repair quicker each time.



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