We are heading into the holiday season. It will probably look different in many ways this year but we will still be connecting with friends and family. This can be a happy time for many however, if you have experienced a strain in your relationships this season can exacerbate those emotions. I would like to share a technique from IMAGO founders Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt that I hope will help you.
How to Reconnect After a Rupture
In today’s increasingly image-based culture, it’s easy to feel like everyone has the perfect relationship – everyone but you, that is. Even the most idyllic relationships experience negativity and inevitable ruptures in connectivity. As noted in Getting the Love You Want, “Negativity is any thought, word, or deed that tells your partner, “You’re not OK when you think what you think or act the way that you act.” In essence, you are rejecting your partner’s ‘otherness.’” Whether intentional or accidental, this negativity seeps its way into all relationships – the question is, whether you will you allow these to be a source of agony, or of reconnection and realignment with your partner.
The sign of a thriving relationship is the quickness with which two partners reconnect.. After a rupture, the reconnecting process should be first priority. Since our brains habituate to sustained emotion, a prolonged period of disconnect makes reconnecting that much harder. While we may find ourselves resisting reconnection when we are emotional, pushing past this resistance with reengagement decreases our reactivity, while also increasing our ability to respond to a rupture with resilience.
If you experience a put-down, acknowledge this and make it known by communicating it to your partner with a gentle signal (bing, ouch, wow, oops!). If you are on the receiving end of a partner’s signaling of a putdown, show curiosity. By becoming curious, you will be able to better understand what a partner was feeling when they created a rupture, as well as what you might have done to contribute to the situation at hand.
What does the reconnecting process look like?
Select a behavior that will restore connection for you and engage your partner in the process until you experience connecting. There are various options that can be used to help reconnect. For example:
- Ask for a RE-DO. Take time out, start over, and re-do the transaction. Allow for the available hindsight to provide clarity and direction to guide this fresh interaction.
- Model what you want to receive from your partner, whether it has to do with words used, tone of voice, etc. Show your partner how you would like to “resend” a message so that it is not negative.
- Offer a RE-CONNECTING behavior. This single behavior could come in the form of an apology, flowers, or a hug. A small gesture of kindness can often go a long way.
- If the put-down needs more attention, ask for an Imago Dialogue, and dive deeper into the matter at hand within the safe structure created by the dialogue process.
- Create your own reconnecting process. Reflect on past behaviors that have aided in the reconnection after a conflict, or even behaviors that are meaningful to you and your partner. Implement these as part of your own unique process.
While there is no “one size fits all solution” to reconnecting after a rupture, you and your partner can experiment with the techniques above to find what feels best. In implementing this process of reconnection, you will find that conflict can be a great source of growth to your relationship.