Connection, break and repair are part of a natural cycle we go through in every relationship, even with ourselves! In his research, John Gottman found that this cycle and how we move through it in a relationship can help predict the longevity of the relationship. To learn more about connection, break and repair, read the previous blog post: Connection, Break, Repair: A Natural Relationship Cycle.
This blog post comes from almost a decade of reviewing this cycle with clients. It will focus on the most common areas where we can get stuck in the cycle and some ideas on how we can shift.
Where we can get stuck in connection and ways to address it:
Not making enough time for it – Quite simply, make time. But also recognize that small moments of connection can add up! Just saying thank you after a service is rendered or sending a quick text of appreciation can go a long way. Lastly, sometimes the act of planning for connection time can feel as connecting as the time itself. It can signal to your loved one that you are prioritizing them and that they matter.
One person feeling connected but the other not – This is where it is important to be checking in with each other and being careful not to make assumptions. Review each other’s love languages. Be curious and be genuinely interested in their response. This is especially true in more intimate moments as well.
Technology – Technology can be such a great way to connect, but it can also be a hinderance. In my experience, people can often miss bids* for connection because they are distracted by technology (myself included!). Unless you are connecting through technology put technology away when you are trying to connect with a loved one.
*When someone has experienced enough missed bids they will eventually stop making bids for connection.
Someone holding on to a break or there is still a repair needed – It’s hard to feel connected if someone is holding on to a break. This often comes about because an appropriate repair hasn’t been made. Do not skip repair!
Where we can get stuck in break and ways to address it:
Too often or too long – When breaks are happening too often or last for too long it doesn’t leave a lot of time for a repair or connection. Usually it is a signal that something is unresolved in your relationship. Take time to try and figure out what it is. Seek therapeutic help if you continue to feel stuck.
Big Breaks – Big breaks take more time to repair. Big breaks can sometimes make it even harder to take accountability of your role in a break due to the hurt or anger you might feel. Take space and time if you need to and be especially attentive to the repair.
Someone not recognizing a break – This can be very hard, when the other person in the relationship is still trying to connect when the other person is reeling from a break. Be honest, share how you are feeling and why it might be hard for your to connect right now and get clear on what kind of repair you need.
Not enough connection or repair – Think of a bucket analogy and that connection and repairs can add to the bucket, while breaks take away. At some point, you might have nothing left in the bucket and that is a dangerous place to be in a relationship. Prioritize connection and repair in your relationships.
Note on Abuse – This is not part of a normal relationship style and you should seek support. Often people who engage in abuse can make the individual feel responsible for their abuse and demand repairs. They also can often be great connectors when they aren’t engaging in the abuse cycle. What they are doing is not okay and they need to get the appropriate level of support.
Where we can get stuck in repair and ways to address it:
NOT DOING IT – I emphasized this one because, in the many years I have been doing this work with families, couples, siblings and friends, this is probably one of the most common error in the cycle that I see. This often happens because people do not want to take accountability. Or because repairs can be hard. It can also happen because they may have been socialized to not admit mistakes. But in most relationships, people can later identify repairs as a strength of their relationship, sometimes even more than your connection. So please, take the time to repair!
Not finding the appropriate repair – Again, communication, honesty and curiosity. Ask what your partner needs and keep checking in. Your loved one may initially feel they just need an apology and realize later that they need additional repair.
If you or your loved one are finding you are getting stuck in this cycle try some of these ideas. And as always, we are here to support you! Reach out if you would like additional help in connecting, working through breaks and making repairs in your relationship.
Resource: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver