Connection, Break and Repair: A Relationship Cycle

Connection, break and repair are a natural part of the relationship cycle we go through, 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. 

CONNECTION in the relationship cycle

“Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.” -John Gottman 

How do you connect with your loved ones? 

Examples of Connection:

  • Playing a game
  • Sharing about your day
  • Listening to your partner
  • Watching a tv show
  • Sharing a meal
  • Planning a trip
  • Writing a note of appreciation
  • Engaging in an act of service
  • Reading together in the same room

An important thing about connecting – is checking in that you are both feeling connected.  (An example I got a lot when working with teenagers is parents would feel connected going on a trip to a museum while their teens may not).  Generally, if one person is feeling distant – figure out what shifts need to happen to help re-connect.  Moreover, engage in something that makes you both feel connected.  Not sure where to start?  Start by asking, when was the last time you both felt connected and work from there.

BREAK in the relationship cycle

“Looking back over the years, what moments stand out as the really hard times in your relationship? What helped you stay together? How did you get through these difficult times? What are your ideas about how to get through difficult times?” – John Gottman

Every relationship has them – a break.  Especially in the times when you are annoyed, frustrated or upset in your relationship.

Examples of Breaks:

  • A fight
  • A snippy comment
  • A missed date night
  • A miscommunication
  • Having your feelings unintentionally or intentionally hurt
  • Moments where you feel disconnected
  • A tone of voice

Having breaks in a relationship isn’t inherently a problem – as stated before, each relationship has them. However, there are some important questions to ask yourself. First, how big are the breaks? Second, how long do they last? Third, how frequent are they? Fourth, is there a repair needed? From there you can identify next steps to improving your relationship.  What is not included in a natural relationship style of a break is any form of abuse.  Notably, this is not part of a normal relationship style and you should seek support.

REPAIR in the relationship cycle

“Taking responsibility—even for a small part of the problem in communication—presents the opportunity for great repair.” – John Gottman 

Repairs are an essential part of this relationship cycle.  Additionally, in my experience, people try to skip repair or ignore it (in part because it means taking accountability).  Therefore, I cannot stress enough on how important repair is for healing and the ability to get back to connection.

Examples of Repairs:

  • Apologizing
  • Expressing Regret*
  • Taking Responsibility* 
  • Making Restitution*
  • Asking for Forgiveness*
  • Genuinely Repenting*
  • Asking how you can make it right
  • Not continuing to do the thing that caused the break

Please, do not skip this stage!  Moreover, take the time to check in with you loved one to see if additional repair is needed in order to find your way back to connection. Remember, when in doubt, ask! 

The connection, break, repair cycle happens in every relationship. In conclusion, the important piece is being mindful of how you move through this cycle .


*From The 5 Apology Languages: the secret to healthy relationships by Gary Chapman

Quotes from 8 Dates: essential conversations for a lifetime of love by John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams 

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver

Link to homepage www.couragepsych.com

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