Sana Rubiyana, Psychologist & Rational Emotive Cognitive Behavioural Therapist writes on how to find healthy ways to make sense of the experience and move forward. For queries, she can be reached at: [email protected]
One of the deepest sources of conflict in a relationship occurs when there’s a breach of trust.
When seeking resolution in a relationship, steps include avoiding interrogating, inviting honesty, and recognising your partner’s perspective.
We can make our actions match our goals by treating our partner with a level of respect and affection that gets us back on track.
When we’re navigating feeling wronged by a partner, it’s helpful to do two things.
Explore our reactions with curiosity and compassion.
Look for adaptive ways to communicate.
If our goal is to heal and move forward together, there are certain steps to take and avoid when seeking resolution –
1. Avoid interrogation
When a rupture occurs in a relationship, be it a lie, a secret, or acting out of any sort, it’s natural to want answers. Making sense of the story can be an important part of healing. However, the drive to interrogate, repeatedly ask questions, seek reassurance, or dig for details without reason can be a tool for torturing ourselves and our partners. It also fails to get us closer to the truth or a common understanding of events.
Interrogation techniques have been proven to lead to defensiveness and outright lies. A person who feels pushed to the edge will sometimes say anything just to get the torment to stop. When we find ourselves going around in circles, spiraling over an event, and not feeling consoled by any of the information being offered, then we are likely going down the wrong path, one that hurts us just as much as it hurts the other person and does little to repair the relationship.
2. Invite honesty
A better approach is to invite honesty. The best way to do this is by being open and vulnerable about our feelings. When we feel wronged, our instincts may be to explode, blame, and stonewall our partner. While taking the time we need to feel calmer and centred is wise and worthwhile. When we decide to communicate, our goals should be honesty, directness, and openness about our reactions without tearing the other person down.
It’s helpful to avoid statements that tell the other person’s story for them or define them, such as, “You did XYZ. You ruined everything. You don’t care about me. You never do this. You always do that. You are selfish, immature, stupid, etc.” Instead, we should focus on conveying our own experiences. “I feel hurt. I don’t feel as trusting of you. I don’t understand why you did this. It pains me when you say XYZ. I felt lonely, sad, and anxious after you acted that way.”
3. Explore your reaction
When we’ve exhausted an issue with our partner, and nothing makes us feel better, it’s helpful to explore why we feel unresolved or stuck in our pain. Often, these feelings have to do with our past. When our sense of security is threatened, the specific emotions that get ignited can have a lot to do with our personal histories. The same actions from a partner might lead one person to feel embarrassment and shame and another to feel outraged and abandoned. No matter what our partner did or didn’t do, our reactions are worthy of our independent exploration. They offer us lessons about how we see and treat ourselves and what we expect from relationships.
4. Think about your ultimate goal
When trying to resolve a conflict, many couples find themselves going around in circles. If one person is always blaming and unwilling to forgive the other, it can leave little hope for returning to an equal and loving way of relating. Remembering that we have 100 percent control over 50 percent of the dynamic is helpful. We can always choose how to act even when we’ve been hurt. If we decide that we want to stay in the relationship and get back to feeling close to our partner, then we have to keep that goal in mind even at the moments when we want to punish. It may feel hard to let go of grudges, especially when they’ve triggered something deep that resonates with an old, painful feeling from our past. However, if our partner is willing to grow and change, we can do the same by owning our actions.