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5 Steps To Restoring Balance to a Hurtful and Painful Relationship
5 Steps to Restoration of Balance
1) Measure the Emotional Toll
2) Make an Assessment
3) Let Healing Work
4) Meeting of the Minds
5) Shake Hands on it
Don't Let Pain Keep Mounting
All romantic relationships suffer periodically from “emotional blowups”. Depending upon the personalities involved, they usually feature raised voices, name calling, grave statements about lost love, infidelity, lack of commitment, a paucity of affection or coldness and indifference, crying and accusations. How much this happens has much to do with whether the relationship is worthy of work and repair.
Whether the relationship is new, fairly established or long term these kinds of events have a way of shaking up both partners. When they are over, both parties know they can’t just go “back to normal” without a rapprochement.
In international relations a “rapprochement”, which comes from the French word rapprocher ("to bring together"), is a re-establishment of cordial relations. I use it hear because sometimes those big arguments require a kind of a plan to get back together, an idea of who is going to call first, a sense of :
“Awe Oh. This is going to be a Hard One to get over!”
Back in Houston at a summer wedding, one woman came to me as a pastoral counselor. I had just performed the Wedding Ceremonies and during the dancing, she came up to me and we chatted. “My husband is not here today. I need to talk to you about dealing with him. When we have an argument or a fight, he says a lot of things, I do too, we yell at each other, and you know, whatever mean things people say to each other, we probably say them.”
We sipped on some coffee. “I take it that he is one of those people who tries to act like nothing happened. Is that what you are about to say?”
She smiled. “I kinda telegraphed that didn’t I?” She was in a mood for getting things resolved.
I posed some ideas about some situations I had seen. “It’s a common thing. One person tries to act like nothing happened. They let time pass. Often time passing is all a squabble needs. But many times time passing does not do a thing. It makes things worse. AND. It’s usually one person who will talk and try to bring things back to normal, and the other who clams up. This can lead to long term problems if healing needs to be done. Often the healing does not happen. Guilt is still alive. Pain still throbs; and the yelling voices still echo. Threats and accusations sit there growing mold in dark corners.”
“Yeah, that’s us. When it’s quite bad, he shuts up for four or five days, I try to repair my feelings on my own. When I can start speaking again, and it is always me that is first, I start with an apology. He probably doesn’t, but we begin talking a little. And I try to decide just how mad I am, and how much I hurt. A week passes, and things have not really been worked on, but we start to talkin’ again. Two weeks later we are kind of back to normal, but there are no “I’m sorries from him.” She looked over at the dancing and the mirth and the laughter.
“You feel like you do all the “rapprochement”, the cordiality, the “normalizing”.” I hoped that sounded right.
“You bet. Am I going to keep on doing this? Or is there something I can do? You know, constructive, creative, assertive; cause I just get madder and madder deep inside as more time goes by.”
She and I talked some more, and after having talked to her a couple more times, I gave her a 5 step process that I hoped might help her. It was simple and had a basic clarity, but it seemed to help her. I have used it over the years in my own life and in counseling sessions later on.
1) Measure the Emotional Toll
2) Make an Internal Assessment
3) Take Time for Healing
4) Have a Meeting of the Minds
5) Shake Hands on it
1) Measure the Emotional Toll – After the anger and hurt have subsided a bit, a person who respects themselves and honors the relationship will do some good hard work. There are many things that do pass into the blowing wind after an argument, but there are some real difficult and painful statements that have laid their heavy hand on people’s hearts. There is real emotional harm that takes place, most often on both sides -- that does cause sometimes deep psychic pain. Let alone the self esteem, the sense of the value of the relationship and the vague foreboding that all of this emotional hurt can’t keep happening without and end coming.
It may sound daunting and discouraging, but you really need to ask: How much is this hurting me: long term, short term. How much pain am I ignoring while I keep on trying to tell myself that everything is really OK? Sometimes the answer is that it’s not as bad as you thought it was. Sometimes, we are moody, despondent, caught in a strange situation and the argument takes on the noise of the surrounding emotional scenery. But often times, measuring the emotional toll tells you that it is destructive and expensive and if you ignore this it will keep on hurting and get worse.
2) Make an Internal Assessment – This is where you stop thinking about the painful feelings and you measure your esteem, your state of mind, your career, your family, your loved ones. You just sit down and ask: How is this affecting my overall life? After all, I got into this relationship for joy, fun, passion, love and happiness. How much of that do I still have? How much of my life’s and mind’s resources are being spent trying to make this work? Again, sometimes the answer is not that bad. You look things over and decide the internal assessment comes up as a PLUS. Other times this kind of mental work leads you to a more conclusive answer. “Our fights, especially because they remain “unfixed” is marking my life negatively in many ways.
3) Take Time for Healing – Obviously you don’t try to work on these tense issues right away. One of the reasons a reasonable amount of time passing usually works is because as the sages say: “Time Heals all Wounds”. And there is truth here. But we don’t want to be thinking that the sheer passage of time covers up pain, angst, emotional scarring and esteem wrecking events. So, DO take time. Let the natural perspective that Healing and Forgiveness provide cover a “multitude of sins”. This gives perspective. Because now, all of your previous work will take its proper place in the terrain of your heart, the territory of your soul, the map of your mind. When Healing Time leaves you still with the sense that real work needs to be done with your relationship, then you know you are on a good path.
4) Have a Meeting of the Minds – The term “intervention” Is de Riguer and has forceful meaning. When you come together, make it kind and respectful, but formal. You can not just throw some accusative remarks in the air and hope to get a good reaction. If you are ready to call it quits, that is another story. I address this as a step that makes an attempt not only to normalize, but to bring renewal, a new balance. This is the kind of thing that needs to be a part of your “script”. “Honey, I love us together, but I think we could use a real renewal. I think we can be better, happier, kinder to each other. Are you with me?” Not to put words in your mouth, but the sense of it needs to have a “working together”, a rapprochement to it. You want to sit down at the table comfortably so that you can rise from the table together lovingly; with a new sense of who you are as a couple. If you have done the first steps well, this 4th step will not be as hard as you might think.
5) Shake Hands on it The first thing you hope happens is that when you go over old territory you are not witnessing cyclonic rebirth of old battles. But then that is the risk that is involved. You are making this declaration: “IF THE RELATIONSHIP CAN’T TAKE THIS, THEN MAYBE IT NEEDS TO BE COMPLETELY REASSESSED.” I emphasize the word “reassessed” because you don’t need to have a “fix this or forget it” mindset. If you feel in your heart that this relationship may be over, you still don’t need to pronounce it dead at this moment. You want to “shake hands on it” because you want to be able to follow through with your process. This way, you can feel so much stronger and sounder and in times to come you can say: I gave this all of my best efforts. I approached this with a positive mindset and my self respect intact.
When you think of the time and hope and desire and financial and human resources that go into relationships, you have to ask why we approach them with the fate of fire and passion so closely tied to them. Yes, fire, passion, love and yearning are a part of the picture, but because they are, we should lean over with the touch of a caregiver and tell ourselves. “I have spent so much time on this and it has been full of struggle, along with joy; I am going to approach this with my head as well as my heart and soul.