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keep working on relationship after you stumble

In a group couples’ session last week, part of our conversation was about how to stay committed to working on your relationship when you’re clumsy. Trying to improve your partnership often begins with therapy and learning a lot of new skills, but in those moments where you’re feeling a lot of strong emotion, anger, frustration and fatigue, it is easy to slip back into hopelessness, resentment and wanting to quit. It’s easy to forget what you’ve learned and fall back into old habits. This is quite common if there are hurts and injuries that have not fully healed. It makes it easy to view a mistake in handling a situation as “here we go again.”

During those moments, it’s tempting to lose patience with the process and slide back into your hurt and wounding and end up in a conflict.  I advise couples to make room for mistakes, while also making sure to repair using the healthier patterns they’ve learned. Recognize your own behavior and feelings -– too angry, hurt or overwhelmed to take responsibility for how you behaved — and ask for a redo. Make sure you ‘re really ready to forgive and repair. Calm yourself and then try to approach it from the perspective of “that was a mistake, let’s try again”: softer, kinder and more in-control. Take turns so you can really listen and understand what each person is getting triggered by. Repeating this after mistakes is what builds confidence, trust and respect back into the partnership.