I think we all know that being in a relationship is hard at times. We also know that the rewards, of comfort, love, passion and security (just to name a few) is so worth it. I remember my parents, who have been married now for over 50 years telling me that you “just have to keep talking” when you get stuck in a disconnection. Such great advice but what if your partner walks out of the room or refuses to engage? Or what if you are going around and around and your exhausted because neither of you are feeling heard? Or what if you just don’t want to talk anymore?
If you can recognize that your body is stressed and that you are in a reactive place, this is a great sign of self awareness. Your system is now in a stress response that activates your flight, fight, or freeze strategy to protect yourself. It’s ok to take a pause and take some breathes. If you can start to recognize that the two of you are caught in a cycle of disconnection then you can shift into the two of you fighting against that nasty cycle instead of the fight against each other. This is a significant perspective shift and puts you on the “same team” to get out of the cycle. When the cycle is “winning” neither of you are feeling heard and responded to in that moment.
Unfortunately, this is super challenging and hard to do because you are having to bring yourself out of the details of the fight and into the undercurrent or process between the two of you. It takes practice and at times, you will be successful and at times you won’t. It’s important to recognize that you are only in control of your response and reactivity. We tell ourselves, “if only they would talk to me then we could resolve this” or “if my partner would just calm down than we can solve the situation”. Instead, we need to shift into a new place of “uh oh, we are in our cycle. My partner is in distress. We need to slow down so we can hear each other and reconnect and then we can solve the problem together”. As I write this, I’m recognizing once again, how very hard this is to do. But you can do it together!
It’s ok to pause. It is absolutely ok to tell your partner that you are struggling and that you need to take a break and calm your system down. If you do this, please own why you need a break that is focused on you (ex. I’m recognizing that I’m not being kind; I’m aware that I’m super stressed and can’t hear what you are saying; I think I need to regroup and that way I can show up in a better way). The second part of a pause is to tell your partner when you will be back to try again. Even if you don’t feel “ready” yet, you can come back and say that. It’s so important so the person being “left” isn’t wondering if/when the conversation will be had to move towards resolution.
It’s ok to pause. It’s more than ok to take care of yourself so you can be your best in times of conflict or disconnect with your partner. Hopefully these suggestions provide you tools to do that in a successful and compassionate way for the two of you. As I mentioned, this can be challenging and is a large part of the work we do in our couples therapy sessions at Therapy With Heart. Don’t forget that we are always here as a support or resource for the two of you. We all get stuck in negative cycles and sometimes having a third person to help us navigate these times is just what is needed to rebuild and reconnect the two of you again.
This Post Written By:
Rachel Thomas, LMFT – Therapy With Heart
8737 E. Via De Commercio, Suite 200
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
Phone: (480) 888-5380
Fax: (480) 203-2881