Intimate relationships can be challenging at times and require effort to sustain them. And the reality is, they can get off track. If over time this happens enough, where resentment and other negative emotions build up between you, relationship disconnection can occur. This break can lead to repetitive cycles of unproductive behavior such defensiveness, hostility and emotional detachment. This is often fueled by the sadness you both feel that the other doesn’t seem to be there anymore.
If you’ve gone through tough times with your partner and have both been making an effort towards reconnection either via couples therapy or self-help methods, you have taken the first huge step with positive intention for change.
As a therapist who works with individuals and couples, I have seen relationships at their worst – and at their best. It’s a very rewarding experience to observe people coming closer to each other, as positive regard and hope builds. It’s important to remember that it’s more than just better communication. There are issues beneath the couple dynamic that actually drive the quality of communication, many intricately wrapped up in emotional safety.
If you’re doing the work, how do you know the work is effective?
You know your relationship is truly healing if:
- You are aware of and have empathy for your own – and each other’s – vulnerabilities or family of origin wounds.
- You are attuned to each other enough to know when something is off. You both seek to explore this and soothe each other.
- You can emotionally regulate yourselves to avoid doing further damage to each other.
- You have moved from personalizing to more a more clear and thoughtful assessment of meaning of your exchanges.
- You have a clear understanding of the initial disconnection and are aware of potential pitfalls.
- You have shifted from an adversarial to a collaborative spirit. You are on the same team.
- You both can take ownership of your role in hurting the other and are tending to and repairing wounds that have occurred.
This list is not all-inclusive but it’s a good guideline for you to follow if you are doing the work of relationship healing with your partner. When some or all of the above are happening, you are actively rebuilding the emotional safety in your relationship. When you feel safe with each other, reconnection can occur. Positive emotions will indicate you can feel it.
If there is more work to be done in your relationship for a full reconnection, keep up the good work. If you are there, congratulations.1