You feel distance in your relationship. You aren’t communicating well or much at all. You’re passing ships in the night.
What does it take to bridge a gap that’s developed between you and your partner? It really depends on the amount of damage and resentment that’s occurred. But in order to be able to begin the process at all it’s important to at least give each other the benefit of the doubt.
What does “benefit of the doubt” really mean, anyway. One definition is, “A favorable judgment given in the absence of full evidence.” I like this one because it speaks to the element of being unsure about your partner’s intentions and even the conclusion. But it still allows room for exploration and also still indicates to each other that working on the relationship has meaning and is worth it. They find each other “worth it.”
To behave accordingly whether trying to sort things out on your own or with a couples therapist, you and your partner agree to at stay open and make an effort to avoid looping into the past like a painful, angry broken record. It’s not to minimize your pain around what has transpired up to this point but it’s to notice it but not let it overwhelm and block the process. But it’s not only the one person actively putting it aside, it’s the other also noticing and validating the pain. It’s a cautious and compassionate dance where each continues to regulate their their emotional experience while soothing the other. Patience is critical as is prioritizing the process as reflected in checking in with each other and spending time building positive experiences to slowly soften the painful ones. This is a process where baby steps can eventually lead to leaps forward.
If you each give each other the benefit of the doubt to start with, there is a better chance of transitioning out of your adversarial position into a more open and even collaborative one.
Relationship reconnection and healing requires more than the benefit of the doubt but it is a critical starting point. Find a way to get there and you’ve stepped onto the path.4