stoic couple

photo credit Ib Wira Dyatmika

Every relationship has times of disconnection. These times are not concerning unless 1. They are constant and highly stressful or 2. There are no repairs made. In fact, relationships where there are ruptures in connection but consistent and quick repairs, tend to have the most resilience.

Disruptions in therapy or coaching

Much of therapy/coaching is a client establishing attunement (focused attention on inner life of self and others) and resonance (“feeling felt”) with a therapist to create the security they are missing in their day-to-day relationships. If someone feels disconnected, hurt or unseen by a loved one, and that pain is never repaired, it can cause unhealthy neural pathway development in the brain and reactive and insecure behavior.

A therapist or coach can create small disruptions with the client and then move to repair them, therefore giving the client a sense of resolution. For instance, the coach may ask to change one appointment date but then stick to the scheduled dates for months after that. They may disagree with the client but do it diplomatically and with care.

Feeling disconnected with our children

To resolve ruptures or disruptions in connection with our children we need to move swiftly after the disconnection. Our primitive nervous system moves fast and quickly feels threatened. It is always on the lookout for danger, and we see disconnection from loved ones as danger.

For example, if a parent is an alcoholic and nurtures their child inconsistently (i.e. when they are not drunk), the child will feel unsure about when they can reach out to their parent and what kind of response they will receive. They may become kids in woodshighly in tune with the parent’s mood to avoid them when they are drunk or stay close when they are sober and loving. The child may even become a caregiver or pleaser for the parent so they can receive affection and care. Quite often the parent will let them down and the child becomes even more anxious about the lack of attachment, even more vigilant about getting their needs met.

In a less serious case, when children are young and need our physical presence and attention constantly, we may struggle to juggle all of our responsibilities or just get burned out and need breaks. To our kids, our breaks or outside preoccupations, feel threatening. They miss our eye contact and closeness when we turn our focus to other things.

As kids get older, they want to test their wings. They want independence and sometimes that fight to differentiate themselves involves conflict. Their pulling away leaves us feeling left behind and distanced from them.

How to maintain secure relationships with our kids

To have secure relationships with our children we have to be in charge in a kind way. We serve as guides, not dictators. We need to both encourage their exploring and independence but also welcome them home when they are ready to return to us. Being in tune with our child’s inner world is key to understanding when she needs her freedom and when she needs our care.

Even infants need downtime. They pull their gaze from ours to regulate the level of stimulation they experience. They coo and babble with us when they feel recharged.

Teens are on the cusp of independence (or more accurately interdependence) but also need to know they can reach out to us when needed. They may argue with us but letting them know we are there for them no matter what and resolving an issue with understanding and empathy go a long way toward their resilience and security.

Staying close with our partners

The same goes for conflict or lack of intimacy with our intimate partners. The need to close the gap or repair the disconnection is urgent. The sooner resolution occurs the better. We have to stop our nervous system from becoming overwhelmed. Once we’re overwhelmed, we tend to not behave nicely. We react negatively or defensively. We are not as open and receptive to our partner’s perspective. We are hurt and we protect ourselves. We do that by withdrawing or  clinging/ranting/raging.

Dan Siegel, MD says kindness is a fundamental part of love. It is respecting and supporting each other’s vulnerabilities. A big part of repairing problems in relationships is honoring differences and communicating compassionately. Doing both allows each partner to stay receptive versus reactive. If we feel threatened we keep our guard up and hence no progress, no resolution to the disruption.

Repairing within

We can even make repairs within ourselves by making sense of our past relationships. If we gain understanding about our parents’ treatment of us or see our past lover’s behavior as an effect of her attachment style, for example, then we are on our way to healing and feeling grounded. This secure presence helps us treat our partner’s and family members with more openness and serenity. It helps us respond and repair quickly when we feel disconnected.

How good are you at repairing disconnection in your relationships? Have the disruptions in your familial and intimate relationships been repaired? If not, what would it take to resolve them? 

If you need help repairing disconnections in your relationships please contact me for relationship coaching. I would love to help you find resolution and peace. 

If you’re interested in finding peace within yourself and peace within your relationships check out my book, The Quiet Rise of Introverts: 8 Practices for Living and Loving in a Noisy Word.

**Special request: If you have read The Quiet Rise of Introverts, please leave a short review on Amazon. Let me know one thing you took away from the book or something that helped you. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!** Quiet Rise retailers