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 highly 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.
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!**
Your passion and love for your kids comes shining through, Brenda … It’s beautiful to see and feel.
Raising kids is … well, we do our best. That’s all. And that’s enough. We try. We’re all loaded with stuff we learned as kids, and growing up. I think above all, if we always let our kids know we love them, we believe in them, we see them as beautiful and brilliant and capable, it’ll be alright.
And sometimes it’s not alright. Sometimes things turn out badly. My son went to prison for 13 months for trafficking marijuana some years back; he learned big lessons, and he’s doing well now.
On the other hand, my nephew is a heroin addict on the street for the past many years.
Most of this life, we do not, cannot, and never will understand. At least I have come to accept that. Sometimes you hear the saying, ‘In the end, everything will make sense.’ Maybe. But maybe not at all.
We are who we are … perhaps if we always express our love for, and belief in, our kids … perhaps that will carry the day. We may fall short in many ways; I surely did. And my kids have always known that I love them intensely, believe in the absolutely, and am so very grateful that they are my kids and in my life.
If we feel those things from our parents … if our kids feel those things from us above all … maybe it will make up for a lot of failings. Life is just tough, and we keep doing our best to go forward, and learn, and love. We are works in progress.
To seeing our kids (and ourselves!) as beautiful and brilliant and infinite and eternally capable … and expressing those feelings and words often to them.
You love your kids so much, it hurts, Brenda. Your kids are very, very, very lucky to have YOU as their mom. I see a love for them that is extraordinary and passionate and endless. It doesn’t get much better than that …!!
Thank you Michael. I hope my kids know how much I love them. I’ve definitely messed up and missed out on some opportunities to really be there for them emotionally. I’m working to make it absolutely clear now how much I care for them and have their backs. I want them to learn responsibility and how to be good humans but always to know they are loved. It sounds like you’ve done a good job of that with your children. Kudos! With my oldest getting ready to leave the nest next year, time and connection seem more poignant. The awesome thing is I really enjoy being with my kids. I’m sure there will be more challenges in the future but as you said, we just do our best. Thanks for your faithful support and kindness Michael. Happy Thanksgiving!