The Road to Improving Your Relationship and Healing Issues of Trust
I’m in a FB group where people are looking for advice, support, and help with their relationships and marriages. And what I am reading is astounding. And painful. It makes me feel sad. There are issues of trust, intimacy issues and much more.
The pain oozes out of the posts and comments. People whose spouses yell at them, or drink and then blame their partner for their own drinking. Or people whose partners never get them a birthday present, making excuses year after year. Partners who can no longer stand the sight of their spouse. The list goes on.
This group reminds me of some of my earlier relationships. Before I was relationally healthy. When I picked people with addictions and other serious issues (because I had some serious problems of my own). Those relationships helped me grow. And I did grow. Over time, I grew out of them.
My toes curl. My heart cringes.
How to help these people?
Obviously, they are looking for support. But do these struggling people have the space in their lives, or the emotional steadiness to focus on learning about each other? Do they have the curiosity? Can someone be helped if they want help, but aren’t looking for tools?
It’s easy to say, “Leave him,” or “Give her another chance,” or any number of pieces of advice. And while that may help someone make a decision or feel better for a moment, it most definitely does not help them get on a learning and growth path to make a better life and a better relationship.
Two sides of a coin
It is as if love and treachery are two sides of the same coin. The “What Kind Of Love Do I Have?” coin.
On one side is a beautiful, supportive, and connected relationship. On the other are affairs, addictions, yelling, resentment, blame, crying, and heartbreak. On one side, you find support and comfort, and on the other, feelings of abandonment and betrayal, because this person or couple does not know how to CREATE support or a safe, loving relationship.
It’s not as if anybody asked to be on the wrong side of the coin. Instead, that person probably grew up in a dysfunctional family, and they simply do not know how to either pick a different person or make a different relationship.
How do you get from one side of the love coin to the other?
- Admit you have a problem in your relationship.
- Decide to learn, grow, change.
- Get your partner on the same page if possible. Sometimes you may need to go it alone. For example, if your partner abuses alcohol, and it impacts you, you might consider Al-Anon.
- Get outside help. These kinds of patterns do not change by themselves. Especially when two people’s dynamics feed and keep the negative cycle going.
- Be prepared to practice what you are learning. Change is not instantaneous.
An outline of the steps
Now for an overview of the actions of creating a relationship that feels safe emotionally and is connected and loving.
1. Assess what is wrong —Do you have different goals or different communication styles that cause misunderstandings? Are there issues of trust? If there is drug use, alcohol abuse, an active affair or abuse, get professional help.
2. Learn about your cycle. Your cycle is made up of the actions you and your partner repeat over and over again. So, for example, you are late for dinner, which causes me to cry, which causes you to slam the door, which causes me to threaten to leave you.
3. Learn the language of attachment. Attachment is the deep underlying need we have for our significant others. For example, “Because you are so important to me, I need to know that you want what is best for me,” is a much better statement than, “You don’t care about me.”
4. Unpack where your feelings are coming from (usually historical issues).
5. Begin to share the stories that inform you feelings.
6. Eventually, move into expressing more vulnerability, which leads to more connection and love. The reason this is the last step is that if you are vulnerable with someone who is attacking you, the pain you experience will be worse. Vulnerability requires safety.
Obviously, the steps are much more involved than this outline, but they give you an idea of the road ahead.
Remember, change often cannot occur in a closed system. To open the system and let new information in, read, take workshops, sign up for a relationship education program or try therapy.
For another article on healing your relationship, try The Real Relationship: Working it Out.
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Originally published in The Ascent on September 15th, 2019, https://medium.com/the-ascent/love-and-treachery-299b2da49eea