When a couple gets trapped in ongoing distress and reactivity, each partner feels a lack of ability to turn things around. Each concludes the other needs to change in order to reduce tension, upset, distancing, or discontent. As if taking a victim role, each believes they have no power to influence the situation.
A major turning point comes when partners discover the power to change their dynamic. This occurs when someone makes a new move in the dance that gets better results. In our coaching practice, we often help partners make new moves. An example is when a normally avoidant person discovers the positive impact of moving toward their upset partner. This is a dance move opposite of the self-protective distancing they normally do. They find out the power of this new dance step in that it actually calms the tension they typically attempt to dance away from. Continue reading
Falling in love is the easy part. Staying in love is another matter. Some couples seem blessed with everlasting love. Then there’s the rest of us — who start running into trouble once the honeymoon is over. We encounter differences, disagreements, disappointments. Buttons get pushed. We watch helplessly as loving feelings start to fade in the face of misunderstandings, blowups, shutdowns, or vicious communication cycles.
What is the main difference between couples who share ongoing happiness and those who don’t? Couples who keep love alive know how to repair. They are good at quickly attending to the little glitches that every relationship encounters. All couples go in and out of synch and will occasionally be at odds. Distress gets stirred up even in the best relationships. How it is handled makes all the difference. Continue reading
No matter how great a relationship starts, any couple can get stuck in some unhappy pattern. Despite their best intentions, at moments partners will fall out of synch or push each other’s buttons. Not knowing how to repair such moments leads to increasing distress, discomfort, or dissatisfaction. Over time, this can result in some recurrent pattern of upset communication.
This will look differently depending on the personalities involved. Some people pursue and attack, while others defend or withdraw. Some blow up, others shut down. It is sad to consider how many couples start with such great love and hope, only to end up unnecessarily suffering some form of disconnection or reactivity. Continue reading
All couples encounter differences and fall out of synch at times. They may disagree about things, misinterpret one another, or get their buttons pushed. Your ability to effectively communicate at such times makes all the difference between resolving issues or getting stuck in upset.
Unfortunately, most of us did not grow up seeing adults model healthy ways to work through differences. So we don’t know how to talk with one another in a way that handles each other’s distress.
We can all learn from couples who share ongoing happiness. How do they communicate and handle distress? A key skill they have is being able to rapidly repair things. They are good at quickly attending to the little glitches that every relationship encounters.
Those of us who do not naturally know how to do this suffer a buildup over time of unrepaired ruptures. Eventually this buildup leads to feeling unsafe or guarded with each other. And we find ourselves feeling less intimate, less relaxed, and more alone.
So if you and your intimate partner are experiencing lack of intimacy or a build-up of unresolved distress, it’s time to learn this three-step formula for addressing and resolving communication difficulties: (1) Pause; (2) Calm; (3) Repair. Continue reading