That which isn’t seen cannot change. Many couples try to handle relationship injuries by sweeping them under the rug. This is a big mistake. When avoidance or neglect become a strategy, you get a seriously lumpy rug. And when we are harboring hurt, or waiting for hurt to happen again, it’s only a matter of time before what is under the rug rolls out.
Some couples succeed in compartmentalizing relationship hurts and traumas, but this can often mean an estranged relationship. Relationship ruptures inspire feelings of helplessness and danger, and when danger is present, we don’t feel safe to be vulnerable. When we don’t feel safe to be vulnerable with our partner, our connection is compromised.
Unresolved relationship trauma does not heal without a process of forgiveness and amends. When hurt occurs between couples, they need a special kind of healing process that cultivates forgiveness and reestablishes the willingness to trust again.
The first goal for partners in the process of reconnection is the forgiveness part. Many people think about forgiveness as a moral issue, but it can help to reconstruct and reimagine forgiveness as a relational process. In addition to letting go of resentment and forgiving your partner, we also have to be willing to trust again. Trust reestablished is the ultimate goal.
With that in mind, if you and a partner are struggling to move past a difficult fight or relationship injury, consider the following steps for re-establishing a secure connection, drawn from the work of clinical psychologist Sue Johnson, Ed.D., who developed the modality known as Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. (Note: Often the safety and structure of this type of healing needs the support of a therapist to help the couple navigate reconnection.)