EMOTIONAL WELLNESS: RESETTING and HEALING A FRACTURE (in a RELATIONSHIP)
Steve J. Leatherwood, MA, LPC, NCC, CRT CEO
It is not unusual for relationships, marriages in particular, to suffer a “fracture” along the way. We would like to think we live “happily ever after” but unfortunately, that is a MYTH. One person or the other is bound to slip up and break a level of trust or respect with the other at some point if the couple stays together very long. Sometimes the ‘fracture’ is a small one and healing is somewhat easier than for those which are “near breaks” and threaten to end the relationship. However, some of the same elements of repair are common to both SIMPLE and COMPOUND fractures. It is important to say there is “NO FORGIVE and FORGET”…ONLY FORGIVE. And that, only a couple times. So remember:
1. APPOLOGY: In all cases a SINCERE and CLEAR verbal apology is needed to begin the healing. This is a SERIOUS apology and not akin to the “kiss and make up” apologies that might come to mind. This is a sit down, come clean and includes a clear commitment to change some behavior that caused the initial ‘break’. It is done face-to-face, not in an email or text and is spoken aloud to the offended person. It is an absolute must and it is at the top of the list. It may even be appropriate to repeat the apology on occasion to make sure it is heard and it is CONTINUING to be in place. The offended will need reassurance the offender IS TRULY making an effort.
2. RESPECTING: In all cases, respect is a critical element needing repair and the offender must be willing to listen and observe clearly and deeply what it is the offended person needs to repair and reset the “respect” they once had for the other. Sadly, in many cases the respect never returns to the level it was before the fracture. It can sometimes approach that level and be “almost as good as before”. A fracture always leaves behind some fragments of damage to RESPECT for the other, just like a broken bone is never as strong as before.
3. HONESTY: In all cases, HONESTY is critical. It is not necessarily to tell every detail of what happened or was said causing the fracture, however, ENOUGH information is critical to the healing of the fracture and related wounds. This is often a difficult phase of the ‘resetting’ of the relationship, however, it is an absolute requirement and the offender needs to be clear about what did happen or what was said to cause the fracture so the offended can have a ‘foundation’ upon which to rebuild the relationship. Without this foundation, the relationship will continue to be on shaky ground. Several statements do NOT work in this situation: a) “I forgot what happened or was said”; b) “I just don’t remember what happened or how it happened”; c) “Just trust me, it wasn’t really that bad.” These statement and similar ones will NOT ease the mind or thoughts of the offended person and only leave continued doubt and mistrust in their attempts to rebuild. Honesty is the best policy here and while it may be difficult and stressful to tell the ‘truth’ (at least some of it), there is no other way to overcome the loss of TRUST incurred. TRUST can return but will always be somewhat at question and never as solid as before.
Best wishes to you in any struggles you might have about “fractures” and please share this with others you believe might find it of benefit. Remember, there is no “FORGIVE AND FORGET”….Only FORGIVE!