In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe came up with what is known today as The Holmes Rahe Stress Scale, a system that is still used in the psychology world to this day. This scale rates the most stressful events that an adult can go through in a lifetime. Marital reconciliation lands in the top 10 at number 9.
When we think of reconciliation, we usually think of it as a good thing. And while it can be a good thing…it can also be a very, very hard thing. It is such a hard thing because a breakup leaves the people involved emotionally raw and wounded. When one is in an emotionally vulnerable state, even genuine, well intentioned gestures can sting.
And when well intentioned gestures are met with cringe and re-coil, it’s hard to figure out how to proceed. Lots of patience, determination and humility are required to get through the first few phases of reconciliation.
Humility is the number one ingredient required to reconcile.
Without it trust can never be rebuilt.
Two people that have broken up inevitably retreat to their individual corners and build protective walls around themselves. To truly reconcile with one another those walls need to come down so trust can flow back and forth between partners. But who wants to take down their walls when they are feeling hurt and vulnerable? Reconciliation is risky business. Here is a great ritual to help lower the risk so that a couple can start to reconnect.
Take Down the Rock Wall
If you and your partner have walls between you, it’s important to take the time to figure out what, exactly, those walls are made of. Find or buy some small, flat stones and write a few words on one side that represent a part of the emotional wall you have around you. For instance “Fear of being belittled”.
When each individual is done writing on their stones, together you can each come up with suggestions to remove that stone from the wall. Write that on the other side of the stone. For example, “Use a different tone,”or “Don’t use the word ______.”
Three to eight stones is good to start, and each individual doesn’t have to have the same amount of stones. After completing this ritual, these stones should be kept in a special place. When difficulty arises a stone can be retrieved and left somewhere for the partner as a reminder that walls are rising again, and something needs to be done to keep a connection.
It’s important to keep in mind that just because one may have fear of being belittled, does not always mean that they are actually being belittled. Couples can and often do project childhood experiences on to each other. When doing this exercise it is important to avoid being accusatory. I statements should be used, and the word “you” should be avoided.
“I feel belittled when a loud voice is used.”
It is also important to not get defensive. Instead of responding with “I don’t raise my voice with you,” one should simply respond by mirroring back what the other has said, almost like a parrot just mimicking the words.
“So when you hear a loud voice, you feel belittled.”
Mimicking the words back stops the listener from going into defensive mode, and helps the one sharing to feel as though they are truly being heard. It can be harder than you think to simply listen without jumping to explanations, justifications and defenses. And just because you mimic back to your partner what they have said, that does not mean you are admitting to having done something wrong.
Saying “When you hear a loud voice, you feel belittled,” is not the same thing as saying that you are a bad person that belittles others. Listening and mirroring back what you have heard does not make you guilty of anything.
You could be belittling your partner without meaning to, but you also may be somehow triggering a memory of belittlement by doing something quite innocent. If you can both remain curious, emotionally present, and humble, you may find out that this fear of belittlement always comes up when doing the dishes.
You may discover that your partner’s parent was obsessed with dishes they had inherited, and your partner broke one as a child. While being listened to with humility, your partner may remember the pain of being belittled in a loud voice by a parent…and in your presence, they may finally be able to let that wound go.
The best way (and in many instances the only way) to heal our past hurts is through relationship. And for healing in relationship to occur, each person must remain humble and fully present, even when that presence feels extremely vulnerable and scary.
‘Love,’ by Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Milov: Burning Man Festival, Nevada
There are layers of reasons why couples interact the way they do. We bring trillions of experiences and interactions with us from our past when we enter into a relationship, many we are not even conscious of. The more we can approach how we interact with curiosity and a listening ear, the more we will be able to peal back the protections we have built and truly start connecting and allowing love in.
Rituals of reconciliation that include fun and creativity can help us return to our truest, authentic, child-like self; that self that isn’t afraid…that self that doesn’t know hurt, that self that is powerfully capable of loving and being loved easily, openly and joyfully.
Call now for a free 15 minute ritual consultation.
949 648 1109
I can help you create and implement effective healing rituals into your relationship so that you can connect with one another with the innocence and excitement of trusting children.