In today’s blog, we ask why would you want to stick it out in a relationship that is mostly fulfilling but has some conflict?
The Gottman Institute, known for their research of marriages for decades, states that the most successful relationships aren’t completely devoid of conflict. Rather, they are made up of two partners who diligently work to understand what it takes to repair their partner’s hurt feelings, face conflict to deepen connection, and listen with an empathic ear.
Undoubtedly, you have experienced some level of relationship hurt or trauma throughout your life. We are born in relationship with our parents and early on in childhood, we develop attachment styles based on the presence and reliability of our caregivers. That includes secure, anxious, and avoidant attachment styles. Some additional research introduces us to deeper attachment styles such as fearful avoidant and dismissive avoidant popularized in Amir Levine’s book Attached.
If you’re new to attachment theory, that may seem really bleak but believe me, there is hope! Dr. Kristen Hick, from The Center for Shared Insight, and I discussed how you can grow by further diving deep into your own attachment style on a recent podcast episode, just click here to listen to the full conversation.
About half of the population resonates most with a secure attachment style and came out of their childhood to likely form healthy relationships as an adult but if you resonate more with anxious or avoidant attachment styles, this article is for you.
I recently discovered a Harville Hendrix quote and it hit home for me, “We are born in relationship, we are wounded in relationship, and we can be healed in relationship.”
If you experienced wounding in a relationship at some point in your life, our podcast will be an amazing resource for you to connect with a trusted professional counselor or therapist to help you heal those wounds. After more than two years hosting over 150 episodes of the podcast, I have come to understand how the healing work goes deeper than talk therapy.
Experiencing “Big T” and “Little t” trauma can be held onto by the person wounded in a similar way so we must understand that the severity of the trauma is less important as is the person’s experience during and after the event. It is important to have support from trusted friends, family, and caregivers but overcoming relationship trauma will take a combination of healing the wounds held in your mental, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual areas of your life.
Yes, even your financial pillar of health can be impacted by relationship trauma. Repeating the same patterns in your relationship with money has a significant similarity to how we respond and react to our romantic relationships. The other pillars may be more obviously connected to trauma but as humans we have a subconscious behavior to attach meaning to everything we and others do.
There is only a certain amount of healing we can do on our own with a counselor, coach, or group of our peers. Eventually, we will desire to be in a relationship of varying levels and it is a guarantee that you will uncover some unhealed patterns and programs in your behavior. That’s when self-awareness becomes a key piece of the puzzle.
When these triggers occur in our relationships, it is so much more important to ask ourselves, “What is triggering me?” as opposed to focusing on who is doing the triggering. This inner dialogue can prevent the fight, flight, or freeze response to unsafe feelings that arise in conflict with our future partners.
It helps us to take a few deep breaths and focus on our response to the words, questions, or body language of our partner. What if we remain scared to enter a relationship for the rest of our lives because we don’t want to get hurt ever again.
All that will do is keep us alone and longing for connection while we stay stuck at one point in our healing journey until we are willing to take a risk and allow intimacy into our lives.
I recently explored my first exclusive relationship in almost three years; not to go so far as to say it was a partnership but I wasn’t exploring other conversations at the time. Just so we are clear because there are so many definitions of what exclusivity means but we certainly made an agreement to be on the same page.
It was new, fun, and exciting with a mix of phone calls, Facetime calls, and few dates in person. Eventually, we faced our first moment of conflict and my experience changed very quickly. I felt a lot of the old me resurfacing in our conversation and heated moment.
That fight, flight, or freeze subconsciousness that I had thought I had left far behind in my single life working hard on myself through counseling, self-studied learning, and speaking to experts while hosting the podcast. As you may be able to relate, you can do all the work necessary on your own, feel amazing and free, but the moment you welcome another person into your reality…
That’s when the real test begins. Now the old me would have tucked tail and run. Seeing conflict as a negative thing in a relationship.
The current version of me is braver and more willing to take risks and get hurt. So I dug in. I chose to face the conflict by listening and hearing the experience of the other person in response to my behavior and their own.
This was the beginning of a new era for me. Instead of running away like my avoidant attachment style would have forced me to do in the past, I chose to look inward, take the feedback from another person, and grow with the conflict instead of shying away from what I fear most; rejection and betrayal.
Now, whether or not the outcome was favorable, that was not the point of growth for me. The moments of gratitude I have for the opportunity to be better than I used to be was the opportunity for growth. Since then, I have chosen to look inward, process the feedback, and make a self-aware assessment of what was most important for me to address.
While the relationship didn’t make it beyond that first conflict, it provided so much more self-awareness, personal discovery, and mindset shift for me to move forward into the future with new tools to become healed through a relationship.
This is how we become healed in relationship. We take risks. We set boundaries. We discover another person who aligns with our life goals that has compassion for your personal story and chooses to live life with you; trauma and all that it comes with so that they can be a big part of your life.
Would you like to dive deeper into your attachment styles, Enneagram type, and love languages so that you may one day be healed in relationship? Join our private virtual group that meets weekly by filling out this quick form and scheduling a call with me once it’s filled out!