Entering adult relationships means that we must assume the relationship contract includes that we will be hurt. It is too idealistic and unrealistic to think that our partner will never hurt us, and that we will never hurt them. If the hurt is not intentional, violent, or abusive, we must accept it as part of the growing process of relationships. This process of unintentional emotional wounding is part of growing deeper in relationship. When relationship fractures happen…and they will, overcoming them can be confusing, scary, resentful, and so many other feelings.
Healing from relationship fractures requires the partners to focus on core foundations of forgiveness, trust, and security to reestablish the relationship structures that allow both partners to move forward to together into the future. These three dynamics are often misunderstood, and partners are rarely educated in how to manage the process of relationship rebalancing after hurt. So, let’s break this down:
Forgiveness: This is the process that starts by overcoming denial. It is when we accept what has happened and stop wishing that it hadn’t. This is not to say that anyone feels good about what happened, but rather that both partners accept the reality of the truth. Feelings of anger, mistrust, hurt, etc., may still be active but partners are aware of the truths and accept them no matter how painful. It is in this process that each partner can start to focus on the wall that has been created between them and think about how to take each brick down for reconnection. The person who brought the hurt must forgive themselves (and come out of denial of their behavior), and the hurt partner must accept that the hurt, no matter how painful, was not done to specifically cause harm. Once this happens, forward movement can begin as the process of forgiveness can expand. In other words, forgiveness is about awareness: awareness of intention, awareness of responsibility, awareness of desire to heal.
Trust: This is a decision. We often hear people say statements such as, “I trust until you give me a reason not to…” or “Trust is earned”. In either case, the person granting trust is deciding on when and to what extent to trust another. After an emotional relationship injury, a decision to trust again must be made. This can be deeply challenging because both parties must decide to trust themselves and the other. This decision does not mean that you feel fantastic or that everything is resolved. There may still be a great deal of recovery work to do but seeing the efforts to recover the relationship, make meaningful amends, and infuse new relationship skills should inform the decision to trust again.
Security: This is a feeling. While forgiveness and trust are more cognitive decisions, security is more challenging. Security is informed by when we are triggered, when we stop worrying about the next infraction, and when we stop focusing on the past list of hurts. This cannot be rushed. This takes time and where the heavy weight of recovery work sits. Security is the ability to know that the wall that was built during periods of hurt has been disassembled. Both parties must feel a sense of security for true relationship equilibrium.
If we do not start the process of forgiveness, we cannot move to the decision to trust. If we do not decide to trust, we can never feel secure. This is the basic path through relationship hurts that partners must travel. And this journey will be taken many times during a successful relationship. It is the hope that by being able to manage this path, the relationship grows deeper and stronger. This is how we truly learn about each other and see each other more authentically.
If you are working through relationship fractures or want to learn more about the management of healthy relationships, contact Elliott at www.drelliottk.com/contact or check out his book Couples by Intention: Creating and cultivating relationships that matter! At www.couplesbyintention.com.