4 Mistakes that Make Our Strained Relationship(s) Worse
Strained relationships are the result of relationship ruptures. A rupture is a break in connection in your relationship, and it is common. I even argue that they can't be avoided. All relationships at some point will experience a rupture. BUT, not all ruptured relationships will experience a repair. That is because repairs take intentional effort, and we make mistakes that strain relationships rather than attempt to repair them. In my professional work and personal life, I have observed 4 common mistakes we make that stand in our way of working towards repair:
We avoid. When we keep ourselves away from addressing the concern(s) that have led our relationships to experience ruptures we create greater distance, and risk compounding our pre-existing wounds/traumas. Remember that what you avoid has great potential to get worse.
Instead: Rather than avoid, face the challenges head on. Give voice to the concerns. Resist the urge to do the easier thing of silencing yourself. Challenge yourself to do the more challenging thing. We can can do challenging things.
We score keep. We are score keeping when we find ourselves "tallying up the score of wrong doing" for those we are in relationship with (i.e., professional, romantic, platonic, familia, etc.). And in doing so, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are essentially trying to build a case of how others are wrong and we are right. This can create feelings of resentment, anger, and bitterness which ultimately erode a relationship.
Instead: Rather than tally up a score to prove to yourself how you're right, share with the people you are in relationship with how you feel about the discrepancies you observe. You can do this by leading with vulnerable communication. Example: " I feel like I constantly take initiative on ______________. That makes me feel ________________. I would like for you to. __________________.
We sit in our defensiveness instead of challenge it. When we sit in our defensiveness, we are avoiding taking in and reflecting on the criticism we receive. Defensiveness serves to protect our self appraisals. When we are listening with the intent to defend, or justifying and rationalizing our behavior/ point of view, and not being open and receptive to input and feedback from others, we are being defensive.
Instead: Rather than defending against feedback, explore how your actions may be contributing to how others are experiencing you.
We do not take responsibility for our role in the status of the strain. It is very easy to blame others for the status of our relationship(s). But the reality is that we play a role in the status of where our relationship ruptures are. Now, I am in no way suggesting that you are responsible for any physical or sexual violation/ abuse or should be taking responsibility for any gaslighting you may be experiencing. I am referring to relationship ruptures that are outside of predatory behavior. Every action creates an opposite action, and we teach people how to treat us with our action or inaction. So perhaps, it is your inaction, silence, or avoidance that has led others to continue to engage in behavior that creates ruptures for you. And even if you voiced how you felt and it was not honored, it is up to you to take on the responsibility of making the necessary pivots. The decision of how to move forward is on you, and that accountability can't be outsourced.
Instead: Rather that release the power you have to act, empower yourself to make a choice. Make a decision about where you want your relationship to be, and take on your responsibility of putting in the work to get it there. If the person involved in the rupture is unwilling to put in the work to repair the relationship, move forward accordingly.
When we avoid, score keep, are defensive, and do not take responsibility for the status of the strained relationship, we make our strained relationships worse. These behaviors contribute to the erosion of the relationship instead of its repair. You may be surprised to find that you are making these common mistakes. That is ok. Insight is the first step to sustained behavior change. With your new enlightenment, move into this week with resolve to challenge the behaviors that keep you from moving towards your desired outcomes in relationships.