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After 20 years as a relationship psychotherapist, coach, and teacher, and after having interviewed the world’s leading experts on relationships, there is one skill that shines above the rest in importance.
This one skill is what separate’s insecure relationships from secure ones.
What is it?
What does this mean?
Long-term relationships will go through what I call the “conflict-repair cycle” for the life of that relationship. And how couples navigate this cycle will determine how successful and secure their partnership is.
I unpack this deeply in my new book, Getting to Zero: How to work through conflict in your high stakes relationships.
Here’s an excerpt from chapter five of Getting to Zero:
There are two important points to understand here: (1) disconnections (often created through conflict and misattunements) are a normal and necessary part of human relationships; and (2) reconnection is the most important part of the Conflict Repair Cycle if you want secure, agile, and great relationships.
Feeling disconnected from a person who is important to you is normal, albeit painful. However, if you choose only one thing to focus on in this book, place your attention not on the conflict but on the reconnection. How you do the Conflict Repair Cycle today has been influenced by how the big people did it with you back then, but your willingness to learn and develop yourself now will determine how that cycle goes moving forward.
Something really interesting happens to a child in the space of disconnection. If disconnections don’t get repaired and relational needs continue to go unmet, and if this happens too much or too often, the child begins to recruit resources and develop strategies focusing on keeping alert for threats, which takes away valuable internal resources that could be used for normal development and learning. Daily disconnections are not the issue. Daily disconnections that don’t get repaired are the issue. Unresolved disconnections are detrimental to a child’s developing brain, nervous system, and sense of self.
One of the main strategies children use to try to get their connection back is to modify their self-expression so they can avoid being rejected, left, or abandoned.
One of our deepest fears as humans is to be rejected, to not be loved for who we are, to be cast out. When babies and young children feel emotionally unsafe, unseen, and unsupported, they develop strategies to avoid getting hurt, and usually they feel as if they have no choice but to change their behavior in the hopes that their needs are met. For children, it’s life or death. We’ll get more into childhood strategies and how to deal with those in the next chapter.
Remember, if a caregiver responds in a timely and attuned manner to disconnections and works to reestablish the connection, normal development resumes and the child feels that the world is okay and that “I’m okay” and “we’re okay.” An issue isn’t the mistake, disconnection, or the “conflict” between the two; instead, it’s all about how quickly and how well the disconnection is repaired.
The same can be said in your adult high-stakes relationships.
How you do the Conflict Repair Cycle today not only gives you information about your history but also speaks to how secure or insecure your intimate relationships are now. The great news is the Conflict Repair Cycle is the same cycle as Getting to Zero, and you’re about to learn it. I call it a cycle because, in my experience, it repeats regularly for the rest of your life, so you may as well get good at it.
In this simple cycle, it’s also easy to see where your weak spot is. Do you struggle most with connection, disconnection, or reconnection?
Excerpted from Getting to Zero: How to Work Through Conflict in Your High-Stakes Relationships by Jayson Gaddis. Copyright © 2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The world needs more humans who know how to repair. It’s as simple as learning to ride a bike!
Grab your copy now from your local indie shop or Bookshop.org. It’s available on audible too.