Think back to your common conflicts in your relationships. Really observe what happens- like creating a flowchart in your mind. Where is the breakdown? What is the moment when all hell breaks loose? That is generally where an old wound has been triggered. That is where people will engage in negative behaviors, or shut down. When something from the past, whether childhood or previous relationships, or both, has been reopened. All of your insecurities, worries,
How to break this painful cycle? Here are some techniques that I have found helpful in my practice:
- When you are both hurting, picture your partner as a child. When old wounds are sliced back open, we emotionally become a much younger age. In fact, many survivors of trauma find themselves stuck at the age they were originally wounded. Instead of holding on to that anger, attempt to connect with the vulnerability that your partner is showing, even in what is sometimes very ugly behavior. This visualization can often result in a much-needed emotional break for you both to regroup and reconnect in a better way. (Note: This does not apply to abusive behavior. If your partner, male or female, is harming you physically, emotionally, or sexually, that is a different topic, and one that requires seeking professional help).
- Sit down with your partner and make a timeline of the events in your lives that have wounded each of you. This will help you both see where you are vulnerable, and will help you be more aware of what to keep in mind when needing to have emotional conversations or conflict. Share each others events, and help your partner understand why this hurts you- even if it doesn't make sense, or seem logical. When we are in conflict, we are rarely logical.
- In conjunction with the timeline exercise, have a discussion about each of your families of origin. Talk about events, how conflict was handled (or not handled), how emotions were expressed, if there were emotions that were not allowed to be expressed, abusive behaviors, and other topics that you feel have shaped you.
- Read the book "Hold Me Tight" by Sue Johnson. It is just SO good, and all about attachment in relationships. It helps couples stick together when they want to push each other away. Enough said.
The key is awareness. Learn what your old wounds are, and be honest- not just with yourself, but with your partner. Take a chance to let him know what has happened that has contributed to that response. This is when true healing can begin.