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  • Many tensions within relationships can usefully be looked at through the prism of a concept

  • much used within psychotherapy: the idea of 'rupture' and 'repair.' For psychotherapists,

  • every relationship is at risk of moments of frustration or as the term has it, of 'rupture',

  • when we suffer a loss of trust in another person as someone in whom we can safely deposit

  • our love, and whom we believe can be kind and understanding of our needs.

  • The ruptures are often quite small, and to outside observers perhaps imperceptible: one

  • person fails to respond warmly to another's greeting; someone tries to explain an idea

  • to their partner who shrugs and says off-handedly that they have no idea what they're on about;

  • in front of friends, a lover shares an anecdote which casts the partner in a less than flattering

  • light. Or the rupture can be more serious: someone calls someone a stupid fool and breaks

  • a door. A birthday is forgotten. An affair begins.

  • The point about ruptures is that they say nothingin themselvesabout a relationship's

  • prospects of survival. There might be constant rather grave ruptures and no break up. Or

  • there might be one or two tense moments over a minor disagreementand things head towards

  • collapse. What determines the difference is something

  • that psychotherapists are especially keen to teach us about: the capacity for what they

  • term 'repair'. Repair refers to the work needed for two people to regain each others'

  • trust, and restore themselves in the others' mind as someone who is essentially decent

  • and sympathetic and can be a 'good enough' interpreter of their needs. As psychotherapy

  • points out, repair isn't just one capacity among others, it is arguably the central determinant

  • of one's mastery of emotional maturity; it is what identifies us as true adults.

  • Good repair relies on at least four separate skills:

  • 1. The Ability to Apologise A sorry may not be as easy as it sounds, for it isn't just

  • a few warm words one has to say, the true cost is to one's self-love. If one is already

  • on the verge of finding oneself somewhat intolerable, then the call to concede yet another point

  • to own up to being still more foolish, emotionally unbalanced, controlling, hot-tempered

  • or vaincan feel like a demand too far. We may opt to dig in and avoid a sorry not

  • because we are overly pleased with ourselves but precisely because our unworthiness feels

  • so painfully obvious to us alreadyand lends us no faith to imagine that any apologies

  • we did make could arouse the kind of forebearance and kindness we craveand yet so badly

  • feel we don't deserve. 2. The Ability to Forgive There can be equal

  • difficulty around being able to accept an apology. To do so requires us to extend imaginative

  • sympathy for why good people (which includes us) can end up doing some pretty bad things

  • not because they are 'evil' but because they are in their varied ways tired or sad,

  • worried or weak. A forgiving outlook lends us energy to look around for the most generous

  • reasons why fundamentally decent people can at points behave less than optimally. When

  • this kind of forgiveness feels impossible, therapists speak of a manoeuvre of the mind

  • known as 'splitting', a tendency to declare some people to be entirely good and others,

  • just as simply, entirely awful. In dividing humanity like this, we protect ourselves from

  • what can feel like the impossible dangers of disappointment or grown-up ambivalence.

  • Either someone is pure and perfect and we can love them without reserve orquite

  • suddenlythey must be appalling and we can never ever forgive them. We cling to rupture

  • because it confirms a story which, though deeply sad at one level, also feels very safe:

  • that big emotional commitments are invariably too risky, that others can't be trusted,

  • that hope is an illusionand that we are basically all alone.

  • 3. The Ability to Teach Behind a rupture, there often lies a failed attempt by one person

  • to teach something to another. There was something that they were trying to get across when they

  • lost their temper or got into a sulk: something about how to behave around a parent or what

  • to do about sex, how to approach childcare or how to handle money. And yet the effort

  • went wrong and they forgot all about the art of good teaching, an art which relies, to

  • a surprising extent, on a degree pessimism about the ability of another person to understand

  • what we want from them. Good teachers aren't after miraculous outcomes. They know how resistant

  • the human mind can be to new ideas. They swallow a very large dose of pessimism about successful

  • interpersonal communication in order to stay calm and in a good mood around the inevitable

  • frustrations of relationships. They don't shout because they didn't from the outset

  • allow themselves to believe in total symmetries of mind. When they're trying to get something

  • across, they don't push a point too hard. They give their listener time and know about

  • defensivenessand as a fallback, accept that they may have to respect two different

  • realities. They can in the end bear to accept that they will always be a bit misunderstood

  • even by someone who loves them very much. 4. The Ability to Learn It can feel so much

  • easier to get offended with someone than to dare to imagine they might have something

  • important to tell us. We may prefer to get hung up about how they informed us of an idea

  • rather than address the substance of what they are trying to convey. It isn't easy

  • to have to imagine that we are still beginners in a range of areas. The good repairer is

  • ultimately a good learner: they have a lively and non-humiliating sense of how much they

  • still have left to take on board. It isn't a surprise or a cause for alarm that someone

  • might level a criticism at them. It's merely a sign that a kindly soul is invested enough

  • in their development to notice areas of immaturityand, in the safety of a relationship,

  • to offer them something almost no one otherwise ever bothers with: feedback.

  • In the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, broken pots and vases are artfully mended using a

  • gold inflected lacker and displayed as precious works of art, as a way to emphasise the dignity

  • and basic human importance of the art of repair.

  • We should do something of the same with our love stories. It is a fine thing to have a

  • relationship without moments of rupture no doubt, but it is a finer and more noble achievement

  • still to know how to patch things up repeatedly with those precious strands of emotional gold:

  • self-acceptance, patience, humility, courage and a lot of tenderness.

Many tensions within relationships can usefully be looked at through the prism of a concept

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The Secret of Successful Relationships: Rupture and Repair

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/10
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