It is so easy for a multitude of unresolved issues to build up between partners . There are genuine differences of opinion about how to approach a family problem; one partner may say a hurtful thing to the other, maybe not even realizing how hurtful the comment was; one partner thinks to herself or himself that it’s silly to make an issue over something and so keeps the discontent to themselves; one partner may become distant and pull back from the partnership relationship while processing the loss of a parent, the loss of a job, health issues; and so it goes, until the accumulated discontent is stronger that the glue of connected shared experience holding them together.
Sometimes people realize before the partnership tumbles off the cliff of dissolution that they want to be on a different road … and they still have some energy and commitment for exploring an alternative path, a path of reconciliation.
Such a path is the following Beginning Anew exercise:
Beginning Anew Exercise
Make an appointment to talk with each other: a time where at least an hour can be set aside with a minimum of interruptions, no television, with children involved in their own activities etc.. Create a time of privacy for the two of you.
- At the appointed time, each partner will take a few minutes to share their thoughts of appreciation of each other, of the other’s positive qualities. Be as specific as possible so that your partner will understand what behavior you really value.
- Next is a reciprocal sharing on expressing regret. This is an opportunity to say how you wish you had not acted or spoken to cause your partner pain or difficulty. This step requires the willingness to let go of your pride – a chance to say “I’m sorry” for the things that you genuinely regret having done.
- Lastly, each partner expresses the personal pain each had felt in the relationship. You must be careful to speak in a way the other person can “hear you” and not shut down to you. Refrain from blaming, but seek to understand why the other person has acted or spoken as she or he has. It’s best to express your feelings from your point of view. “I felt sad/angry/upset etc.”, when the event happened (be specific).
The reality of human interaction is that Steps 2 and 3 can alternate and go back and forth. If either party is feeling strong emotion he or she should just stop, and breathe deeply and quietly for a few moments until they can continue, with their partner following their breathing in support. The important thing is to listen deeply to what your partner is expressing, both in speech and body-language.
One can always set a new appointment to talk again or can continue the dialogue in writing if the feelings become too strong. The important thing is not to let the exchange deteriorate and become like old arguments. Remember you are seeking a new way of being with each other.
If working on your marriage sounds like a possibility for you and your spouse, then take a look at Marriage Mediation.
NOTE: The “Beginning Anew” concept presented here has borrowed heavily from the works of Thich Nhat Hanh.