Quickly Heal Upsets, Deepen Intimacy, and Use Differences to Strengthen Love
by Susan Campbell and John Grey (first of this series here)
The author’s goal is to give couples a script they can use when there is any kind of a rupture in a relationship. It demands a certain level of self-awareness and objectivity about how one shows up in life, but the author’s guide you as you work through the book. Imago Relationship Therapy tells us we are partnered with someone who has some of both the positive and negative traits of our early caregivers. Campbell and Grey delve into and delineate what those negative traits might look like and how they show up in a relationship, using scenarios from the lives of their composite couple, Eric and Donna.
We all, as children and as adults, have core needs – the need to feel connected, accepted, valued and respected, etc. But because our parents weren’t perfect, as we are not perfect, these core needs were not always met adequately, at least from the child’s subjective perception. Obviously, there is a continuum here but we are all on it somewhere. When core needs are not met, core fears arise, – for example, the fear of being abandoned, rejected, invisible, unimportant, or not good enough, etc. which, in turn, give birth to core feelings – of being annoyed, angry, insecure, fearful, hopeless, etc. And then we all develop our unique control or coping patterns. The vignettes from Donna and Eric are plausible and highlight typical control patterns, for example, the sword and the shield.
First Step in Relationship Repair
They suggest the first step in any relationship repair, is to stop digging the hole deeper – install a pause button. If either of you feels triggered or suspect your partner is triggered, have a word/phrase/signal that both of you have agreed on beforehand, that you will honor. You will pause and stop digging yourself deeper into the hole. They list some of the shovels, that I am sure we have all used at one time or another, to dig ourselves deeper into the hole: blaming, criticizing, name-calling, judging, attacking, prodding, pursuing, provoking, getting defensive, withdrawing, shutting down, proving you’re right and trying to win” (pp.15-16)
Second and Harder Step
The second and harder step is to intentionally begin to address the needs, that wasn’t met well growing up, and that is now being replayed in the relationship – using their Five Minute Relationship Repair.
Relationship Repair Script
Here is the relationship repair script they suggest – a script for speaking from your core needs, fears and feelings and asking for what you do want, not what you don’t.
Ask for an appointment “I’d like to repair something with you. Is this a good time?
“I got triggered when I heard you say (or saw you do) … (name your partner’s specific words or actions)
“I reacted by … (describe your reactive behavior)
But deep down inside, I felt…. (name your core feeling)
I fear came up in me that … (name your core fear)
What I needed more than anything was to feel … (name your core need)
I am sorry I reacted that way and would like to take it back.
If I could do it over again, I would have told you that I was feeling … (repeat your core feeling and core fear)
And I would have asked for reassurance that … (repeat your core need). (pp.147-148)
It is a pretty sophisticated exercise requiring a good deal of self-awareness but the authors walk you through the process step by step. They encourage couples to use the script verbatim at the start, before trying to improvise. And they assure you, that like any new skill, it will take practice, but you will get better over time. Five-Minute Relationship Repair is well worth the read as it details how we get triggered, our automatic reactive responses to those triggers and more importantly, a process to repair the inevitable rifts and differences, large and small, that occur in any relationship.