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Reconciliation is NOT for Chumps

Let’s start with this if you’re not anywhere close to a point where you can consider reconciliation, read no further. The last thing I would want is for my attempt to help to actually be invalidating. So if you have JUST experienced a traumatic incident, it’s probably not the time to listen to this or to read the accompanying blog. However, if you have ANY shred of interest in repairing a relationship, here’s some food for thought:

Cutoffs are easy, reconciliation is hard: Sometimes cutting people off is the only thing that makes sense. But in the family therapy world, cutoffs are considered a last resort, to be reserved for cases of abuse. To be frank, you only get a couple of relationship cutoffs before a therapist starts questioning the common denominator—which is you. 😕

Grieve the death of the relationship you wanted so you can participate in the relationship you actually have: Shift the depth of the relationship to reflect the relationship you can stand. At this point, you know who you are and who they are. If you can’t have the relationship you wanted, then consider changing the depth of the relationship to match the relationship you can have. It’s not an “all-or-nothing.” Don’t look at a “shallow” relationship as being inferior. Chances are, you already have some deeper relationships. Be grateful for those but don’t get stuck on the idea that just because someone is “family” you should have a deeper relationship. As I like to say…your mother IS this way.

It’s NOT groveling and apologies: In fact, you don’t necessarily need to apologize for anything, particularly if you don’t believe you did anything against your values. I’m don’t believe in forcing “sorry—”even for kids. Sometimes, reconciliation involves setting your boundaries, expressing what you want the other person to change, and even sharing the pissed off feelings you have. If you just can’t imagine reconciling, it may be because you are thinking that you just have to act like something didn’t happen. Not so. In some circumstances, it’s absolutely vital that you confront a person in order to reconcile with them. Keep it diplomatic, remember your validation skills, and assertively say what you need to say without blaming or labeling them and you may find it’s enough for you to let it go.

Fear of “Starting Something”: This could be just your own avoidance tendencies and wanting to look more laid back than you actually are, but in the case that seeking reconciliation might lead to confrontation, remember this: One of the greatest things about being an adult is that you can always get up and leave. You don’t have to listen to ANYTHING or be subjected to ANYTHING that you don’t choose to. That is, unless you are arrested or otherwise detained involuntarily :) It’s ok to set limits and to remove yourself from the conversation if need be. Be sure you drove separately.

Getting “rejected” isn’t the end of the world: If your biggest concern is that the other person will blame you or will otherwise reject your attempt to reconcile, it boils down to your fragile ego. Sorry—it’s my job to tell it. The best way to strengthen it? Do it BECAUSE it will be uncomfortable. There’s a big difference between something that’s just uncomfortable and something that is harmful. Know the difference. Remember who you are before you go into the conversation so you don’t get inflamed if and when they say something ludicrous. Other people have the right to be wrong. The person you are attempting to reconcile with is going through their own process and battling their own fears. Don’t take it personally and don’t let them tell you who you are. Breathe and let it go right through you.

Finally, reconciliation may not be a one time thing. In romantic relationships, it can happen repeatedly. Just remember, the one who attempts to reconcile first is the winner ;) Good luck.

Stephanie Vaughn, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist-HSP, owner of PSYCHē


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