The Intimacy Institute recently turned 11 years old. We celebrated our birthday by relocating from Boulder to the Western Slope. Daniel and I exclusively offer tele-therapy services, now throughout the entire state of Colorado. Many have asked us, why did you move away from Boulder? During the first part of the Covid lockdown, we re-calibrated to offer Zoom tele-health sessions. Though this was energetically ominous time, we continuously strived to keep our optimism alive. We realized that although tele-health doesn’t provide a face-to-face intimacy, we can work from anywhere. So we moved to the sweet town where we got married, five houses down from my parents. We are finally settled and able to reach out to you via this newsletter.
Because of the pandemic, we will be putting our Couples Retreat on pause this year. We will offer one up here in the mountains as soon as face-to-face contact is a safer social option. In the meantime, we are about to launch the didactic content of our Couples Retreat video series—RoadMap to Intimacy, coming soon. One of the key chapters in our Couples Retreat video series is the Recipe for Responsible Repair. For those of you sharing close quarters, you may have experienced a higher level of tension, stress, and/or smothering. Fighting can easily ensue. How we respectfully repair is a key part of a satisfying and sustainable relationship. Here are the 4 parts to keep on hand for a “Responsible Repair”:
- Regulate your nervous system.
- Own your Experience.
- Name your Feelings.
- Ask for your Needs.
Ok, let’s get more detailed.
A) Regulate your nervous system means to return to a balanced homeostasis of general calm. Regulate means to reset, restore, and/or relax. Regulation is most easily accessed via taking a PAUSE with 5 slow exhales. When we fight, we are often triggered into disregulation and operating from the back of our brain stem. This is our reptilian reaction that simply wants to either fight, flee or freeze in order to keep us safe. Rather than claws out, run away, or silently shut down, take 5 slow deep breaths with a focus on the exhale. This helps move us out of the sympathetic stress reaction and into a more relaxed, parasympathetic response. We are essentially moving away from the back of the brain stem and toward the frontal cortex of the forehead—our logic center. For some people, this move is easy and quick. For others, it takes minutes or even hours. Take the time out you need to regulate yourself and reflect. Breathe. Walk. Meditate. Exercise. Push hard on a wall. Take a shower. Do whatever you need to…then, come back.
B) Own your experience means to take full responsibility of your actions and behaviors. This is not a time to make excuses for your behavior. This is an opportunity to explore how you did not act as your best self. An opportunity to explore how you could have reacted or responded differently. An opportunity to grow. It always feels better when our partner owns their part so we are not left having to finger point or assign blame. For this section of ownership, try using “I” language without any “you” statements. This is difficult but powerful. For example, “I realized that I was upset by the delayed dinner start and chaotic atmosphere of the house, and rather than take a few deep breaths, I blew up in frustration.”
C) Name your Feelings means taking time to figure out what you feel, and expressing this respectfully. You can be angry as hell, and name this without yelling or punching through walls. If you struggle to name your feelings, go for the basics like mad, sad, and scared. Going deeper may mean naming feelings like belittled, minimized, patronized, jealous, smothered, overwhelmed, confused, and/or numb. I feel that… and, I feel like… are thoughts, not feelings. I feel… then fill in the adverb.
D) Ask for your Needs is key for successful, long-term relationships – no matter the context of the relationship. We have relationships with partners, parents, kids, co-workers, friends, neighbors, etc. No one is a mind-reader, except for new parents who try desperately to figure out the needs of a new infant! Other than that, lend a hand and express what you need, respectfully. For example, “I recognize that I feel overwhelmed and smothered (from # 3 above) and I really need to take 20-30 minutes a day to be by myself quietly.”