Love is a dance of connection and disconnection. There are times when you feel compelled by your lover, and other times when you feel the need for alone time.

Some of us need more connection, others need more independence. Sometimes these differences lead to a toxic relationship.

There are only two roads to making a toxic relationship not so toxic. Road One leads to breaking up and finding a more secure partner. Road Two leads to seeing the problems in the relationship as a slingshot for growth.

Even though both of you fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, the relationship can work. But the only way it can work is if partners are able to see problems in the relationship as a catalyst to understand and respect each other’s differences. If they don’t, holding hands quickly turns into pointing fingers.

If your partner’s idea of closeness makes you feel like you’re suffocating, or if you feel like your partner ignores you (intentionally) in little ways throughout the day, the best thing you can do for your relationship is to talk about it.

By examining the moments of disconnection and irritants in the relationship, both partners will gain profound insight into each other so they can begin learning how to give each other what they need.

Exercise 1: Talk About It

If one of you is feeling ignored or overwhelmed by your partner’s needs, then use the exercise below to understand each other better.

Answers: There are no right or wrong answers here. Each answer depends on your reality. The goal of the exercise is for both partners to understand each other. The only way to do that is to recognize one vital element that makes relationships last. That vital element is…

Both Points of View Are Valid. When partners believe there is only one truth, they fight for their own position. That belief is a dead-end.

There is only one assumption that will make the conversation about disconnection or too much closeness beneficial: that in every fight, there are always two points of view, and both are valid.

Once your partner and you accept that idea, it’s no longer necessary to argue for your own position. Now you can focus on understanding your partner’s position and work together to find a mutual solution.

There are always two sides to every conflict. Once you understand and acknowledge this, you’ll quickly find that reconnecting comes naturally.

Instructions: Think of the last argument you had. Rate the following feelings on a scale from 1(100% felt that way) to 5 (0% felt that way).

During our fight I felt:

  • Defensive
  • Sad
  • Misunderstood
  • Hurt
  • Criticized
  • Neglected
  • Like leaving
  • Like my opinions don’t matter
  • Worried
  • Lonely

Next: Explore what triggered those feelings:
Rate what triggered those feelings on a scale from 1(100% felt that way) to 5 (0% felt that way).

  • I felt unimportant to my partner
  • I felt cold toward my partner
  • I felt rejected
  • I felt overwhelmed by demands
  • I felt excluded
  • I didn’t feel attraction
  • I didn’t feel affection
  • My sense of dignity was compromised
  • I couldn’t get my partner’s attention
  • My partner was dominating

Exercise 2: Revisit The Past

Now that we’ve identified your emotional reaction, it’s time to get in a time machine and revisit your past. We may repeat unhealed patterns from our past relationships in our present ones. See if you can find a relationship between earlier traumas or behavior and your current reaction.

Note: If you’ve been sexually harassed, raped, or experienced any other trauma your partner is unaware of, now is the time to bring it up. In my work with others, I’ve found that sharing our deepest pain with our partners truly helps them understand us. It also gives them the ability to gently work with us on the traumas so we can begin to heal together.

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