Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rules of Reconciliation: Part 3

Trust! Trust is the foundation for all our significant relationships. Trust provides the emotional security that we need to share our hearts, minds and souls. Trust provides the physical safety that allows us to share our bodies openly, willingly and sexually. Trust is what allows us to share our resources, merge our households and link our lives. Trust allows us to raise families together, pray together, work together and dream together. Trusts help us compromise, collaborate, negotiate and communicate. Trust is the emotional glue that bonds, unites and supports us in all of our “ships; it is the bedrock of our most important connections.
But even though trust is valued and plays a major role in all of our human interactions, there are “trust” challenges. First, the concept of what trust is and how trust should be demonstrated is highly variable. Why? Because trust is learned and earned.  We learn what trust means from our families and from our intimate associations. As a result, two people rarely share the exact same definition of trust or trustworthy behavior. And, we earn trust differently based on the individual needs, values, personalities and experiences of those whose trust we want to earn. Since people are different, we gain their trust differently.
Not only that, but trust is a feeling, a choice and a skill; it is a multi-dimensional concept that automatically kicks in when we interact with people.  Just think about your own experiences. Many times when you meet people you immediately and sometimes unconsciously attempt to assess their trustworthiness.  In less than 10 seconds, you get a hunch/feeling about them and you make some assumptions about your ability to trust them. It is not fair to prejudge, but we all do it to some degree.
Trust can also feel like a powerful belief of extremes. For example, trust is fragile, and at the same time, trust is strong. Trust is liberating, and in some ways, confining.  Trust takes years to build but only takes moments to break.  Trust is never all of one thing and none of something else. Let’s face it - trust is a 5 letter word that carries a lot of power in our lives and the loss of it erodes our relationships. 

To further complicate matters, most partners never discuss trust or their meaning of trust until there is a break, breach or a betrayal. Violations, indiscretions and infidelity are subjects that we usually don’t consider until we find ourselves faced with a painful situation that pierces our hearts, boggles our minds and/or bruises our spirits. Then and only then do many of us talk about trust, what we learned about trust, our experiences with trust, the impact of trust, the pain caused by mistrust or ways we have regained trust. Many of us don’t even discuss our Apology Love Languages until there is a crisis or until we are faced with heartbreak.  For some relationships, that’s too late. 

But I believe that however we define it, trust can be restored I emphatically believe in reconciliation. I believe that with courage, vulnerability, honesty, mutual respect and a willingness to grow, relationships can be repaired and in some cases, strengthened. Yes, reconciliation is achievable if you and your partner are willing to do the emotional work. It may not be an easy process and it may be a journey filled with starts and stops and ups and downs. But it is a journey that partners can travel together if they are open to restoration and renewal. This is what I know for sure: As long as there is hope and desire, reconciliation is possible.
So, what is reconciliation?  I believe that reconciliation means to settle, to understand, to resolve, to compromise, to reunite, to restore and to negotiate our “ships” to promote healing. Reconciliation does not mean giving in, caving in, or doing anything else that does not honor you. It does not mean shutting up, shutting down or shutting your partner out of your heart, mind and soulAs I said in Rules of Reconciliation Part 1, one definition of reconciliation means to forgive: GIVE up your past, FOR a better future.
In Part 1, we discussed the importance of three principles: Reflection, Realization and Repentance. We reviewed how the rules assist in the healing process and how the rules must somehow be a part of the healing journey. In Part 2, we discussed the importance of two additional principles:  Removal and Restructure. We discussed the importance of identifying/ eliminating temptations (people, behaviors, addictions, situations) that destroy credibility and confidence. We also considered the importance restructuring relationships to better support authenticity encourage growth and foster better communication. This week we will explore two more rules.  Note: this list is not THE only path to reconciliation because healing happens differently for different people, at different times based on their difference situations. However, the rules listed below are guidelines, directions and thoughts to consider if you and your partner decide to embark on a healing journey together.
Let’s discuss some additional principles.
RESPONSBILITY: Responsibility is something you take. We often think of responsibility as something given to us by others, but that is not the case in our “ships”. In love relationships, you must take responsibility for your behavior, your attitude, your words, your mistakes and your actions. If not, you relinquish control of your life and you give up your ability to love.
Why is taking responsibility important in love?  I am glad you asked. First, if you don’t accept responsibility for your actions and choices, you will become a victim or you will succumb to a victim mindset. Both are recipes for relationship disaster because victims or people with victim mentalities are terrible girlfriends/wivesWhy? Because both types of people focus and rely too heavily on others for their happiness and for their relationship success.
Victims and people with victim mindsets also betray themselves because they acquiesce even when they feel dishonored and devalued. They don’t engage in healthy conflict and they are not problem solvers; they are blamers and poor negotiators. They are usually co-dependents who fail to be responsible for getting and expressing their own needs.
Here is the truth. You are not a victim. You have a role, you have a position, you have power and you have a choice. You are a queen who is desirous of love but who is also willing to love. You are a powerful, beautiful woman worthy of adoration and affection.
How do you show responsibility in love relationships First, by keeping your promises and commitments. Whatever you promise yourself, do it. Whatever you promise your partner, do it. You learn and practice trusting your partner by first learning to trust yourself.
Secondly, you take responsibility for your own happiness. If you need to change your mind, do it. If you need to talk, do it. If you need to re-negotiate, do it. If you need to lose weight, do it. If you need to go back to school, do it.  You MUST take responsibility for your own contentment so that you can bring a happy, confident and more fulfilled YOU to the relationship. You must remember that it is not your partner’s job to make you happy. You have to bring your own “happy” to the relationship and then together you can share/ enhance each other’s happiness.
Finally, you accept responsibility by asking and expressing your needs, desires or wants. You partner is not a mind reader. You take responsibility by being honest, open, thoughtful and candid. You accept responsibility by admitting when you are wrong, right, arrogant and sometimes ignorant.  If you want to heal and enrich your relationship, accept responsibility for yourself and then share responsibility with your spouse.  You both deserve it. 
REMEMBER: Remember that restoration is never immediate; it is a process that takes time. You relationship did not unravel in 3 days, and it will not take 3 days to heal or reconcile. But for some reason, couples struggle with that concept. Let’s be honest. If you had sex with someone else, you partner may not want to immediately have sex with you. She may not even want you to touch her. That’s understandable. If you repeatedly mismanaged the household funds, your partner may not want to immediately share money or credit cards with you. That’s understandable. If you shared your partner’s most intimate secrets, she may not feel comfortable baring her soul to you. That’s understandable. Here is the hard truth – after an indiscretion, you will not be immediately restored. And if you were, I would be concerned but that’s another article.
How long should restoration take? That’s a good question but there is no standard answer. The willingness to trust again depends on many things – her values, personality, experiences, your efforts, your changes and the ability as a team to address your relationship issues candidly and lovingly.  The timing of restoration varies but I will say this. If you have made changes, showed remorse, asked for forgiveness and did everything you know how to do and she refuses to release the resentment and start anew, you are not unforgivable, she is unforgiving.  Here is a sport analogy for our sport enthusiasts. If she is always playing defense, nobody is making points. Nobody is scoring and both of you are losing.  Here is a spiritual principle for those who relate better to spiritual analogies. If you are holding so strongly to one principle, you could be violating another principle. 
How can you tell if you are resisting reconciliation and forgiveness? There are a few ways.  
  • When you are using your forgiveness as power against your partner 
  • When you are withholding forgiveness as a bargaining chip 
  • When you are concerned that your forgiveness makes you look or feel “less” than 
  • When you are concerned that accepting her apology will encourage her to repeat the offense  
  • When you are concerned that she has lost respect for you or that you have lost respect for yourself 
  • When you are withholding trust to control her 
  • When you are withholding trust to give you a false sense of safety 
  • When you benefitting from being a victim or being catered to 
  • When you are focusing more of her weaknesses and faults and fail to address your own 
  • When you feel good about being right or righteous  
  • When you are withholding forgiveness to manipulate or degrade her 
  • When you desire revenge or feel a need to even the score 
  • When you feel that you are letting yourself down or not showing up for your “little girl 
There are more telltale ways but this list should get you started. If you are finding it hard to forgive, take a moment and identify why. Sometimes we resist reconciliation because of childhood wounds, hurts from precious relationships, old emotional baggage, low self- esteem or just plain fear. Our past should never dictate our future, but our past does influence and inform on future. So, spend some time alone, with a trusted friend or a therapist to learn more about you. Your healing depends on it.
Reconciliation is possible but it takes courage. Brene’ Brown, an expert on shame, says that “you can’t be courageous and comfortable at the same time. The African proverb says “is heart, not horn, that make ram goat brave”. What’s in your heart?  If you have courage, you can trust again.
Responsibility and Restoration are two principles that have the ability to build bridges and connect hearts. They both demonstrate love, commitment, growth, desire and most of all, trust.  Remember, without it, love can not flow or grow; trust and faith are important to sustain our unions. 

Do you want to trust again? Is there someone special that deserves another chance? As 2013 comes to a close, I hope you will use the Rules of Reconciliation to start your own healing journey.  Let’s start 2014 with a commitment to CREATE LOVE that we all declare, deserve and desire. 

I look forward to completing this series in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts and your stories about Reconciliation. Your comments may be used in a follow-up article to help all of us as we embark on our healing journeys with ourselves and with our loved ones.
I look forward to seeing you on March 8 at the 2014 CREATE LOVE Conference! Make sure you get your tickets.  Happy Holidays!

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SharRon Jamison

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