Brian Petermeyer, MA, LMHCA
Rupture & Repair
Loving In and Through Rupture and Repair
Rupture and repair. This is a topic I find myself talking about with quite a bit of passion and intensity. As Americans, we generally see conflict as negative, something we need to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, what happens when we avoid conflict is that we miss an opportunity for intimacy and deep connection. To love is to speak and receive truth, with a hope of not only being known by the other, but also seeking to know. It's a willful movement towards one another.
Recently, I had a rupture in my group of friends. We have a large group of guys (14 to be exact…I bet I know what you’re thinking) that has decided to try and gather once a week. We do all sorts of activities together. Sometimes, we have deep discussions about current events, faith and family. We also enjoy playing basketball and creating new games like picklewall (our version of pickleball, but in a racquetball court essentially), and we “try” our best to play golf. One friend was deeply hurt this past year as many of us got caught up in the pain and confusion of the pandemic and the various views of how to engage living in said pandemic…sound familiar? I figured. The simple fact was our friend was hurt. He courageously brought his pain to us, and we were given an opportunity to engage it, or, to brush it off. It broke my heart to hear someone I loved was hurt, and partly by my own actions. In my friendship with him, I could never commit to never hurting him, no matter how hard I try. However, what I can and will commit to is to work through conflict in an effort to find healing, wholeness, and a deeper level of intimacy and connection. Love isn’t about not hurting people. It is about engaging the pain, staying at the table and being willing to learn and grow from it. Love is not the absence of rupture, it’s the willingness to seek repair that truly demonstrates a person’s capacity for healthy love.
I work with a couple that came into therapy looking for help as they continue to “miss” one another in their marriage. It didn’t take more than one session to notice how much they deeply love each other and have a rich history of both giving and receiving kindness. Yet something was definitely happening. They, like all couples, have a “dance” or a certain pattern their bodies turn to in certain situations, which essentially functions like an autopilot.
For example, the man hears a comment from his wife about dishes he failed to put in the dishwasher and instantly turns away, if not physically, certainly emotionally. Later that evening when his wife asks what he wants to do with their free time, his reply is cold and quick. “I don’t care…whatever.” His wife has just experienced the distance that is often informed by the shame he is feeling. But when she hears the quick and cold response, she takes it personally and begins to yell. Hearing her yell gets his adrenaline going and soon they are BACK in another shouting match which ends with slammed doors and/or hurtful words. This dance illuminates the inability to communicate clearly what one is feeling and experiencing. However, it’s really hard to see yourself dancing when you’re in the midst of it all. When this couple sits in a session with me, we seek to unpack what each partner was experiencing, and begin to locate the place where things went wrong. Simply put, it is identifying the rupture. I’ll say it again and a little differently. Rupture in relationships is inevitable and it’s the willingness to pursue repair that demonstrates a couple’s ability to love.
Movement towards each other and a desire for reconciliation is definitely necessary, but this takes effort, vulnerability, and courage. People want to have “good” relationships but are often resistant to the work that is required. Avoiding rupture doesn’t lead to health, it actually leads to distance and a lack of authenticity. Engaging rupture is what leads to repair, and it’s in the repair that we can find intimacy and an overarching feeling and experience of true love. This is the one thing we are all looking for and think we will one day stumble upon…something the fairy tale endings doesn’t show.
Photo Cred: Manuel Meurisse (@manuelmeurisse on Unsplash)