One Way to Reduce Fights with Your Spouse and Loved Ones

Sure, I’m a relationship and couples therapist, but I am certainly not immune to arguments and disagreements with people close to me. Wife, friends, family. You name it. In fact, having a fight, getting through it, then still being close after is a sign to me of a close relationship. And all relationships are going to have arguments at times. If you don’t think so, let me burst that bubble for you right.. now.

Before I share with you one of my favorite things to do when an argument does start, let’s talk a little about your nervous system. It’s governed by the part of the brain called the amygdala and is just chilling most of the time. But when we experience threat it takes over. It takes over by flooding the body with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and puts us either into fight or flight mode (occasionally into freeze).

Which is a great response… if we are facing a lion. Or if there is some other genuine threat in front of us that we need to physically fight against or run away from.

fight-or-flight-caveman

Problem is, since we don’t live in caves anymore, those types of threats are increasingly rare. But our brain’s evolution hasn’t quite caught up with this detail, and kicks into fight or flight mode quite often. It kicks into this mode for things like road traffic, running late for work, or a big meeting with the boss. It even happens when we are in a perfectly safe situation, but our brain senses threat because it starts thinking about something in the past or future that was/could be scary.

So as you’ve probably guessed by now, our amygdala also takes over when a disagreement starts (Lion, EEK!) with the person we are talking to. Unless you are a Zen Master perhaps. But for us normal, non-Zen Master folks, that fight or flight mode in turn takes us out of the parts of the brain that govern rational thought. Then we start saying and doing things that are coming from the amygdala thus a fight or flight place.

fighting-porcelein-dropped

(Porcelain Metamorphosis by Martin Klimas)

Initially, indications that we are getting into this mode are more subtle. Tone is a little sharp. Voice is elevated. Language is slightly aggressive.

But then the other person’s amygdala takes over and they get into fight or flight mode too. Here’s where things really start to go south. Not south like a trip to the Bahamas.

maldives-oeons

(Baa Atoll, Maldives by lennble)

South like bad. Heart rate is up, blood is rushing, face may be flush, body temperature elevates. And since we are both in fight or flight mode, we start talking faster, louder, more angry, more aggressive with our words.

Pretty soon, one or both of us says something really ugly and someone heads for the door or slams the phone down.

Okay, getting back to the title of this article. The way to reduce fights with our spouse or loved ones happens first by getting our amygdala back into chill mode, so that our rational brain can take over again. Continuing to argue with the person in front of us is not going to help us get there. In fact, just being around that person might make it difficult to get back into a relaxed, less activated state.

So, we need to take a few minutes or a few hours to allow that to happen. It can be nice for the other person, particularly if they are your significant other, to know that you are taking those few minutes. (That way they don’t just think you are abandoning them or the whole situation. This way they know instead that you are taking care of your nervous system, which in turns takes care of your relationship.)

Something I coach my couples to say here is “Let’s take a break from this conversation,” or “I think I need a timeout.” What’s key here, is you don’t want to mistakenly tell them you are leaving the relationship. You are just taking a little bit of time to let your amygdala get back to normal. And if you have the presence of mind, give them a time estimate. “I’m going to take 20 minutes to calm down.” If that amount of time goes by and you are still pretty agitated, you’re always allowed to come back and let them know you need more time.

take-a-break-highliners

(Highliners taking a timeout in Monte Piana by Balazs Mohai)

During this time that you’ve now set aside, do something that is calming to you. Contrary to what we were told many years ago, punching a pillow is typically not a very calming activity. But there are a slew of alternatives including: take a walk, meditate, do a few stretches, draw a bath, go to a workout class, play a sport, watch your breath, read, take a nap, or really anything that helps your amygdala and autonomic nervous system to get out of fight or flight mode. Side note, if you are leaving to do one of these activities, tell your loved one that is what you are doing. “I’m going to take a drive to relax, and will be back in an hour or so.” That way they aren’t getting more upset while you are gone.

That’s it. It absolutely takes practice and hard work. Just like any worthwhile relationship, or really anything worthwhile for that matter. But it works. And pays back in dividends. Let me know how it goes.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Simple Ideas that Changed my Life by jockobutters

You  might know I’m a huge reddit fan. Such a great site for silly gifs, inspiring videos, pictures of cats. Of course. And the occasional interesting bit of news or worthwhile read.

I’ve been poking around there as usual and stumbled across this article that really got me thinking. I actually woke up thinking about the second one last night.

Let’s get right to it.

Three simple ideas that changed my life by jockobutters

I’ve been wanting to write down these ideas for awhile in the hopes that someone else might find them useful. I know this sub has a tendency toward contrarianism, and I certainly do not intend these ideas to be “universal” – but just wanted to present these things that have personally worked for me and can maybe benefit someone else. If I slip into direct address and say “you” – I’m really just referring to myself.

Long story short – about two years ago, I hated where I was in life. It was the recognition of these three ideas that kept me going and helped me to turn my life around. I should add that these ideas aren’t original, but things that I’ve come across during that time and paraphrased one way or another.

1. The human being is meant to bear the burden of 24 hours — no more, no less. If you live in the future, you will get anxious; if you live in the past, you will get depressed. Twenty four hours is all that you have to live in. Give up all the other burdens to the universe, to god, to your cat, to whatever – but the burdens of the past are not yours. The burdens of the future aren’t yours either. Let them go. The day is your material. It’s what’s in front of you, it’s the only thing that you have the power to change or to shape or to use. It’s your canvas. It’s your material. So use it well.

the moon keeper

(The Moon Keeper by drudy222)

2. Happiness is not something you can pursue – but instead the byproduct of doing the right thing. We get so tripped up thinking that happiness is an end goal — and then get frustrated when it slips through our fingers. Instead, focus on whatever the right thing is – and happiness will follow. Feel like shit at the end of the day? Maybe it’s because you ate a tub of ice cream for dinner, forgot to call your mom back, blew off homework to play video games, etc. On the surface, those are all things that should make you “happy” – but I’ve found that when I’m feeling most depressed, its usually a factor of actions I either did or (more likely) did not do. If you’re passively waiting for happiness to wash over you like a wave — it’s not going to happen. Instead, take action, do whatever the “right thing” is, and that feeling of warmth and fulfillment will follow of its own accord.

Every line goes through the whole image

(Every Line goes through the whole image by no_more_gravity)

3. The world’s idea of success is total sh!t. Don’t get sucked into it. On television, on the street, when talking with friends or family – it seems like everyone confuses the concept of rewards with success itself. Whether it’s money, fame, recognition, praise, sex, the rewards are not up to you — they are all dependent on someone else. Instead, think of success as sustained effort of will. It begins and ends with YOU, and no one else. Think of any fantasy or goal you may have — say you’ve always wanted to be a great artist. Imagine it. What does that look like? I guarantee you’re thinking about palling around in Paris with beautiful women and having your artwork admired in galleries and being given the nobel prize – basically you’re fantasizing about having been a great artist and not actually making the art. That way of thinking can totally mess you up because it once again puts the emphasis on passive recognition over active, sustained effort. The more you shift focus onto your own actions, the more you create sustained effort, and the more likely it is that the rewards will follow.

What only exists in the mind

(What only exists in the mind by AscendingStorm)

Lastly, as a bit of an addendum – it’s good to remember the difference between stopping and quitting. This helps me when I’m feeling a bit lost or down on myself — or during those times when I’ve just chucked these three ideas to the wind and sat on the couch all day instead. If you’ve ever strayed from what you feel you were supposed to do or who you were supposed to be – remember that everyone has to stop. Whatever it is we’re doing, whatever our grand ambitions are in life, we stop. We have to stop. We have to take a piss, or go to bed, or go on vacation, or we have a kid and not have much time to ourselves etc. But quitting is stopping without ever beginning again. So as long as you’re here, as long as you’re alive and pulling air through your lungs, you can begin again. And if you begin again, then you haven’t quit. So f*cking begin again.

Hope this helps someone out there.

[Article is by jockobutters and originally appeared here: https://www.reddit.com/r/GetMotivated/comments/4vfiju/text_three_simple_ideas_that_changed_my_life/?st=iraz3ote&sh=5bb954d4]

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment

Increase Enjoyment by Reducing Choice??

Ever wrap up a long, stressful day with that desire to stretch out on the couch and watch that perfect movie or new TV show?

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, quite often in fact”, then you and I have one more thing in common.

So you start scrolling through Netflix or Rotten Tomatoes, checking reviews, looking at ratings, and watching trailers. Twenty minutes go by.

You’ve narrowed it down to 2 or 3 that look promising.

istock_000018250475xsmall

Finally, you take the plunge and click on one.

You watch it for several minutes. Then you think to yourself, “Man, this is kind of mediocre!” And you’re somewhere between bummed and irritated. You did all this research and still it doesn’t result in anything great to watch.

So you pull out your phone and start scrolling through FaceTwitt or Snaptagram. Or you pull up the other movie/show that you were thinking about watching. And any way you slice it you just can’t seem to find anything that enjoyable to do.

Bummer. I know right! 

So what happened? Well, your brain and modern media played a trick on you. Here’s the dealio:

#1: Let’s start with the brain.

We get overwhelmed by choice. Paralyzed in fact. A study from Columbia University by Professor Sheena Iyengar proved this point. They did their study on people purchasing jam from a roadside stand. They found that when presented with many choices, study participants are 50% more likely to stop by the jam stand. (Name of my next rock band btw.) Paradoxically, they are 1/10th as likely to make a purchase at the stand with lots of jams to choose from.

So let’s connect the dots. We think we like to have tons of options, eg. Netflix. But when presented with so many choices, we become so paralyzed that we have tremendous difficulty making a choice. Or don’t at all.

#2: Modern media makes us believe that it can help us find the perfect restaurant/app/entertainment for us to consume right now.

It presents us with a ton of options that are immediately available in our pockets or with the click of a button. Then it uses algorithms and recommendations and reviews and aggregators to help us decide which amazing thing to consume.

Trouble is, someone else’s opinion or review about a thing will likely not be the same as ours. Our moods, who we are with, substances in our system, what kind of day we’ve had, and a host of other factors are much more likely to impact the actual experience we have. Lastly, many great movies or widgets are only going to be a few percent “better” than the next one. So whether it has 241 reviews and 4.7 stars or 1,192 reviews and 4.6 stars, the actual experience is going to be fairly similar and more dictated by factors directly related to you (eg. mindset, who I’m with, how I feel today), thus not quantifiable by reviews.

So what can you do about it? Good news: there are a number of things you can do to avoid choice paralysis and get more enjoyment out of your decision.

  1. Keep the research you do fairly short. Whether you’re on Amazon or Yelp or Netflix, make your decision within a few minutes. That way you won’t get sucked into the belief that you have found the perfect widget/restaurant/movie – spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist. (Exception big ticket items: do a little more research for these on Cnet.com or ConsumerReports.org.)
  2. Go in with an optimistic perspective but low expectations. A negative perspective will automatically reduce the joy you get out of it, plus put a damper on people around you. High expectations only have one likely outcome: disappointment.
  3. Try to forget about the other options you were considering. When you are just having an alright time watching the movie or eating the food, it’s tempting to begin to regret your choice and imagine that the grass would definitely have been greener if you had selected Applebee’s instead. This effectively reduces the enjoyment you are having, plus it prevents you from really being present in the moment to enjoy this right here.
  4. Remind yourself that the other thing probably was about equally as good and you can always try it next time. This way you are not fixating on what you are “missing out on” and in turn missing out on what’s right in front of you.

Love to hear how it goes for you. Let me know in the comments below or by shooting me an email directly.

(Columbia study referenced appeared in the New York Times article Too Many Choices: A Problem that can Paralyze.)

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment

How do I Find a Good Therapist?

A lot of my friends and family have reached out to me over the years to ask how to find a therapist. So, I wanted to share with you what I’ve shared with them on navigating this often tricky territory. Also, I realize how exasperating and tiring it can be to find a good therapist!exasperated cartoon person

 

Whether you don’t know where to start or have simply given up after tons of phone calls, here’s an easy guide to finding a solid therapist:

  1. Zero in on the one or two things you are looking for support with. This could be support with a relationship, past trauma, anxiety, a recent loss, or anything that is reducing the quality of your life.
  2. If you know any therapists or friends who have seen a therapist, ask them who they’d recommend. If you feel comfortable, also let them know the general topic you’d like support around.
  3. Call several therapists. Most of them will offer a free consultation either over the phone or in person.
  4. Schedule a first session with the therapist you liked the most. A good relationship with your therapist is the single factor most likely to help you achieve what you want from the process.
  5. If you don’t connect with any of the therapists you talk with, be it over the phone or in person, call a few new ones.
  6. If you can’t get any recommendations from friends or don’t connect with your initial therapist referrals, head over to www.PsychologyToday.com. Look for a therapist in your local area who focuses on the thing you need support around. Similarly, don’t go to a therapist who only specializes in grief if you’re looking for support in relationships. Also, it’s perfectly okay to have a gender, age, or other preference when choosing your therapist.
  7. Finally, call several therapists and work with the one who resonates with you the most.

If you are looking for a Couple’s Therapist, try to find one in your area who specializes in EFT therapy. You can do that by asking around, or searching for it on Psychology Today’s website or Google.

If the therapist you reach out to does not accept your insurance or any insurance whatsoever, call your insurance company to find out if they offer partial reimbursement for the session fee.

Finding a good therapist can be difficult and expensive. The same is often true for a good restaurant or a solid pair of running shoes. How much is your mental health worth to you?

Expect to spend $150-200 per 50 minute session, possibly more or less depending on the cost of living in your area. If you do not have insurance and finances are tight, let your therapist know during your first conversation. Some therapists set aside a few sliding scale slots for clients with financial need, so it can’t hurt to ask.

As for how long the process will take, it’s a little different for each person and dependent on what you want to work on. In my work, I specialize in relationship therapy and couple’s counseling, so I expect to work with clients for at least 6-12 months.

Lastly, although it is often pretty daunting to know where to start and to actually take that first step, it can be an incredibly meaningful and fulfilling process to be a part of. And I’m speaking from experience.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to Increase Your Productivity. Now. 

I often reflect on how to get more out of the time I’m allotted each day. Both in work as well as my personal life. So I flipped on a favorite podcast this morning called ‘Freakonomics’, and a productivity expert named Charles Duhigg was on. Sweet right!

Panorama experiement 90 degrees

(I’ve heard cool photos equal more readers, so here’s one from reddit I like.)

I often reflect on how to get more out of the time I’m allotted each day. Both in work as well as my personal life. So I flipped on a favorite podcast this morning called ‘Freakonomics’, and a productivity expert named Charles Duhigg was on. Sweet right! 

Duhigg had interviewed over 400 people for his bestseller ‘Power of Habit’ and boiled down the 8 things that came up again and again:

1. Motivation: we trigger self-motivation by doing things that make us feel in control.

2. Focus: we train ourselves to pay attention to the right things and ignore distractions by building mental models and narrating to ourselves what’s going on around us.

3. Goals: we need both a stretch goal and a goal that we can achieve tomorrow morning.

4. Decision making: the best decision makers tend to think probabilistically of multiple hypothetical futures, then try to think of which one is most likely to occur.

5. Innovation: the most creative environments are the ones that allow people to take cliches and then mix them together in new ways. The people best at this have their feet in a few different worlds and can figure out which ideas will best click together.

6. Absorbing data: sometimes the best way to learn is by making data hard to absorb. The harder we have to work to understand an idea, the stickier it becomes.

7. Managing others: the best way to tap into an individual’s unique talent is by putting the person responsible for solving the problem, closest to the problem.

8. Teams: who is on a team matters much less than how a team interacts.

Now go get ’em.

Get the full interview from the Freakonomics podcast here: http://stitcher.com/s?eid=43881554&autoplay=1.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | 2 Comments

Want to stop Anxiety? Start here.

Feeling stressed? Anxious? Restless at night?

I feel ya. No fun.

That tightness in the stomach. Rushing thoughts. Waking up and not falling back to sleep.

Irritable. Frustrated. Shorter temper.

It afflicts a lot all of us. And can spiral until we are left angry, depressed, exhausted. Seemingly small things set us off. Activities that were once a ton of fun just don’t seem as exciting or interesting anymore.

It took me years to realize that I also carry anxiety. I have always had a pretty positive, worry-free outlook on the world. So, if you had asked me if I was worried or anxious, I probably would have grinned and said, “What’s that?!”

I can remember the moment when I realized that I carry anxiety. I was dabbling in some yoga, still not totally sure that it was my thing or that it was really worth $18 per class. The pose was pigeon, which is basically a big, not super fun, hip stretch. Here I am trying to look like I’m not hating it:

Jeremi in Pigeon Pose.jpg

 

The teacher told me to notice my breath. I thought, “I can’t. There’s so many important things going on in my head that I need to figure out and take care of!!” Suddenly I realized, that’s my anxiety. That’s me worrying about stuff. That’s me getting my panties in a bunch. That’s me thinking I can use my brain to fix that thing that I want to be different. (Spoiler alert: that never happens.)

When I begin to discover how much anxiety/stress/worry I walk around with all day, it got me curious about what to do about it. Essentially, what are some things I can do so that I carry less anxiety around and feel less affected by it. 

So that launched what’s now been a decade of exploring exercise, movement, meditation, breathwork, mindfulness, self-talk, and a host of other methodologies that have a tremendous amount of research behind them. As well as people incredibly dedicated to each.  Sure enough, I discovered there are some incredibly effective things we can do about our anxiety. And it doesn’t have to take that much time or effort.

Here are my three favorite tricks for calming anxiety:

  1. Three audible exhales. Let’s do this one together: inhale deeply through your nose, gently open your mouth, “aaaaaaahhhhhh.” Repeat. And once more. Notice how you feel? A touch calmer right. It actually releases happy drugs into your brain (namely serotonin and dopamine) and turns down your nervous system so that you are in less of a “fight or flight” mode.
  2. Somatic awareness. Notice what your right hand feels like. Temperature. Tingly perhaps. Then notice your feet. What they feel like. The pressure of your socks or if they are bare the feeling of what’s underneath them. Tune in to the space between your eye brows. If it’s tight, let it soften. You can continue doing this to any part of your body, or return to the same ones. The reason this works is because it soothes the nervous system and slows down the mind. It has been proven that we are unable to multi-task. So when you are focusing on what’s happening in different parts of your body, you can’t actually worry about that thing you were worrying about.
  3. Present moment. Tune in to what is happening at this very moment. The screen that you are looking at. The sounds you are hearing. How your body feels. The shape of your breath. In doing so, you’ve brought yourself away from the thing that is causing you anxiety and into this amazing moment right now. That thing you are feeling stressed about won’t go away by thinking about it, so you can give yourself a break and savor this splendid moment.

Okay, and before I close, I’ll share a few more quick tips. Specifically on sleep. Cuz I love me my sleep.

Difficulty sleeping? Insomnia or restlessness at night – and this may come as no surprise – is also a product of anxiety. And there are so many nights I’ve spent awake. Thinking. Worrying about that thing. Anxious.

I should say I used to. Oh, the anxiety and stuff to worry about is still there. Plenty of it. I’ve just learned how to manage it instead of letting it manage me. Result: my anxiety is down and my sleep is up.

Here’s how:

Beginner level: count your breaths. Start by trying to count 10 breaths. Then move up to 20. And so on. Initially the thoughts will make it difficult to get past 10 or so without forgetting where you are. Eventually, you’ll become a ninja and it will be time to move up to the intermediate level.

Intermediate level: feel your skin. Not by touching it with your hands. But by actually noticing what your skin is feeling like. What’s the temperature? Does it feel tingly? Can you feel the covers or clothing against your skin? When the thoughts come crowding back in, return your awareness to what your skin feels like.

Advanced level: “watch” the space between your eyebrows. While keeping your eyes closed at the same time. Sounds weird right. That’s why this is some advanced level @#%! It took me a while to figure this one out, so expect it to take a while to make sense. At first when you close your eyes and “look” at the screen on the back of your forehead, it will just look black. But over time, you will start to “see” colors and shapes. I’ve noticed since practicing this technique for about 8 years now, it gets me to sleep within 10 minutes or so. And that’s even when restlessness is in full effect.

Did you or have you tried any of this stuff? Got any other tips or tricks you’d add? I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line below in the comments, or reach out to me directly using one of the links below.

Anxiety. Stops. Now.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment

My Friendship is Broke… how do I fix it?

Scenario 1: Something’s off in the relationship. Ya know, that thing that just doesn’t seem to be working right. We’re not talking the way we used to. Things don’t feel as close. There’s this unspoken awkwardness when we meet. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is broke. 

Or…

Scenario 2: I’m upset with my friend so and so. They were a “@!#$” to me and I don’t like them anymore. I just can’t believe they did that to me! And I might not have told my friends about this yet but it actually hurts. I think about it and it makes me anxious and I’m not totally sure what to do about it. But I am sure that I’m pissed with them. 

Totally.

Normal.

(I know, “Phew!” right.)

Happens all the time. People constantly hurt people. Friends hurt one another. Sometimes it’s pretty much an accident and sometimes it’s kind of not. When it happens to us, we usually do one of three things:

Method 1. We get up in their faces, confront, get loud and angry, tell them where they screwed up, make four letter references in their direction. Really let them have it. Sure, given the advent of modern technology, this often occurs via text or the social media vehicle of choice.

Method 2. We never talk about it. Sure we keep seeing the person, maybe a little less often or in groups or whatever. We just pretend that the thing never happened. They might know about it, they might not. It kind of eats away at us. It certainly causes some distance in the relationship. And that distance usually grows.

Method 3. We pretty much cut off contact. It might be abrupt or more of a slow fade. The abrupt version is straight up, “I’m never talking to/texting/calling/social media-ing that person ever again.” The slow fade is being less responsive to their attempts to make contact, not being available when they want to do something together, being somewhat distant or aloof when we do see them, and so on. In my experience, this method is the most likely choice.

Outcome in any of the three scenarios equals no more friendship.

broken friendship glass

Boy, that’s a sad phrase even to read. Or maybe I’m just a softie.

Anywhoo, these three scenarios happen all the time. And are an absolute virus to relationships. The hurt or disconnection eventually rears up and does a number on that friendship we once had. With it continuing to fester, it begins to get impossible to have a strong, safe, connected relationship with the other person.

Well that sucks, I guess that’s it and it’s all over, huh?

It could be. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, there is a fairly clear cut path back to making the relationship right. And though clear cut, it’s not necessarily an easy one.

I’ll share the how by telling you a story. It begins in the little city/town I went to college in. And the other character in the story is my dear friend Eric. As well as a royal screwup on my part. So royal that his trust was broken and the friendship was over. It went down in the big confrontation kind of way, or scenario #1 from above. BIG being the key word of that sentence.

I didn’t really know what to do. I knew I had messed up. Albeit initially I was a little reluctant to admit to myself, or anyone else really, how royally I had done so.

Then it started to settle in that I had lost a best friend.

It hurt. With a poor choice on my part, a sequence of events were put into motion that brought our relationship crashing down. Initially I back-peddled a little with our mutual friends, sort of pretended like it wasn’t a big deal or that I hadn’t really done anything all that serious. I also tried to make contact with Eric. I was a little half-hearted and he was a little distant.

Then I let some time pass. Looking back, I’m on the fence about whether I made the right choice here. Part of me says I should have gone to Eric not long after breaking his trust, and vulnerably attempted to do a repair (more on this in a moment). The other part of me thinks that he would not have been ready for it, and time needed to do some healing before fixing the relationship really could happen.

Here’s the “how-to” on repairing a rift in a relationship (then I’ll share what happened with Eric and I).

Method A: If you hurt them.

  1. Get clear in your mind first, that you want to be in an apologetic, vulnerable, listening space. Remember, your only goal is to repair the relationship and this is the best mode to be in to do this. And I will say that this is a difficult mode to be in when you’re experiencing disconnection from someone, and likely feeling a little defensive and cautious.
  2. Reach out gently and set up the meeting on their terms. I’m a huge fan of taking a walk for these kind of conversations, but try to be open to whatever they suggest.
  3. Open by letting them know how much you value them and how sorry you are for hurting them. Then open up the space for them to really vent their feelings with a question like, “I’d love to hear what your experience was like, if you’re open to sharing?”
  4. Listen and validate. Then repeat. You will probably have a different experience of the events, and occasionally want to jump in with your side or to correct them. Instead, nod along and try to genuinely understand that this is their real experience of what happened.
  5. Apologize. Reflect back to them the injury you committed after the apology. “I’m realizing now how much I hurt you by not being there for you when you needed me, and I’m really sorry.”
  6. Reiterate how important they are to you and that you are committed to this friendship. Even if it takes a while for the trust to be built.

Method B: If they hurt you. 

  1. First, get clear in your mind that your goal is to repair relationship. It is not to retaliate, or to go in guns blazing and really let them have it. Also, we often just feel angry or frustrated with the person. See if you can find the hurt or sadness you are feeling that’s underneath, and what specific thing he or she did that’s causing you pain.
  2. Reach out from a place of compassion – if you can find any in there – and let them know you’d like to get together to talk. Did I mention I’m a big fan of taking walks for these convos? If they don’t want to get together or say that they are busy, give them some time before you reach out again.
  3. When you sit down together, they might launch right into their defenses. This won’t feel very good. They might also offer a weak apology, and rush into everything being alright again. However they decide to start, see if you can ask for what you need. “Hey, I’d love to share my side of what happened, as well as some feelings it stirred up. Would you be open to hearing about it?”
  4. Share what hurt you. Phrases like, “I feel…” and “In my experience…” are really helpful. Words like, “sad”, “hurt”, and “scared” are as well. Try to avoid getting angry and blamey. This will be hard. Words like “why”, and “should” are best left out of this conversation.
  5. Let them know what you need. It could be something you’d prefer they didn’t do or something you’d really appreciate from them. It might sound like, “In the future, it would mean a ton to me if you would…”. Then fill in the blank.
  6. Close the conversation with a gesture that let’s both of you know you are good again. A hug and a “Thanks a bunch, you mean a lot to me,” is a great example.

You will know that you’ve successfully repaired the relationship if things don’t feel weird the next few times you hang out with your friend. And if you are not still regularly thinking about whatever hurt occurred. If you do still feel weird around them and think about it pretty often, that’s your way of knowing the repair is incomplete. Return to step 1.

You could open that second conversation up with, “Hey, I know we talked about this already. I’m noticing I’m thinking about it quite a bit and still feeling hurt. Would you mind if we tried to unpack it a little more?”

Okay, to finish the story about Eric and I…

So for a few years we were a little distant. Had the cordial, “how ya doing?” type relationship. We both knew there was a big elephant (AKA hurt) in the room anytime we were together. As a result, there was not the closeness and connection we once knew.

Then one day it got really clear to me how important Eric had been in my life and that I really wanted to repair the relationship. So I reached out to him and we made a point to get some time in person together. I let him know that I had really messed up and broken his trust. I also shared how important he was to me and how bad I felt knowing that I’d hurt him.

Eric was really receptive to what I shared. He did let me know he had been hurt, and vulnerably let me in on what his experience had been during our disconnection. He also shared that he could have done things a little differently so that our rift would not have been so large. Lastly, Eric reiterated how important the relationship was to him and that he’d like to be strong friends again.

Last week I got together with him and it was so so good to see him and spend time together. I didn’t feel any weirdness around him and haven’t in the decade since we repaired our relationship. It feels so good having his friendship for almost half of my life, and even better knowing the storms we have weathered along the way.

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts, additions, subtractions. Leave them in the comments below or reach out to me directly at JeremiMcManus.com.

Jeremi McManus, MFT Psychotherapy and Couples CounselingJeremi McManus is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist, and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. His own ups and downs in dating and relating were instrumental in leading him into this field. If you feel like you could use some perspective, he looks forward to hearing from you. Jeremi is a Licensed Psychotherapist and delighted to call San Francisco home.

Posted in Dating, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, Relationship Coaching, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment