“Secure attachments are NOT formed as a result of preventing relational ruptures. Secure attachments are formed as a result of repairing ruptures. […] When we carry the belief that rupture is what leads to relational erosion, then we do ourselves (and our relationships a disservice) by trying to avoid conflict and difference, which if anything only perpetuates feelings of insecurity and codependence. Such behaviors reveal the fragility of the relationship and the need for relational repair.” – Michelle Rozek
The founders of Brood are a threesome of co-founders and dear friends who are in the exciting and terrifying early days of launching a company based on better family care. Together, as they become doulas for their own business, they ask: How do we sustainably do this? What lessons can we bring here, for us, that we bring to the families in our care?
For this trio, understanding the cycle of rupture and repair is one area they are leaning into. It can seem that when such collegial closeness is at risk for the stickier situations in which triggers are hit, emotions run large, and hurts go deep, that all that goodness in their relationship is on the line, ready to be threatened or blown up. Yet, it’s understanding each other through those situations that has their attention — and that’s a growth edge for them.
In her most recent book, The Power of Attachment, Diane Poole Heller, PhD., notes that when psychological researcher and clinician John Gottman conducted a study with newlyweds, he learned over the course of 6 years that the couples that stayed married practiced repairing ruptures in their relationship 86% of the time. Those who divorced turned toward each other to repair ruptures only 33% of the time. The same fate may be true for co-founders and other partnerships beyond marriage.
The cycle of rupture and repair is something that we all go and grow through in life. Many of us may not have had caring or fulfilling examples of repair in relationships. Yet, for those of us who have had a decent model of repair, we have an understanding that ruptures don’t lead to relationships failing. It means that we need to find our way back into relationship in ways that we can trust that the relationship, the bond, is strong (and safe) enough to begin with.
For the Brood founders, they discover it’s easy to rush to repair when we sense a rupture is here or near. Yet, trusting that a relationship can handle conflict, or the sharp edge of the disagreements, might actually make the disagreements easier. As they note in this episode: The most important thing about the repair that follows a rupture is that the relationship can be stronger.
Jerry offers: “Perhaps the unspoken, unconscious experience for each of you is: how do I handle it when my partner infuriates me? And, then, how do I extract from that the unmet need that actually lies behind the anger? Or the fear that lies behind the anger?”
Regardless of how caring we can be in our work lives, as humans on these front lines, who really loves being uncomfortable for long when it comes to the hard stuff that we have to deal with relationally? Those struggles and tough spots take an emotional toll on us in whatever way we have been shaped by our own beliefs around what it means to be safe in relationship. For founders, and anyone in partnership or parenting, this shows up in spades.
What does it take to lean into these relational places that scare us? Listen to the wisdom of the doulas who support folks moving through the pain of birth and death, and other transitions: if you lean away your body will tighten and the pain will increase, along with the fear.
So, instead: Resource yourself in your environment in whatever way gives you comfort and support. Find your breath. Recall relationships you’ve had in which you feel safe and loved. Bringing these resources to bear can help you stay in it and stand your ground without shrinking, and without puffing up.
We lean in with our being-human-with-other-human-skills: Checking in with ourselves (what’s going on for me here?), checking in with others, Listening, asking open questions, not rushing to fix or solve, going through the process of recovering from broken commitments, and the art of a good apology.
“When we experience a break in connection followed by repeated attempts at repair until the bond is restored, we build implicit pathways of resilience,” writes Bonnie Badenoch in her book, The Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships. “We come to know in a visceral way that when things break down interpersonally, someone will return to help us come back into relationship,” she adds. “That wired-in optimism and expectation makes it much more likely that we will form relationships that have this quality.”