Make an Appointment: [email protected] | 303-217-2658

  • Relational Heroism and Revising the Family Playbook

    banner image

    I come from a family where we didn’t talk much about emotions. There wasn’t much of, “You seem sad, Jason — let’s talk it through.” In our family playbook, one move to get someone to initiate repair was by withdrawing. The basic idea behind this move is, “I am going to pout so you see that I’m upset, and if you’re lucky, I will let you know what you did.”

    Unfortunately, I have repeated this behavior in my intimate relationships countless times in my adult years because it’s what I learned.

    I’ve gotten so good at withdrawal I’ve unfortunately at times used it as a mean of retaliation. I’ve gotten so much better at this over the years, just so you know!

    The idea behind such withdrawal is, “I am going to withdrawal so you will know how bad you hurt me.” The sad thing is that I’m actually hurting myself by allowing my anger and loneliness to fester. By hurting myself in this manner, I am also hurting my relationship, which hurts me still further.

    This learned behavior is that – what I learned. It also may have been adaptive growing up, but it’s maladaptive in my adult relationship.

    So, I decided to put an end to this losing cycle. Do you know what I did instead of pouting and withdrawing?

    I told Jessica, my wife, what I needed from her.  

    One day I came back home after a rough day. I’d had a setback at work and I told Jessica about it. Jessica went into fix-it mode and started to, from my perspective, criticize my actions. I was upset with her response and my gut reaction was telling me to shut down, go upstairs, and pout (withdrawal).

    Remembering the self and relational harm that would ensue, I took a breath, moved forward and said, “This setback was really painful. I need you to be supportive instead of fixing and criticizing the efficacy of my move. I need support first, then when I feel better, let’s problem solve.” Do you know what she said? She said, “Thank you, it’s really helpful to know what to do when you are struggling.”

    I will never forget this moment, because I could see my response was a huge relief from her. It was relief that I was revising the family playbook. It was relief that she was not going to be passively punished for making a mistake.

    That was my relational heroism.

    There is now a new edition to the family playbook that entails moving forward and helping Jessica help me. No need to pout and withdrawal.

    How will you revise your family playbook and become a relational hero?

    Click here to learn more about couples counseling.

    Leave a reply:

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*