Stopping Old Wounds from Stealing Relationships

How to Stop Old Wounds From Stealing Into Relationships

Old wounds have many ways of stealing into relationships. They can disrupt a connection, prevent a connection from reaching take-off, or slowly pull at a relationship until it’s gasping for air. Everyone is capable of having a connection that is loving and life-giving – a relationship that allows each person to be completely seen, stripped back to bare, pretences gone, flaws and vulnerabilities on full show. It’s beautiful, but it’s not easy, because this type connection requires openness and vulnerability. The walls need to fall and the armour needs to soften.

Here’s the dilemma – let go of the armour and risk being hurt, but don’t let go of the armour and the relationship you deserve will struggle to find you. 

Armour is the protective wrap we put around ourselves to stop the things that have hurt us before from ever hurting us again. It isn’t a bad thing – we all have it and we all need it – but the tougher and tighter the armour, the harder it is to connect, feel loved, and give love. You might feel the love, deeply and purely, put it just can’t get through the way it needs to.

The deepest wounds often come from childhood. They can affect the way people see the world, themselves and their relationships. They can shape the expectations people have of themselves and others, and what they think they deserve. They can also affect people on a physiological level – the way they hold themselves physically, the way they move, their nervous system, and their brain. But none of this has to be permanent.

Of course, not all wounds come from childhood. Few of us reach adulthood without having had our hearts broken, our ideas about love questioned and our spirits bruised. It’s how we deal with this that will determine the power our history has to keep hurting us. In fact, by providing an opportunity for self-reflection, learning and experimentation, past hurts can be the gateway to stronger relationships – but this does take effort, a willingness to explore and the courage to experiment with a different way of being.

The capacity for that is in all of us. In the same way that with deliberate effort and practice we can expand our physical capabilities, we can also extend well past the self-enforced limits of our emotional edges. 

How do I know that an old wound is at play?

When there is chronic fighting in a relationship, it’s likely that old wounds are feeding the battle. The existence and influence of old wounds will often be out of our awareness. We won’t know they’re there, but their effects will be obvious.

Old wounds set to work when something in the present moment triggers old memories that are attached to old hurts. When this happens, we react to the new situation as though it’s an old one.

There are a few ways to tell that an old wound is at play:

  1. The conflict is constant, and always feels the same. 
  2. Your emotional reaction to something within the relationship is intense and out of proportion to whatever seemed to cause it. 
  3. Your reaction is difficult to shift.

Let’s get practical.

Here are some things that will enrich and enliven any relationship. Try experimenting  and see which ones nourish your relationship and deepen your connection.

  1. Love yourself like you would anyone else.

    Pay attention to your own needs. Everything you need to find balance and live whole-heartedly is already in you. The clues will come out as feelings, whispers, and thoughts you can’t get rid of. Take notice. It’s your intuition and it knows what you need. Don’t ignore it, push it further down into you or shut it down. If you’re someone who has had plenty of being ignored throughout your life, this is where you get to stand up and give yourself the love you deserve.

  2. Feel your feelings. 

    If the way you deal with hurt and disappointment is with a stoic pushing down of the feeling, try trusting your capacity to support yourself. The only way to deal with feelings is to feel them. They exist for a good reason and hold information about what you need or the direction you need to take. The more you push them down, the more damage they do – they toughen your armour, harden you and swipe at your capacity to connect. Let the feelings unfold, feel them a bit more than last time, and trust that you’ll be okay – because you will be.

  3. Watch the things you tell yourself in an argument. 

    Be careful of self-talk that sounds like self-pity, victim talk, defensiveness or anger. Self-talk is the silent, automatic messages that swirl around in your head. It’s powerful and shapes the way you relate to the world. When you listen to the messages, you might be surprised by the tone and the words. The way you talk to yourself will leak into the way you are with the people close to you. Your self-talk might need some redirecting. This will mean being clear and strong with yourself sometimes, and comforting and tender at other times. 

  4. Your vulnerabilities are beautiful. Don’t hide them.

    There are parts of all of us that are so soft, tender and raw that the temptation is to hide them away for protection. They’re the things you think about at 2am, the feelings you feel that nobody knows about, your insecurities, your fears. They’re the fragile parts of you and it would make sense to hide them if you were in a harsh or unsupportive environment but now you’re in a different one. Let your partner see them – don’t cover them with anger, denial or pretence. This might feel risky and you might feel as though it’s easier and safer to keep your frayed edges protected, wrapped up and tucked away where nobody can see, but trust that whatever happens you can support yourself, vulnerabilities and all. You’re not the same person you were all those years ago. Open up, little by little. It doesn’t have to all be about self-disclosure. It might be in the way you relate, the way you touch, the loving words you offer, the softening of yourself around someone. It’s about being vulnerable, because you can’t have intimacy without it. 

  5. Stay with the tough stuff.

    What do you do when the conversation gets hard? Do you flare up? Shut down? Walk away? Stay? The temptation might be for fight or flight, and it’s likely that you’ll have a favourite. It’s also likely that neither are a great option. Try slowing things down so you can respond more deliberately and be less barrelled by automatic responses and old memories that happen out of your awareness. Avoiding difficult conversations has a way of driving distance between people. When one of you disengages, the other will soon follow. When this happens, issues will keep their heat and turn the solid foundation of your relationship to mud. If you feel yourself getting flighty, try grounding yourself. Feel your feet on the floor, your back, your legs. Slow your breathing and remember that they are just feelings. They’ll come, and then they’ll go. When the temptation is to disengage, focus on your partner and remember why it’s important that you stay.

  6. Widen the space between what happens, and how you respond.

    We all get into habitual ways of responding in relationships. They happen instantly and without conscious thought. Slow down the process. Breathe so you can give yourself time and widen the space between what happens or what is said, and your response. Then, when you’re ready, speak clearly, openly, and without blame or judgement. That doesn’t mean you can’t point out the problems, but do it from a position of strength, grace and love, not righteousness. Consider what you can do – or stop doing – to make it easier for the other person to give you what you need. The more open and emotionally generous you can be, the more the other person will have permission to do the same. 

  7. Use the forgive button. A lot.  

    All relationships will come into conflict now and then. When you’re with someone who loves you, there will be a ton of power that comes from being hurt. Use it wisely. We all get it wrong sometimes and we all do stupid things that hurt the people we love. When you’re the one who has been hurt, acknowledge it, discuss it, feel hurt or angry, but don’t use your hurt or anger as a way to keep the power or control in the relationship. Use it to feed a conversation and to find a better way to do things, but don’t use your hurt or anger to lift you to the saddle of your high horse. It can be pretty cold and lonely up there. That doesn’t mean you have to accept every bit of nonsense going around – you don’t. What it means is that not holding out on a resolution or fight dirty because of a sense of entitlement or ‘rightness’. The silent treatment, getting personal or nasty, or fiercely claiming victim status might feel good at the time, but it will sink your relationship in the long run. Righteous people can be hard work – you don’t want to be one of those.

  8. Let go of ‘perfection’. It’s weighing you down.

    We humans can be pretty great to be around, but we’re far from perfect. The problem with perfection is that it overlooks the sobering fact that you can’t be perfect at everything. When you’re striving for perfection in one area, another area will suffer. It’s just the way it is. When you put the expectations of perfection onto your relationship or your partner, it’s going to cause trouble. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking something like, ‘I don’t get it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things to be perfect,’ or ‘I’m not righteous, it’s just that I’m pretty much always right, but that’s not my fault,’ explore how your need to be perfect or right might be affecting your relationship, then loosen the hold and open up to enjoying your forgiving, fun, honest, imperfect relationship.

  9. Say what is true.

    Speak with an open heart. This doesn’t mean attacking, blaming, judging or criticizing in the name of honesty. Attack is attack and criticism is criticism, however you dress them up. The phrase, ‘just being honest’ is too often used as a poor disguise for ‘just being mean’. Speaking with an open heart means talking about how you feel. It’s letting yourself be seen in a way that makes it easy for others to respond and give you what you need. This will mean going deeper into what you’re feeling and finding the truth behind it. If you’re angry, what’s the feeling underneath it? What are the words? Anger never exists on its own and there’s always something – sadness, insecurity, fear, guilt, jealousy. If you feel the need to shut down or close up, what’s behind that? What are you scared will happen if you stay open? Avoiding an issue doesn’t make it any less true. It just gives it the power to hurt you from the dark.

  10. Don’t leave the loving up to someone else.

    When you don’t love yourself enough, your guard will either be too far up or not up far enough. Anyone will do or nobody will do – and that’s a lonely way to live. Don’t be the bully that judges, shames or criticises you. Chances are you’ve had enough of that already. The monster is well fed – don’t feed it any more. 

  11. Be fully wherever you are.

    Listen with your heart and your full body. People will open up and be more ready to connect when they feel heard and seen. Too often in conversation, we’re not fully there. Instead, we’re distracted by other things or by thinking about how we’ll respond. Feel what’s being said rather than listening to it. When your partner is talking notice how you hold your body. Are you open? Attentive? Available? What about your face? Is it hard? Warm? Tender? Are you thinking about your response or are you listening to what’s being said?

  12. Your wounds don’t have to wound you anymore. 

    Your wounds don’t have to wound you anymore. They’re the proof of your resilience, your strength and your courage and now they can work hard for you. First though, you’ll have to shine the light on them. Don’t keep them in the dark, otherwise you won’t see them coming when they crash into you. When you have an emotional reaction to your partner, what does this remind you of? What is your earliest memory of these feelings? You might need to sit with them for a while to let them speak to you. What about your partner? Who does he or she remind you of? Then – how are they different? Focusing on the differences will help you to stop seeing your partner or your relationship through an old filter. 

And finally …

It’s important to remember that when trying anything new, it will feel awkward for a while and the temptation will be to run back to what’s familiar. Be aware of this and move back into your safety zone if you want to, but remember the reasons you wanted to move out of it and let it be a temporary refuge, not a permanent address. 

It’s easy to accept that the way you feel and the things you believe are normal – they may be, but that doesn’t mean they’re working for you. There is always the possibility for a new kind of normal. One that is richer, more open, more loving and more connected. The shift might not be a quick one, but with courage and the readiness to experiment with the world and your relationships, it’s always possible to find a new way to be – one that feels more whole-hearted and vital. 

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31 Comments

Jae

This article is really insightful and sets excellent groundwork for starting the journey to healing past the wounds. Last night, I hurt the most amazing woman I’ve ever been with and I’m not sure we will make it. I hurt her because I lied and didn’t start our relationship off the healthy way by firmly closing doors from my past. She found out because she had the notion to go through my phone. I’ve been 100% faithful inside of our relationship but she found out that I was still dealing with an ex during our “courtship” and there was some emotional overlap. I realize through this article that I’ve always had my armor up. I was introduced to armor as a child. Armor kept me safe from feeling discomfort, feeling like a failure, feeling weak or imperfect, from how it felt when my parents came down on me (My Mother struggles with depression). It kept me protected when I was sexually violated as a kid. It kept me safe when I grew up and dated takers vs givers like myself. It kept me warm when I had to self soothe, experienced distrust and felt like I had no space to be naked. Armor has kept me. So I walked into this, afraid to admit my shortcomings or bad decisions, afraid of judgement, afraid of her perceptions, just not able to be naked. And now what I did to provide me and my truth protection, has backfired and I may have lost her. Of all the people I’ve been with that didn’t deserve me or have my best interest at heart, she’s one that does. And I’ve blown it up. I can’t apologize enough. She’s been alone in the room all day, not eating, not talking and just crying. I own my wrong and I truly desire to love and be loved beyond my armor. Perhaps it’s too late.

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Mandy

I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I am going through something a bit similar. What happened? We’re you able to work it out? I’ve been waiting a month hoping my boyfriend will reach out to me and that we can repair our relationship. I am wishing you guys the best! 🤞🏻🤞🏻

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Araceli

This article was so helpful! So true! My boyfriend and I have been together for 5 Yrs & have tried a couple’s therapist only once but he didn’t want to continue & we definitely need tools to help us communicate better but, it’s seems like I’m the only one making an effort & we have a business together, working together as well causes conflict so I’ve been trying to find solutions and this article explained well the reality of conflicts in relationships, thanks!

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Kaila

I have struggled with having a painful past from my childhood, I got into university and started dating an amazing guy then all my past wounds started surfacing….. My boyfriend would make a small mistake (like most humans do) and I’d make a very big issue out of it, I’d start crying and start feeling all my past pains and at times push him away…. I also keep wanting things to be perfect, I also struggle forgiving him, he begs for my forgiveness for days and days… When he does one thing wrong, I start bringing up all the other wrong things he has ever done…. This article has really help me understand what’s at play and how to stop it. Thank you very much.

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Matt

Because HE is not the problem. She is showing the necessary courage to face her own issues so that she can stop treating him unfairly.

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Alegria

You sound like an excellent writer and knowledgeable, however I couldn’t get past the first few paragraphs because I don’t have a problem being open and risking being hurt – g knows I’ve done it enough times and been hurt and disappointed enough times. The problem is finding a man who is/can be/will be open. Of all the men I’ve “dated” (I don’t call it that – not really an Australian thing) only one was truly open and he just didn’t have his life together at all. With him for the first time I didn’t feel alone in a relationship. I didn’t feel alone in the world. I don’t know about men in other countries but in Australia men do not tend to be vulnerable and open. More like rocks, ballasts, jokers. Everyone seems easy going, down to earth and all those cliches. Getting through that to the real person is exhausting.

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Albie m

From experience, I’ve learnt that I’ve actually opened up once I feel fully comfortable with whom I’m speaking to, just because then there aren’t any judgements made towards each other.

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Kyle

Honestly it hurts a lot. Let me paint the picture for you. I met this woman in my second round of college when I was 26. She was maybe 20. I thought about asking her out but she has a boyfriend.

I move and a year goes by. She starts emailing me. She asks me out. We start dating. I’m excited because I thought we were meant to be.

Month 2 of dating, we go to a conference where we meet other students from the college we met at. One of the classmates says don’t hurt her.

After 7 months she says I want to proposed to after one year of dating. Shortly before the year comes up. Now I start saving for a ring. I get laid off and etc. I explain that I might not have enough money for a ring. Anyway a year goes by and she dumps me.

She says we need to find ourselves career wise.

It hurt. I feel like if you love someone you can figure that stuff out together.

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Marie R

Hello. I enjoyed this article I have done extensive work
In therapy to To heal my childhood wounds. I am a healthy person and love myself. I have deep friendships and have had very peaceful intimate relationships that were compatible. But my delemma is I have not fallen in love In many years. I’ve grown to love but not fallen in love. Will the feeling of falling in love still happen if you are healthy and healed the wounds?I no longer lose myself in relationships? I can be very close and intimate and still come away with my healthy whole self. Maybe it just hasn’t happened yet but I wanted to make sure it can still happen if the wounds are healed. Thank you

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Positivity

Hi, well done for admitting, accepting & wanting change, my ex blamed me for all of my insecurities, he never saw how emotionally detatched he was & how that affected me/us so badly till HE ended it, still not seeing or admitting any fault, very sad & painful, when it could have been so wonderful & beautiful!!

Jane

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Me

What did you do? 5+ years of being in this exact relationship. It’s totally consumed me and drained me to say the least. I’m a shell of the person I was and struggling to walk away. It’s a very long complicated story. I left my 37 year marriage and lost closeness with my adult children for a man I’ve lnown for over 30 years and then he turned into someone I never would have spent a second with a total monster. Did you have to leave the relationship? What and are you doing now..

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holly g

I love how optimistic and all inclusive your article is. I am 70 years old and in a relationship with a man that I went to high school with. We both clearly have some wounds from childhood as well as from past relationships. We have found many similarities in each other and we share the same code of ethics and morals and values. We want a close meaningful relationship. Thank you for input that will help us achieve our goals. Kind regards ..

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Andre

Seriously . Get a divorce .

Life is way to short to suddenly become a Psychologist in a relationship.

Cheers

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Kittycooncat

Recently my boyfriend of 5 months (we worked together for years, started talking more about a year ago, dated through April, broke up in May because he was gone all the time and I didn’t feel he wanted our relationship but reconnected in August so I say 5 months but really we’ve been close for almost a year) and I had a serious discussion regarding an old wound. He spends a good amount of time on social media and I had noticed that despite our many trips together and opportunities to be connected publicly, he was actively avoiding me on there. The first time I talked about it was when he left for a month on a trip. I wanted to be with him so badly and everyday I saw new posts where he was with another woman. She is just a traveling buddy but it was a constant reminder that they were together and I was not. They would tag each other so it would even say “name is with name”. This hurt me a lot because I would never see “he is with me”. I brought it up again after a big trip we took together. I tagged him in a group of everyone going; no response. I tagged him in a select couple of pictures; no response. He said he just hadn’t seen the tags and there would be pictures in the future. The future came and still nothing. I got to meet more very good friends of his and one of them tagged both of us in a group photo. He didn’t accept. Consistently he was saying that is was a coincidence; it wasn’t a big deal for him. Finally, after seeing more tags from his travel buddy and many shares of old memories, some done when we were physically in the same room, I brought it up again. “What are your reservations about our relationship; why do you actively avoid including me in anything online?” He said the same things he usually does but also had mentioned he would post a certain set of pictures to prove it wasnt a big deal. I didn’t jump on it right then but at the end of the conversation I said “fine, if it isnt a big deal then do it” as somewhat of a challenge. I was done with the subject and wanted finality to the whole thing. He posted the pictures and things seemed fine until he revealed that they had triggered an inner struggle. He told me that he was considering leaving me because of it; because in a past relationship he had had the same issue but that person was very controlling. He told me about how he thought it through and realized that I wasn’t her. That this is a different situation. He also said to not press the button again. That it was serious. I shut down. I heard “If you bring this up again I will leave you” but I don’t think that is what he meant. Now I feel terrible about shutting down and reacting defensively. I was trying to figure out what I did wrong. Assure myself that my wants were normal. Even as a friend, why was he excluding me? Then I realized that exclusion is a wound of mine. Last night he said he wanted to relax and have a nice night but I was still hurt from the accusation of being a controlling person and we didn’t relax at all. I had to sit there exposed in front of his whole family. I couldnt hold it together all night. There were no distractions; just bare conversation. Now I am going back tonight. I want to let him know that I am still proud of him for confronting this wound. That I heard at least part of what he was saying. I want to let him know I’m sorry for my reaction. I just don’t know how. I’ve been reading up on what he’s going through since yesterday. I wish I could show him that he isn’t alone. I’ve found myself in a situation where I am afraid to bring it up again. I wont for now but I know that eventually it will come up again. I have unfollowed him on social media so I can at least not see when he appears with another person, almost always other women, online. It hurts too much to see that and not be present myself. Not sure if I’m really asking anything here but I wanted to share and hopefully someone will have some sort of input to the situation. I want to be with him but I don’t want to be kept in the shadows. If there weren’t so many other women in his life would the social media thing matter less? I trust him but it was such a red flag and now Im paying for my questioning of it with tears.

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Jane

You are being kept in the shadows! listen to your intuition, move on you deserve so much better!!

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Miha

Hi Guys,

Just thought I could ask for some advice.

In February this year, I had a surgery in Vienna, Austria where I met the love of my life. She was working at the hospital at the time, and actually on her last week there, as she was planning to leave her bf after 7 years, and move back to her hometown Klagenfurt. To keep the story short, we both fell in love and things with us were just heaven – perfect. Soon we made a few trips, spoke about a future together, kids etc. and in September we even spent a few days on holidays with her family in Italy.

For the first time, I felt that I found the person that I wanted to spend my life with – and I’m sure she felt the same, I could feel that. But suddenly, things changed. She felt distant, wanted time away from me, didn’t want me to come and see her or visit me etc. (as we live about 2 hours apart) and eventually, she wrote me a letter saying that she’s going through a difficult time, dealing with past hurts, crying all the time, feeling sad and can’t be with me during this time because it’s unfair to me to see her like that, even though I let her know that I’d support her with anything.

Since then, I’ve backed off completely, giving her space, but you can imagine how I’m feeling, missing her like crazy, as we haven’t spoken in almost a month.

Any advice would be so welcome and appreciated.

Kind regards and many thanks from Slovenia,

M

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Loving the right person with the wrong emotions

This article brought some light to some issues that I am facing with in my current relationship. Past issues that I’ve dealt with in my last relationship are surfacing in my current and I need to know why. I did not know I was harboring so many hurt emotions until me and my current boyfriend had a disagreement. I know its going to take time and its going to take tears but knowing the truth and dealing with it, is worth it instead of losing someone who loves you.

Thank You!

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Positivity

Hi, i know what you mean, i subconciously did this with the love of my life, yet he did trigger me alot, he ended us a year ago, leaving me to feel the blame & still do as he never took any responsibility for being emotionally detatched, which is what triggered so much pain & rejection, yet he chose to leave instead of see why & work on it, extemely painful & still is, cause i believe & still do that because of past issues on both sides & not working together, cause he chose not to, it failed!! I dont know why old pain is triggered, im still working on that through a professional, but i sincerely wish you all the best & happiness & most of all that your partner supports you!!

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Anita

My boyfriend was an alcoholic. Now that he has stopped. Guilt and depression has taken over as it was masking his guilt that he made bad choices or so he thinks. About not being the father he thinks he should have been after their mother died 3 yrs ago
He tries to push me away saying he doesn’t want me to go through this.
That he doesn’t LOVE himself so how can he live anyone else. And who would want to love him .
I can honestly say that I have never known a love like his.
I am a sensitive empath so I feel his pain and have my own past guilt but have learned to love myself
His mother is an enabler. He moved from our home back to her place he’s 47.
He stays at my place and cares for our cat when I’m working
Says he wants to be friends but his stuff is still at our home
I told him if I am to overbearing or say to much to help him through this stage of his life to tell me
I tell him every day that I love him for who he is and that he is enough and that he is worthy if love
What else can I do or say
Or do I just walk away. I am the only woman who hasn’t given up on him and don’t want to walk away and I know deep inside he loves me or he’d be gone
Need some help to help him

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Bee

Thank you so much for this saved me and my partners relationship giving us key points we needed to listen to thank you

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Cecil

I absolutely loved the information! I’m presently going through a bad break up of which I was a major player. I know that my past “Mommy” issues have much to do with tools that crept in destroyed the fabric of my relationship with a woman I loved so much! Its very painful when you hurt other people and yourself in the process. I’m determined to get to the root of the why’s in my emotional make-up. I can’t remain this way. I have to do the work.

Thanks again

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Cecil I love your openness to doing what you need to do to find a happier version of yourself. We all have things we need to learn. The hardest part sometimes is being open to that. Strength and healing to you.

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shiranee

I am glad your one person who admitted your wrongdoing caused hurt to the other. My BF hurt me a lot but eventually came back to me however I go through the pain of the past, hurt and often back flashes of how he said painful things. Now that he is back with me its like as if I caused the injury, it is like I am the wrong person. I endure at this moment as one thing i appreciated he came back to me after going out with another woman and I fear losing him…but it is like often he does not think he was in the wrong.

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Karen

I feel like the relationships that we choose to nurture and tend to in a positive and supportive way, and that positivity is reflected back to me, are the only ones worth having. Nobody deserves to be used and abused, belittled and devalued, and those relationships really need to be examined to determine if there is the possibility of an eventual positive result for your efforts. If not then you’re just hiding out in a dead-end relationship enabling your own abuse and you’ll never be happy. Recognize emotional abuse for what it is and have a serious conversation with the other person. Do it in writing or over a chat if things tend to get too heated in person. Keep it simple and tell them that their behavior & words are hurtful and not supportive. Refusing to accept that they are the problem and not you is a red flag. Recognize improving behavior and feel confident delving in a little deeper. If the behavior is not improving then it never will. They’ll continue to say one thing and do the opposite. And everything will always be your fault. Know that you have the strength to move on and that you will be better off without the abuse, without the abuser in your life. One in ten people is a sociopath so your odds of running into one are quite high. Nobody deserves to be abused. Read up on the many shades of abuse and get out sooner rather than later. It’s always easier that way. Love yourself and those in your life. It’s all we need. <3

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Priyanka

Hey! So I had a major breakup with my boyfriend of 3 years and it was pretty much done by the time we seperated so there werent any lingering feelings.
Shortly after that I started seeing someone and they had a major issue with my ex being a part of my life even as a friend and that’s understandable but now in the entire process of cutting my ex out I have hurt the current guy to the level that his feelings have gone! I know I am the one at fault but trying to stay in touch on a regular basis and showing him that I am a better person would bring back the feelings?
PS: I have blocked my ex from everywhere now!

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Elliemma

I felt comfort from reading all of the above….
I don’t like to regard myself as a victim but certainly feel the hurt I am currently going through.

Around a year ago I broke up with my partner who I had been with for around 3 years. It wasn’t an easy 3 years as we both had baggage to deal with. My mental state at the time of the break up wasn’t very stable, my hormones was everywhere, but this is not an excuse to break up with someone I loved deeply.

About a week after I found out he was seeing someone new, which he publicised all over social media and behaved with her exactly the same way he behaved with me.

A couple of months later we got back together, but now it seems different, I am different, I am very insecure, suspicious, hurt and he, on the other hand, although has said he regrets what he did, is kind of more arrogant and egotistical in his manner. I feel he has complete control in the relationship. I do love him but no longer trust anything he says and does 🙁

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Positivity

Hi, well done for admitting, accepting & wanting change, my ex blamed me for all of my insecurities, he never saw how emotionally detatched he was & how that affected me/us so badly till HE ended it, still not seeing or admitting any fault, very sad & painful, when it could have been so wonderful & beautiful!!

Jane

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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