Building Strength for Life and Love™

I'm Blogging.

Daily ramblings

Having a balance of differentiation and connection

We all fall on a continuum in our relationships, one extreme being highly differentiated and the other extreme being too connected to the point of dependence and fusion. Let me explain what these terms mean. Differentiation is the degree to which a person behaves and identifies themselves separately from others. When in relationship, you believe that what others say does not diminish you. Two people can disagree and not feel broken down by what others are saying. Their self worth and emotionally stability are not shattered nor defined by others, only themselves. Though differentiation is healthy and should be a goal for all of us, when someone is too differentiated, it’s a problem, like any extreme way of being. They can appear distant and defend against needing anyone, and this doesn’t work in relationships.
On the other side of the continuum is connection. The ability to stay in connection is essential to a relationship. This involves being vulnerable, which can be scary and risky, but it’s the only way to connect. A problem arises when two people have fused boundaries or no boundaries and are dependent on each other for their emotional well-being. So, the key is to find a place in the middle of the continuum and regularly check in on how you are doing, where you are, and what you need to do to keep the balance. You have to have both differentiation and connection to thrive.
Differentiation involves acknowledging the tension of differences in the relationship. It means that you feel you can make a decision and think for yourself. You embrace differences and believe it’s ok to be different. And while you are independent, you save a space for connection, which is where the relationship happens.
When a couple is trying to work through a conflict, using the intentional dialogue of course (if you’re lost read my blog on this), it is important that each person is present and able to put their own stuff on pause. Check in with yourself and your reactivity, and if you could easily get triggered, you need to take some time to manage yourself, so you can effectively discuss important, yet difficult topics. Figure out what methods of calming the mind and body work for you (meditation, running). Whatever it is, it’s essentially taking a time out and exploring what is going on for you until you feel calm and ready. You have to learn to self soothe and take personal responsibility for this in order to be in relationship.
So, do you have a good calming system? Do you need to work on yours? Do you project your stress onto your partner? Think about how you typically behave in emotionally charged situations and what is must be like for your partner to talk to you. Then think about how you would need to be for your partner to want to keep talking. You will make lots of mistakes, and that’s ok, as long as you learn from them each time. You can’t always choose your first thought, but you can choose your second thought and what then comes out of your mouth.
Another important thing to consider are those things that you criticize and want to change in your partner. Since you can’t change other people, put that energy into yourself. If you are constantly criticizing your partner about his/her lack of getting necessary things done, for example, ask yourself how you are doing with this. Are you accomplishing everything on your to-do lists and excelling in your own life? Usually the aspect we hate in others is a part of ourselves that we don’t like, and we are projecting our feelings onto our partner, which is not fair. Shifts in relationships happen when each person looks at themselves and where they need to grow. Shift the focus away from what your partner needs to do differently, and try out new behaviours that represent your own development and working toward having a balance of differentiation and connection.

Other Posts

Leave a Reply

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