This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. – Leviticus 16:29
It may seem quite odd to quote a text from the Hebrew scriptures in an article focused on the 1 Thing Happy Couples Do Every Day. Well, bear with me for a bit. Whether you claim a faith tradition or not, a ritual in Judaism has a lot to teach couples about relational health and happiness. No, I’m not talking about an initiation ritual or some sort of religious ritual. I’m talking about a basic practice in life that’s so very essentially to the strength of the human family. But first, a few comments about “resolutions.”
Lose weight, exercise daily, get organized, save more, spend less… I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. While I think the practice is healthy, I typically fail on the “follow-through.” And you? Long before we were enriching health clubs with our unused annual memberships, our neighbors in the Jewish community resolved to enrich the health of their communities by practicing forgiveness. Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Falling in September or October, modern Yom Kippur observances include temple worship, fasting, and quiet reflection. The hallmark of the observance entails the individual’s act of reconciliation, that is, reaching-out in forgiveness to an estranged colleague, neighbor, or beloved one. Is this possible?
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While reconciliation can be a trying and tedious practice, it is the key to the long-term stability of the relationship. Assuming we all hurt one another from time to time – and we do – it’s important to put forgiveness practices in place that help us move forward in a productive.
Let’s look at a few of these important practices:
- Take a timeout when you are anger
If a situation with you and your beloved contributes to an explosive bout of anger, step away from the caustic situation for a bit and let your anger subside. Generally, putting some space between you and your partner will help you release anger in a way that doesn’t tear at the fabric of the relationship.
This step sounds obvious but maybe it is not so obvious. After you’ve given yourself time to process your anger, it is vital to re-engage your loved one. Let your partner know that you are serious about connection, resolution, and moving forward with the relationship in a healthy manner.
- Use “I Feel” Language
One of the best practices of reconciliation is engaging in appropriate “I feel” language. This paradigm for communication with your partner places your opinions and vision for the relationship solely on you. When you say, “I feel…” you are indicating to your partner that you take ownership for everything you are about to say and will not be projecting it onto him/her. Often instead of “I feel,” we say “You….” Basically, our “you statements” place all of the guilt/blame/responsibility on our partners. This is a relationship killer.
- Create a New Vision
Once the wheels of reconciliation are moving, it is important to cast a new vision that addresses the issue that led to the original conflict. If partners feel comfortable with the relationship’s stability once again, the door is open for work on the “essential things” that contributed to the original conflict. Problem solve with your beloved one. How can we move forward from this uncomfortable time? What can we do to mitigate future conflicts that erupt from this particular issue or set of issues? What tools do we have at our disposal that will help us in the future?
If reconciliation has been successful or has morphed into a commonplace practice for you and your beloved, it is time to celebrate. Do something spontaneous and wonderful with your partner. Go out on a date, watch a movie together, take a trip, enjoy a walk at sunset. It is so important to let frivolity inundate your relationship.
- Rinse and Repeat
Don’t make reconciliation a one time novelty instead of a well-seated practice. Again, this practice is essential to the health and stability of relationships. Reconciliation must be a daily practice if it is to be of lasting worth to the relationship. While there may be some “back sliding” at times, it is vital to stick with the practices listed above as best as you are able.
- Happy couples practice forgiveness
It’s as simple as that. You can have a hot sex life, lots of money, and beautiful kids but still have a terrible relationship if you are not skilled in the mechanics of reconciliation. Let’s be honest… It’s not easy to instill reconciliation into your routine if it has been absent in the past. That’s why it’s important to practice. That’s why it’s important to observe and listen to couples who are already well-versed in the art of reconciliation. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be intimidated by the hills you will need to climb to reach your relationship goals. It’s all so very doable. Add reconciliation to your resolutions, friends. With so many good models around us, let us strive to enrich life and love by mending broken fences. Every day!