This sculpture is one designed by Ukranian Alexander Milov, and it’s purpose is to demonstrate what’s going on inside of people when we fight. It represents 2 people with their backs to one another in what can be assumed to be the aftermath of a fight or argument. There is distance between them, yet inside, their inner children are reaching out for one another. The sculpture is entitled, “Love”.
This image is so powerful because it accurately depicts what is going on inside of us when we experience conflict with our significant other. We get mad, we fight… Something the other person did or didn’t do causes feelings inside of us that we usually express as anger. Words are exchanged, voices are raised, points are proven, the past is brought up… ‘You always do this’, ‘You never do this’, ‘[email protected]#&’… I’m sure this is a familiar scene to most. After the words have been said, words which can’t be taken back, there is distance. Sometimes it’s physical – one of us goes into another room. Sometimes it’s emotional – in the same room, but miles apart. Either way, there is distance. Now, this sculpture encapsulates the fact that after all is said and done, inside we are screaming out for closeness, for resolution, for peace. What prevents us from reaching out and grabbing it?
Several things. First, and foremost, our pride. It’s hard to swallow it and say sorry, especially if we feel we have been wronged, or that the other person is to blame and should thus be the one apologising. Two simple words. So hard to say. This is someone you love, someone you have chosen, and who has chosen you. Say the words. It’s really worth it. Even if you really weren’t the perpetrator, it’s pretty much a given that you weren’t perfect in the fight (and aren’t, in general), so be prepared to admit wrongdoing, and bridge the gap that has cropped up between you. Humbling yourself like this will hopefully prompt your spouse to do the same – but even if it doesn’t, do your part. Extend that olive branch, and work on resolving the issue together, rather than facing off against each other.
A significant barrier that keeps us from reaching out is the fear of rejection; the fear of trying to make peace and being shot down or turned away. It takes a lot to swallow your pride in the first place, but to do so, reach out, and then be met with coldness or indifference, is unbearable. To be fair, a lot of this fear of rejection isn’t actually based on our spouse rejecting us, but rather on previous experiences with rejection that have primed us for it in all avenues of our lives. If your spouse does respond to attempts at peace with this type of rejection, they are acting out of their own pain, and maybe don’t know how to accept apologies if they feel guilty. This has the potential to devastate a relationship, so if you or your partner battle with it, come and see me for couples counselling so that we can work on fixing what is broken.
The most obvious thing that keeps us from reaching out is anger. Simply, we’re still mad, and we don’t want peace, because we feel we are justified. You may be feeling this need for closeness I’ve been discussing, but residual anger keeps you from reaching out. This is perfectly normal. We’re only human, we can’t just sweep our feelings away and pretend like they never existed in the first place. My advice? Take a time out. Go and sit, be alone with yourself, allow yourself to be angry… For a time. Allow yourself time to calm down, and when you feel like this anger is under control, go reach out for your partner. Actions made, or words said in anger don’t do any good anyway. So take a moment to take some deep breaths, consider the good about your spouse, and then take the plunge.
Fear of the issue simply being swept under the carpet if an apology is extended is another barrier. ‘Sorry’ doesn’t mean, ‘It’s over, let’s pretend it never happened’, but for many couples, this is what it plays out as. It’s not always easy to delve into issues when an olive branch has been extended, and things are good and cozy again, but it’s so necessary, because otherwise the issues don’t go away, they simply crop up in the next fight. So once the ‘I’m sorry’s’ have been said, resolve to have a chat about what went down. Allow both of you some time for reflection, then come back together again once that’s done and debrief, when neither of you are angry anymore, and you’re both able to think clearly. If things get heated again, take a 10 minute break, and repeat.
Relationships aren’t easy. There will always be conflict, and no one is perfect, or perfectly knows how to resolve issues when they arise. But the most important thing is to remember why you love this person. It’s easy to forget, or to simply take each other for granted, but there is something that keeps that fire burning and remembers what this is, especially when times get tough, is the difference between being happy together, and simply getting by.