You know how the tree pose in yoga looks? You stand straight, then raise one foot and place it against the calf of the leg that is taking all your weight. Staying in this pose for thirty seconds can feel like an eternity. It’s easy to lose your balance.
But as yoga instructor Beth Huizenga from Novato, California points out, “Sometimes we need to lose our balance in order to find our balance. Which means that it’s okay to get off balance, and quite natural too. When this happens, we simply start over and get back into the desired position. We adjust our stance in a way we hope will allow us to keep it longer.”
As the idea of restoring balance applies in yoga, so it pertains to marriage and other relationships. All close relationships have ups and downs. The best ones are those whose partners recognize when they’ve said or done something that throws the relationship off balance, such as by being unfairly critical, demanding or insensitive in another way. The key is to do the repair work that restores harmony.
Restoring Balance in Marriage
As marriage researcher John Gottman, PhD, advises couples:
“Learn to make and receive repair attempts: De-escalate the tension and pull out of a downward cycle of negativity by asking for a break, sharing what you are feeling, apologizing, or expressing appreciation.” 1
Often, the best way to get the relationship back in balance is by offering a sincere apology. In yoga, it is clear that we are responsible for whether we keep or lose our balance.
Sometimes who is responsible for an imbalance that occurs in a relationship is less clear. Spouses in good marriages learn to accept responsibility for their own part in creating a conflict and communicate their regret and sincere intention to behave differently the next time a similar situation arises.
For example, a wife might complain to her husband, “You shouldn’t have told our friends about my medical problem. That was so insensitive of you.”
When she says this, she is throwing the relationship off balance. The husband feels put down and disrespected and the wife is feeling wronged by him.
Two apologies are likely to restore balance in this relationship:
The wife, recognizing that her husband didn’t realize her information was private, might say, “I’m sorry for sounding critical. I should have told you before we visited our friends that I didn’t want them to know about my diagnosis. I can’t expect you to read my mind, after all. Please in the future don’t reveal my personal information without checking with me first.”
The husband also could express regret for having told their friends about his wife’s condition without first asking her if she’d mind. The point isn’t that he should have intuited what his wife wanted. His intention is to show that he cares for her and respects her privacy.
Such apologies are likely to be accepted graciously and restore intimacy for this couple because they are sincere and because partners take responsibility for their actions instead of blaming each other for their discomfort.
It’s quite normal to get off balance in both yoga and relationships. The key to accept those moments when this happens and then and do what is likely to restore balance, whether physically or emotionally.
This article was originally published on Sivana East.