In working with all sorts of family dynamics, relationships, adolescents, etc. as a therapist I have noticed many recurring themes that seem to strike just about everyone who comes into my office. One of those themes is how people work out conflict in relationships.
It seems to be common practice that when a person is struggling in their relationship, be it mother-daughter, husband-wife, father-son, girlfriend-boyfriend, etc., they choose to distance themselves from that person. This makes sense as it is natural to back away when someone is angry and coming toward you. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to work on any relationship when you step away from each other.
My advice—STEP IN! When you are struggling with someone don’t step away. Step in, get closer, listen, and then listen some more.
Let me give you an example. In working with step parents it is pretty common for the “step parent” to feel out of place in their home. They tell me, “I don’t want my step kids to think I’m replacing their mom/dad so I don’t do the disciplining in our home.” So basically, the step parent isn’t able to fully function in their own home. They have limited themselves to certain roles with certain kids and it is felt in the home.
I have sat with many of these families and simply said, “Step in, not out.” You are the matriarch/patriarch of your home (step parent or not) so step in and fulfill your role. Kids are smarter than you think. They know you aren’t trying to replace their birth parents and it only helps them if you hold boundaries and teach natural consequences in your home.
This principle works for most relationships. Try it. Step in.
Something incredible happens when you listen, learn someone else’s love language, work through problems together, and stay present rather than stepping away.