Taking a productive break in your relationship

May 18, 2024

3 minute read

Relationship stress? Learn how to take strategic breaks

When navigating the intricate dynamics of non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships, the tension can sometimes mount to overwhelming levels. Constant communication, while often beneficial, can also escalate stress if not managed carefully. 

In these situations, taking a strategic break can be a game-changer, offering a much-needed respite to cool down, reassess, and return with fresh perspectives. Episode 152 of the “Playing with Fire” podcast delves into this topic, illustrating how breaks can be a vital tool in managing relationship stress effectively.

A Practical Example from the Podcast

Taking a break is a wildly under-rated move when things are getting messy. Just last month, Ken and I had a true breakdown in our connection. It was unexpected and abrupt as hell.  Despite our expertise in relationships (we’re all learning!), we still get into areas of trouble, and personally, I tend to be the one who wants to JUST.KEEP.PUSHING. But at some points, all that direct communication can actually backfire–building new tensions and adding them to the disconnection we were already feeling.

There’s a skill to taking a productive break, a break that helps everyone involved tap into more regulated state of mind. Setting clear intentions and predefined time boundaries, helped us to disrupt a negative cycle of interaction. This break gave us the space needed to process our emotions independently, ultimately leading to a more effective and healthier dialogue upon reconnection. In other words, we needed to self-regulate before we could engage in co-regulation… but that can feel scary to someone who has a lot of anxious attachment strategies (and we both do!) 

Understanding the Strategic Use of Breaks

The podcast differentiates between 'pauses'—short, immediate breaks to manage fleeting emotional spikes—and longer, more calculated 'breaks.' These breaks serve as a crucial respite, allowing individuals to step back from the intensity of ongoing conflicts and prevent the kind of escalation that can lead to more significant relationship problems. 

Pauses happen in-place and I strongly recommend we use them liberally to self-regulate during tough conversations. But bigger breaks give us time to regulate and do some deeper processing without the pressure of getting right back into the conversation. Defining a break helps you get the benefits it can provide. 

Steps to Harness the Benefits of Breaks

Identify the Need for a Break:

1. Recognize when conversations are no longer productive and are instead fueling the fire of conflict. At this point, continuing to push through can do more harm than good. A well-timed break allows everyone involved to step back, cool off, and approach the situation with a clearer head.

Set Clear Goals and Boundaries:

2. It’s important to define what you aim to achieve during the break. Whether it’s gaining emotional clarity, reassessing needs, or simply taking time to breathe and destress, having a clear purpose can guide your time apart. Equally important is setting boundaries regarding communication during the break. Decide how much contact—if any—is beneficial to avoid feelings of abandonment or anxiety.

What not to do

When you want a break to be truly relationship-building, communication of these goals and boundaries is the most important thing. Don’t just leave without a clear plan or you’ll likely make this break into a time for trouble to fester rather than heal.

Don’t skip out on the deeper learning- taking time to be with yourself is doubly effective if you do some nervous system regulation, emotional processing, or journalling of your thoughts and feelings. 

Build relationship resiliency

Listening to episode 152 provides theoretical knowledge and practical insights into implementing strategic breaks in your relationships. We want you to see that engaged, conscious relationship breaks are not a sign of failure but a proactive strategy to foster resilience and understanding within complex relational dynamics!

Understanding the strategic use of breaks can be a huge benefit, especially if you’re in a time of relationship growth, such as transitioning to non-monogamy or experiencing the impacts of new relationship energy or justice jealousy. Strategic breaks can prevent the stress escalation that threatens relationship stability, providing a necessary pause that allows all parties to address issues with renewed energy and perspective. This podcast episode offers valuable lessons on using time apart as a constructive tool, making it an essential listen for anyone looking to enhance their relationship management strategies.



Episode 152 Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated, and may contain some errors.

Joli Hamilton 0:01
Dude, we need a break. Okay, now us personally, right now anyways,

Ken Hamilton 0:07
very minute,

Joli Hamilton 0:08
but real though recently, um, but let's do a show about taking a break.

Ken Hamilton 0:15
It is not. It's not something you want to just stumble into. Well,

Joli Hamilton 0:20
okay, maybe you don't want to, but I think most people stumble into their breaks. Okay,

Ken Hamilton 0:27
okay, yes, you stumble into it. But you don't have to just cobble it together from nothing and step apart.

Joli Hamilton 0:39
What if we're intentional? About if

Ken Hamilton 0:41
What if what a brain fart into how it goes?

Joli Hamilton 0:44
Smite one of my favorite things about taking a break is that if done intentionally, it opens up so much potential. There's so much possibility. And we can take a break for a lot of different reasons in a lot of different ways. But we have to bring intentionality to it. Otherwise, generally speaking, a break is just delaying the same reaction. Yes, exactly. And you don't sometimes that's all that's needed. Sometimes it's just hey, I can't I can't function. So this is we're gonna pause, we're gonna

Ken Hamilton 1:19
pause, and we're gonna have this exact conversation later. Yep. Versus

Joli Hamilton 1:24
So we've talked a little bit about the two pauses, right about the two pauses the first type of pause being like, you're in the bubble together, and you say, I need a pause, well, I just regulate my emotions, I'm gonna, I'm gonna deal with this wave of emotion, whatever it is, you're gonna stay in the bubble, we're staying together, you're in this, we're not leaving the conversation, nobody's picking up their phones, we're here or on the phone, we're staying present. And then there's a longer pause, where he was saying, Okay, I need to take some time to regulate my nervous system to clear my head to, you know, to move my body, whatever, I need to take a pause. And I'll be back, I'll be back to this conversation in could be 30 minutes, 90 minutes tomorrow, but we tell the person when we're going to be back. And I think of those as pauses. If they're, if they're less than, you know, a day or two. That's when I think of them as like, that's a that's a pause.

Ken Hamilton 2:21
So at what point do you start thinking about a break? So I think a

Joli Hamilton 2:25
break is about most of them, to some degree, it's about semantics. A pause is, we're not changing, we're not attempting to do anything other than break the tension of oh, one or both of us or all of us are experiencing dysregulation, we're going to pause long enough to get to a spot where we can approach this from our best selves, right?

Ken Hamilton 2:49
A pause in semantically a pause implies continuing, right?

Joli Hamilton 2:55
Where as Yeah, apart, you press the pause button, but we're gonna continue this thing. And I think of a break as being a little bit more like pressing the stop button right now. And so yeah, again, semantics, we could say that this is just a long pause. But a break can be. It can be exactly what any relational system needs to create a new possibility, write a new adjacent possible, what is possible, what do we imagine is possible. And if we can use a break strategically, we have a lot of possibility, to break a pattern, engage a new pattern, open up lines of thought, resource ourselves, there's a lot of possibility. So for me, it's not so much about how long will the break be? As, what's the intention behind it? Why are we taking this break? What's our hope, and simultaneously, we need to hold the tension of not getting too attached to the outcome. So we can have a good solid, why this is my intention for taking this break. My intention is to, you know, create some space for myself to work, work through some thoughts on my own, to practice my differentiation, to simply be at peace and not be caught in a pattern of arguments or to try something else on. And, and that implies that I would like a different outcome, but we can't be too attached to what the outcome is. Because we don't, we don't know. That's that's a break is a disrupter. Yeah,

Ken Hamilton 4:36
it's a disrupter. So you don't know what you're coming back to what you know we never do the the illusion of constancy Yep, we're gonna come back and, and we can have goals and we can work toward them. And then it's very helpful to build up skills of resilience To things not going the way we expected them to. Yeah,

Joli Hamilton 5:03
you know, it's I'm, I'm kind of laughing because I remember writing an outline for this particular episode. And within about 72 hours, you and I had a total breakdown of communication that had me go through the entire process of booking a hotel room, packing my bags and saying, I need a break, I'm going to take a break for the next and I at that point, it was four days, because there was there was a shared family activity four days from then I was like, okay, that that makes sense. I need to inform me, creating that space was about what I wanted to do with my body and my nervous system and my mind in that time. Because if I stayed close to you, I was pretty sure that I was going to try to problem solve, I was going to try to fix it when we both agreed at that point that it wasn't me who had I hadn't violated a boundary. Yeah. Done that. So I

Ken Hamilton 6:03
really, you wouldn't be responsible for, for repairing.

Joli Hamilton 6:08
And I didn't want to get caught in that pattern. It's really tricky. It's really hard to be the one who's been injured. And then but who's also like, the primary problem solver, it's hard to back off and say I, you know, I'm not going to engage in the problem solving, I'm going to let you address this in the way that makes sense for you. And I think brakes have been incredibly helpful for us over the course of our relationship. And I used to think that they were going to be just disastrous, I used to think that a brake meant that there was like a fundamental breakdown, or that there was something wrong with how we related Yeah.

Ken Hamilton 6:54
But what I just heard you describe was that your goal for the break you had planned was to disrupt a pattern that you judge and I agree with you was going to be counterproductive for both, both of our individual experiences and the relationship. So it's like, okay, well, so from a distance, and from here, it looks pretty clear that yeah, that that break, had all good, and the only bad was the disruption of the pattern, and whatever meaning we each individually put into that disruption. But that was put against all the practicality, the practical value of the your goals for the break, right?

Joli Hamilton 7:43
So there was the thing that was helpful for me, because we were both very emotionally dysregulated. And under slept. This is a pretty common scenario, when when we're fighting or something's gone wrong for one or all of us, the the state from which we might be deciding to take a break, we might be in opposition, we might be feeling adversarial. And so it's challenging to do what I'm going to ask you to do next, what I'm going to suggest might be a good plan of action. It's hard, because it requires some metacognition requires us to be able to say, Okay, this is not working. And some part of me needs to be able to look at a bigger picture and say, Okay, what's the purpose of taking a break? And what are the parameters? What's gonna, what's going down? What's actually happening? And

Ken Hamilton 8:39
it is, it's tricky, because very often, the thing that gets me into those situations is weaknesses and metacognition. Like, if I could see a bigger picture, I probably would have brought would not have brought us down that road. But, but it doesn't matter. Like how, how we got to that point.

Joli Hamilton 9:03
And it's not, it's Yeah, and it we don't have to do this perfectly, I think, to just be able to say, Okay, if we're taking a break, and let's get clear, if we're going to take a break, what what is that? What is that going to look like?

Ken Hamilton 9:16
What is it going to look like? What are the parameters? What are the details?

Joli Hamilton 9:20
Yeah, so, for instance, this last time it was, Hey, so what I need is some physical space, I need some physical space so that I can feel how I can feel myself I can feel my own heart I can. I can feel my own emotions and not be my hyper vigilance might have turned on to too much to find a honing in on, you know, too much watching. And I know I knew that I needed some physical space and I knew that I was going to need a bit of time. And I didn't feel that there was a need to cut off Communication. But I did feel that there was going to be a need to limit the communication. In other words, I didn't want to get into that problem solving mode. So I had suggested, hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna take a break. But I'm going to in like, yes, we can still check in, we can still check in about logistics that are happening at home, we have children that are living in the whole house. You know, I wasn't asking for no contact. And that helped me realize that, like I was negotiating with you. So that was where I feel like there were these two levels there on this one level. Yep. There was a lot of hurt feelings. And when I backed out a layer, oh, actually, but we can still collaborate on how our overall life goes together. We absolutely can. And that that was just a good reminder to me that I'm not one thing. You're not one thing. That

Ken Hamilton 10:55
Okay, yeah. So this isn't about the logistics of breaks and things like that, which we'll get to this is about the there's what I'm hearing anyway, is, in situations where there's breakdown of that there's that there's more going on than just the breakdown. Yeah, that each of us is more than two. And, and that was This was one of the if not the only time, the time that I most successfully was aware of that myself. And I'm hearing you having also reached conclusions. Oh, yeah, yes, yeah,

Joli Hamilton 11:37
I think that's big. It's worth celebrating that we weren't caught up in the idea that that meant we weren't breaking up, there was nothing like nothing. Everything was actually okay. But there were a lot of hurt feelings, too many to actually contain, in close proximity. At that point, we just it seemed as though, we just didn't have the bandwidth. And there was a clear set of patterns, which are actually more detailed than it's worth going into it here. But each of us had identified through the course of our argument, that we are each engaging in a pattern that we didn't actually want to be right. Yeah, that it was happening, it was happening nonetheless. And, and we're in the midst of a time of the year, this particular time of every year, I usually go through some really intense grief. Last year, it was light in comparison. But this year, it's been really intense, in and I say in comparison, and it was still like it's multiple days and strong across like three months of time, and it takes multiple days. And it's embodied. And it's hard, and I'm still working a full time business, and I have a life and kids to take care of. And so I knew I was tender hearted and I couldn't, I couldn't be sure that I was going to show up in a way that was fair to our overall relationship. Even though I wasn't the one who would cause this particular, like, the straw that broke this particular camel's back, was not the only thing at play, I was also under resourced and grieving. And I didn't want to have that add to the problem. And so brake seemed like a good idea. So if you're in a situation where, you know, a break sounds like a good idea, then my next question is, okay, what's the purpose for each of you individual, each individual involved in this? What's the purpose of this break for you? You don't even necessarily have to share that purpose with another person. I, I told you some of the barest details of what that break was for for me. But really, this was about me making an agreement with myself about hey, I'm gonna take a break. What are you doing? What's it for? Are you because I want I needed to self check to see was I exercising power? Was I just showing you I can leave was like just doing that to do it. I needed to self check about whether I was running away was this an avoidant thing? Like, I don't want to have this conversation. I also needed to self check about what my, what my tolerance was for, for feeling like responsible for taking a break. Like, I needed to give myself a little time. So I, I had gone into a separate room and I was sitting and just just sit thinking I was I was sitting and thinking about what it was what my purpose was. And right down at the at the, at the deepest level I could get to in that moment. What was turning up was, yeah, I I needed time to be with myself, and to not be overwhelmed with the US. And if you can define what the purpose of a break is, you're halfway there because the other the other big piece of it is what are the parameters? What like, Okay, if you're employing a break, then and I don't know how to This work and coding are their breaks and coding. It makes me think of there's like a, there's something very physical about the idea of a break. Here, this is a break, this is going to be separate and distinct. Right? It feels like there's there's something really physical about this. Yeah.

Ken Hamilton 15:14
So it's interesting, because you're talking about a, a, a break defined by time, many other things as well, but defined specifically by time. And, oh, yes, there Absolutely. Are. There are times when you say, Okay, now sit here and wait. Right, that was the next thing to happen, unless something else is going to happen. And you're going to wait here, and nothing is going to happen until this other thing does.

Joli Hamilton 15:42
So what else can come? Well, the reason I was thinking about that is, this feels very special to me. Okay. I when I think about a break, I need some constraints, because otherwise it just feels like, okay, like, it just feels open ended to the degree that feels really uncomfortable. All right. So I need to know like, Okay, what am I waiting for? Am I waiting to feel a different way? Am I waiting to know a different thing? Am I using time and I'm just going to take a wild guess or an I picked, I picked an external circumstance to say, okay, when this external circumstance happens, I will come back, because I want to be here with everyone and participating. There's a bunch of activities happening. So I don't really care what parameters you use. Yeah, that does feel very structural,

Ken Hamilton 16:31
but it, but it is a really important question to ask a break is a span of time. What are you expecting to happen during that span of time? How will you know whether the break was successful? Like what were you like? You said, What are we waiting for? Are we waiting for a change in attitude? A change in feelings? Are you looking for a particular? What are you looking to have changed during this time,

Joli Hamilton 17:01
right. And so it's interesting that a lot of times, we will take a break, because like, I want to break a pattern. And then we go, we break the pattern by being away, but we don't. Now we're not in that context. And so in a different context, I'm not going to play out that pattern, awesome. Shack done. So what I need to know is you can walk right back into it, I can walk right back into I can drop back into it in a second. So time alone probably isn't going to be enough to actually establish a really productive break. I think there's a difference between a healthy break, go ahead and take a healthy break. And a productive break where I say, Oh, I actually want I want to achieve something inside of me. When I said release yourself from the outcome, I want to be clear, I want to clarify, release yourself from your partner or partners having a specific outcome. Right. Yeah. Because that's their work to do. So. I yeah, I want to, like I want to create some some boundaries. So I understand what it is what's, what's the structure, structure or shape of this break? Am I using time? Am I going to come back at a specific time? Or am I coming back when a specific interstate has been achieved? Like, that's, that's pretty murky that might make a partner feel your partner could feel really, really scared, right? They might feel really, really scared that okay, I'm gonna wait. I'm over here waiting while you experience change? How will I even know? At which point we might want to talk about, okay, what's going to happen in the during? What's going to happen? What are the parameters? How are you going to connect? How are you going to have conversations along the way, because if we're talking about a one day or two day or four day or even a week break, okay? But once we start to get into multiple weeks, and we're talking about taking a break from someone, you start changing, not connecting at all, leaves your partner in a position to just wonder what's happening, what what is happening, and if they have any kind of anxiety at all. This is going to this is going to be a challenging time for them. human

Ken Hamilton 19:11
imagination is a wonderful and terrible thing. Yeah, yeah.

Joli Hamilton 19:15
So I can I can imagine a lot of different ways to define a break. But the thing that I see people struggle with the most is not wanting to because they get to the spot where they ask for the break and they're so angry, right? They ask for a declare a break. It doesn't matter to me what you're doing it that has a lot to do with how your relationship agreements are set up now, how your expectations are. So for the purposes of this, whether you're asking for a break, or you're declaring a break, you're probably dysregulated. So trying to right now communicate about Okay, so are we going to talk about this or that? Are we going to how are we going to exchange time with our kids or how are we going to like how are you Handling financial peace of this if one of us is going to a place where now we need to pay for another space to live, like, how are we doing that? Well, now we've added a new thing to talk about, on top of probably already hurt feelings. And I say this because, yeah, that's just true. That's the truth. When we tie ourselves into relating, we make these increasingly complex worlds. And that's not a bad thing. But you may have to really haul up the best possible version of you that you can get a hold of, to make at least a temporary agreement about okay, when is this break starting? When is it ending? And then what are the expectations about contact about connection? Logistics,

Ken Hamilton 20:52
very important questions, I'm going to ask you a very leading question. So there you are, you're, you're in a very, very troubled spot. Deciding to take a break. Trying to figure out you said, pull up your best self to try to write what are some suggestions you have for pulling up your best self under those circumstances?

Joli Hamilton 21:19
Yeah, so for me, it would look like this it would look like going and getting in the cold plunge. Actually, I go for a walk first, then getting a cold plunge, but because it was very cold. The last time I did this, I went straight into the cold plunge, maybe counterintuitive, but I went straight into the cold plunge. And then I took, I took a lap of our house, I did not go for a long walk because it was too damn cold, took a lap of our house came back inside and did a bunch of regulation drills, which for me, looks pretty complicated. I stack up a whole bunch of NSI neuro somatic intelligence drills, and listened to music that typically I use before I'm going to meet with somebody about say, like marketing my business or something I have like a like a nice power mix. It's not meant to be power over just in like self empowerment, put that on it to remind myself that I am an individual. Yeah, I am an individual and you had feelings about all of this too. But I needed to have like, I had to get myself to a spot where I wasn't calmer. I was empowered. I was fully grounded and in myself

Ken Hamilton 22:24
love that, ya know, that there's you weren't aiming for calm? No aiming for clear. No.

Joli Hamilton 22:31
And I mean, yeah, regulated doesn't always look like calm. No, I was I was pretty pissed. The things that had gone down in the 24 hours. Yeah, for that we're really on unsettling. Yeah. And it would have been absolutely ridiculous for me to be calm, like that wouldn't have been an appropriate emotional response,

Ken Hamilton 22:51
they would have been self abandonment. Yeah, to just be calm about what I had inflicted on you over that time. Those were not okay things.

Joli Hamilton 22:59
But I also didn't want to be aggressive at you. Because that wasn't how I wanted to deal with this situation. And that's a hard thing for me to balance because then I have to sit with my my aggression, my rage, my my sadness, myself. Not comfortable. And the cold plunge is the best way for me personally, to do that. Everybody's different. But turns out that one works really well for me. And it was the number one reason I was upset about needing to take the break, I really felt strongly that you needed to be here for a bunch of reasons. So I was gonna leave, but I'm like, dammit, the cold one wasn't here. I was annoying. That was an annoying reality. But the other piece of the puzzle that we haven't talked about yet is about, you know, making plans around this. This is, let's get really, really practical now. And this is what people skip all the time. And it drives me bonkers. We skip making a plan for partying. And for reentry. Oh, yes. What are we doing? What are we doing? Making a plan for? How are we partying? How are we coming back into shared space? Now you might not be able to make you might be so agitated that you can't make a plan with somebody else. You can still plan with yourself. How am I going to handle this? Right? But I would encourage everyone to actually make a plan. Are we is this ambiguous? Am I just leaving whenever I feel like leaving? Or are we tying up loose ends making a plan so that this makes sense for our life? Are we when we come back together? Are we immediately going to jump into big heavy conversations? Are we like are we picking up from where we left off? Or are we going to intentionally create space to come back together and connect in a way that feels like we can co regulate with each other and then debrief are we going to instead actually say hey, I think it would be best for us to meet with our or a counselor with our coach, like meet with someone so that we can come back together for the first time and say, okay, somebody else is going to help us hold this space, but not making a plan here. So you're just leaving so much potential?

Ken Hamilton 25:15
That's exactly I was hearing all those those questions those possible. The things to think about like, Oh, that's a lot. And what a what good news that is, because it means that by working and thinking through all of these things, you can find the right, the right approach that works for you and your relationship. Yeah, yeah, no one size fits all on this at all. But there's a lot of things to think about. So think about them.

Joli Hamilton 25:41
Right. And it, I mean, I have a basic plan in like, like written down for myself, it's really, really rudimentary, it doesn't need to be super detailed about, you know, how I leave and how I come back, that I can share with you. That's just it's to create safety, is to create safety for each of us to have a little bit of expectation. And one of the most important things for me is to remind myself to hold myself and integrity of, if I'm going to leave, and then I come back, I can't just assume that you're going to be ready to hear everything that I have thought and learn all the ways that I have changed, although you might not be prepared for that. You have your own life, you have your own work, you have your own stuff. And so I can't, I can't just assume that you're going to be okay. I have to allow you to, to collaborate with me on that. So I also think reengaging is tricky for almost everybody. So having some having some strategic ways that you come back together, that you come back in a shared space together. You know, some people do really well, if they make eye contact, and they can feel and see a person. Other people feel really overwhelmed. And there's a lot of pressure and eye contact. So maybe you want to sit side by side on a couch and just an honestly even just watch a TV show that has been really calming and, and generally good for you great British baking show works great for us. Just watch something super low stakes, while we just sit next to each other, and we feel into the situation. reengaging often also just means that we pick up where we left off, and like all we rush back, it's like, the dam breaks, and then we rush all the feelings back in. And that can feel like then, dammit, this break didn't do anything. Yeah. But in fact, it did. You both experienced change. But if we don't have some sort of plan for how we're going to now integrate that change into Okay, shared space again, what are we doing? What did we learn? And what did we each individually learn? And what do we want to do from here? Yeah,

Ken Hamilton 28:07
I think the word you're, you're using the word reengage, which I love because for me anyway, that suggests intentional, active. Yeah, whatever, like, but it's, it's not just a be back in the same place. It's a set of, of, it's a plan for a set of things that we'll do to continue relating to each other. Yeah, and not just walk right back into the same wall, we just peeled ourselves off of right.

Joli Hamilton 28:44
And let's just also name that sometimes a break of time really is about just creating enough space for there to be for the scab to heal a little bit like, right, and, and while that doesn't necessarily mean that the deeper wound or the pattern will have changed. In fact, it may be just lying there waiting to reopen sometimes. And in fact, for me this last time, yeah, I just needed to I needed time to not be feeling that for a little while. And then there were steps, there were a few things that I requested a few things you offered, that essentially brought us back to a well, yeah, they did, they brought us to eat better than before place. But even if we had just taken that break, and I had been able to do some of that, grieving that, you know, I was feeling raw for other reasons, and not be fixing and thinking about this relationship that would have served its own purpose. And that could have been a win for us too. So I'm going to circle back to that original, like, what is the break for? No, and you don't have it doesn't have to be so that we fix everything. Sometimes it's just so that we can literally rest. Just rest

Ken Hamilton 29:58
that that makes really good sense. Relating is, takes a lot of energy to do it. Well.

Joli Hamilton 30:06
I have one last piece I'd like to add to this puzzle, which is, I think it's actually the hardest part about taking a break.

Ken Hamilton 30:16
I know what you're where you're going with this one. Yeah, yeah. What do you got?

Joli Hamilton 30:20
This is this has come up for me in friendships, as well as in partnerships that are more romantic. If I take a break, and then I reengaged with someone, and this has happened with my my family of origin as well, when I reengage, can I allow myself to believe that there is a new version of each other? That's possible? If I come back, just imagining that like, know what, what was before is what is and that like? Yeah. If this is it is hard to allow yourself to really, honestly taken like, Oh, they're doing the work, they are changing? We will humans are so good. What is it? apophenia? I think we see patterns everywhere. Oh, yeah, even when there's no pattern. So if we have a long established pattern with someone, it is hard not to keep seeing that pattern, even if they are making change. So I guess the other thing I would ask is, can you do anything at all to help yourself, remember that change is possible. And you might have to actually look for it, you might have to really suspend your disbelief in their change. And

Ken Hamilton 31:44
that can be tricky.

Joli Hamilton 31:45
I yeah, I have seen it be so tricky, because that also opens us up to a lack of safety, right? A lot of us seek safety through consistency, and an idea that I know exactly what's going to happen, I'll raise my hand, even imagine that I can predict exactly what you're going to do. But then I miss the EU who is becoming, which isn't fair, it doesn't actually get us to a new place. Yeah.

Ken Hamilton 32:14
I know, I know exactly what you're talking about. I remember complaining about it 20 years ago, before any any part of our relationship, just about my life in general, and how, yeah, my family of origin. And the extended family beyond that just would not acknowledge changes, and it felt like I was trying to grow and change shape within the confines of this mold that I was trapped in. And I had to stay that shape for the benefit of my family. And the people who just did not who, who's who, for some reason, their sense of safety in the world required that I still keep being the person that they thought I was the whole time. And I can kind of get that, like you just said continuity and and the ability to predict what's going to happen, these things make us feel safe. But it it is it's it's a hard thing to do to somebody to require them to stay the same.

Joli Hamilton 33:19
So imagine to write staying the same, it's not requiring is

Ken Hamilton 33:23
saying to sue, simply Yeah, to imagine that they're going to keep being this and so what you were just describing Yeah. And so it is a a brave and difficult thing, right, and I see you do it. And I know how important it is to you that you your sense of safety is strongly affected by your ability to predict what's going to happen, it really is. And in the face of that you do the work to let me change out of the patterns, even when you can see the data that fits the old pattern.

Joli Hamilton 34:02
That's the hardest. That's the hardest thing. Because change is incremental, not all at once. And some of the stuff that you're going to do going forward will still fit the old pattern. So I have to believe that on the whole, there will be a shift and there is a shift and it has happened. And it's not simple. And the same is true. In in our relationship. The same is true in reverse. But you have you have a lot of skill with me. And believing that I am changing and updating. You don't review but necessarily not with everyone. Right? And so this is a great place to just take stock of like where are your strengths? And then remember, are these your strengths in this relationship? Are those the strengths you see in yourself? All in general? Good question. So as you plan for a break, I would include I would actually encourage everyone to have a basic plan for like, hey, how how am I going to take breaks? Why What how would this look for me? Am I going to be processing in therapy during a break? Am I going to be grieving? Doing some morning activities? Am I going to be practicing radical discontinuity? You know, breaking up my habits and patterns? Am I? What am I going to do during a break? And how, how am I going to reengage? How might I want to re engage? And I mean, just think about it in a sort of general sense. So that when you get close to a time when you're like, Oh, we do need a break. You already have some of this thinking done,

Ken Hamilton 35:33
and it's gonna be a lot easier to do it when you're not in the middle of the thing that is inspiring you to take a break.

Joli Hamilton 35:39
Yeah. Thanks for taking on this topic, especially when it's such a fresh one. Yeah, thank you.

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