Life Boat: A Repair Tool

This is a repair tool for those times when you and your partner are both triggered, seem to be stuck in a place of disconnection, and are saying to each other “How do we get out of here?” Although I am not a fan of cute acronyms I am resorting to that here, because reconnection can feel life saving, and it is worth remembering the steps. So I hope the acronym helps. Life B.O.A.T – BID, OWN, APPRECIATE, TOUCH.

This is a repair tool for those times when you and your partner are both triggered, seem to be stuck in a place of disconnection, and are saying to each other “How do we get out of here?”

1. The Bid

The bid is when one of you has the presence of mind to suggest repair. You might do this by saying “I’d like to propose a round of ownership, is this a good time?” Remember, if your partner makes the bid and you are not quite ready at that time, be very specific about when you would be.

2. Ownership

I suggest two rounds of ownership.

What ownership is: Ownership is taking responsibility for my part of the difficulty. It is in effect an apology. Remember this is a no blame paradigm so owning my piece does not mean the whole thing is “my fault.” The premise we work from is that every conflict and every episode of triggering involves contributions from both partners. One thing that makes this process safer is that the structure insures that both partners will own, so no one gets singled out.

And what do we mean by ownership? It is specific and it is what I did (a specific action or verbalization) that I regret. Detail helps, but don’t be wordy! When both of you are in a difficult emotional place, you want to be clear, precise, not monopolize, and keep the process moving. Including an actual apology can also be powerful. An example: “One thing I can own is that I was impatient and repeated my words with a sharp, nasty tone when you could not hear me. I apologize for that.”

What ownership is not: Ownership is not explaining. Ownership is not excuses. Ownership is not a veiled way of saying “You triggered me!” Ownership is not a trick to coerce counter-ownership! (i.e. a form of blame!)

In order to be potent ownership must be sincere, honest, and heartfelt. So make sure your tone and your face are congruent with the intention of repair!

See how two rounds of ownership feels. In particularly gnarly interactions, you may decide to do more. It is preferable for each partner to do the same number.

Remember to monitor your own reaction to your partner’s ownership. To comment on or critique it, or to show disappointment in it could compound the problem you’ve already got! This is hard when you are really hurt, and your partner does not own immediately the piece that most hurt you! Remember, you can enhance the depth and healing potential of the process by going deeper and further yourself. So focus on that.

3. Appreciation

By now you know how to do appreciations! Do two rounds of appreciations after the ownership. It is optimal to have the appreciations be related to the conflict or to the ownership process, but that is not essential. What is essential is that the appreciation be personal. For example it is much more meaningful to say: “I appreciate what a good friend you are to me, how you really listened to me when I needed to talk last night.”

That is more touching under these circumstances than to say: “I appreciate what a good friend you are, or what a good friend you to so and so; or what a good daughter and a good listener you are to your mom, etc.” Your partner needs to feel of value to you!

Specificity, depth, heartfelt feeling, and brevity all make for “connecting,” potent appreciations.

 4. Touch

For many partners, touch is more connecting than words. So to end with some sort of caring touch integrates that component into the repair. It could be a hug, a stroke of your partner’s face or arm, a squeeze of the hand. See what feels most natural to the two of you. I suggest each partner offer a touch, so each feels as if something is being given. Touch can be very soothing; boost seratonin and oxytocin, and thus serve as an antidote to depression and disconnection!

Make sure the touch is safe and soothing to both of you!

After finishing all the steps check in and see how it feels between you. Let some time pass before you go back to the original content that the conflict was about. Perhaps some time later you will be able to talk about it calmly, utilizing what you each learned from the ownership.

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