What is a rupture?

A rupture means there has been a moment where a feeling of safety has been lost between you and someone you trust. It can be as simple as the frustration that arises when your friend isn’t replying to a text message, or as cataclysmic as finding that your partner has been unfaithful to you. It can be feeling dismissed, criticised, abandoned, rejected, misunderstood or attacked. Are ruptures nice? No. Noooooo. But those very uncomfortable feelings are there for a reason: to motivate you to repair that rupture, and strengthen your relationship in the process!

What is a repair?

A repair is our way of reconciling, and finding a way to move back toward trust in our relationship: that feeling of ease, flow and mutual understanding. A repair requires authenticity and intimacy, and involves our energy, not just our words. Have you ever noticed how a terse “sorry” (combined with rigid posture and blank facial expression) feels? That’s not a repair. Repair involves acknowledging the rupture, owning your behaviour and making an attempt to reconnect.

Why they help

We don’t have healthy relationships without rupture and repair. These processes allow us to communicate our boundaries at a deeper, dynamic level, and are often excellent opportunities to share vulnerability and create a more intimate relationship. With every rupture, we experience vulnerability, and with every repair we find greater intimacy.

How to repair

Tune in

How does rupture feel for you? How does your tone of voice, body language, thoughts, feelings, behaviours and motivations change when you’re experiencing a rupture? You might notice that you are heavy in your body, you stop talking and feel unable to engage. Or that you become clingy and apologetic, attempting to placate or please others. Or that you feel high in energy with racing thoughts and a strong motivation to leave or to start a fight. All of the above are signs of rupture, which happen to correspond to the stress responses of fight, flight, freeze and fawn.


Repair won’t happen until you’re able move past the fight, flight, freeze or fawn response and be open to seeing both of your parts with some perspective and compassion. To get here, you’ll need to regulate! Sleep on it, go for a walk, talk it over with a friend or therapist or just take a deep breath to re-centre.

Take responsibility and listen

Taking responsibility means showing them you can see what your part in the rupture was, without defensiveness.

“If you’re going to criticise me, you can’t expect me to just sit there and take it!“ (defensive)


“I just withdrew from you because I felt like you were criticising me. Sorry. Can we talk about it?” (open)

Feel the difference?

Depending on the situation you may need to apologise, explain or just listen. The goal here is to understand the feelings, beliefs and motivations that were fuelling their reaction, and to help them to see what was going on for you. If they are unwilling or unable to engage in active repair, this is ultimately out of your control. But you may need to rethink your investment in a relationship that cannot repair ruptures.

Find the lesson

The beauty of rupture and repair is the strength it provides to a relationship – and this strength lies in the lessons you learn. You might learn that your partner has sensory difficulties, and so their storming out of the room was less about rejecting you and more about you chewing toast in their ear! Or that they’ve been harbouring resentment toward you because of something that happened months ago, giving you the chance to address that resentment head-on. Look for the lesson together by asking, “how can we avoid this next time?” or “what can we both take from this?”

Even if you can't find a specific lesson, you will now have the experiential knowledge that your relationship can survive a rupture. Woohoo!

Now... do it again four thousand times and you've got a bulletproof relationship!

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Article written by: Kate McLisky

Image credit: Cody Black on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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