Being human, even in a bubble, is bonkers. We are so flawed and clumsy at times! Put two humans in a relationship in a chaotic world and this shit gets wild! We mess up and get hurt ALL.THE.TIME! In order to repair and move on from all the conflict in relationships, we need to create space for both intention and impact.
Here’s a fake example to illustrate the need for looking at both intention and impact in relationship conflict:
I’m a busy business lady going about my day and I inadvertently forget that I have dinner plans. My date is crushed and feels hurt and sad that I would forget him.
How discussion about this can go wrong:
1. Neither of us address it. Duh. Don’t do this. Please talk about these things, even if it may feel silly or messy.
2. I focus on how busy I was and how crazy my life has been and how unintentional my forgetfulness was.
Don't be mad at me, it was an accident. I had a shit day, you should feel sorry for me. Don't feel hurt. I'm not a monster. By just focusing on my intention, I am defensive and invalidating or dismissive of my date's feelings.
3. My date focuses on how hurt he is and how he feels it was selfish. Maybe he even labels me selfish and goes on the attack. You hurt me. You're bad. You are the enemy. And I am left to double down on my defensiveness (after all, I'm not a monster!) or I just rush to an apology to avoid making matters worse (but let's be clear, I'm left feeling hurt and resentful even when the acute conflict has subsided). My date has a right to express the impact my behaviors had, but if there's no space for my intention, it is hard to move forward as a team.
4. My date focuses on my reasons for being late and excuses my behavior at the expense of his feelings. He doesn't stand up for himself. Maybe he's still hurt or resentful but I can't be sure...at least not until i hurt him again unintentionally and all hell breaks loose. By not having space for the impact, I might miss an opportunity to genuinely empathize and apologize for my behavior and might miss out on knowing my date on a more intimate and vulnerable level.
I talk to couples all the time about holding space for both intention AND impact. If we focus too heavily on one part or the other, we don’t get the whole story, leave room for continued hurt and resentment, and miss opportunities for true forgiveness, growth, and connection.
I guarantee life will present you with an opportunity to practice this! See if you can create space in your next disagreement for intention and impact.
If you still need help with this, or if you and your significant other are struggling working through this exercise, please reach out so I can help you get back to where you want to be.