The Hallmarks Of A Resilient Relationship: Harmony Rupture Repair


“Happily Ever After.”

How many times have you heard that phrase?

Speaking for myself, it is many, many, many. And every single time I hear it, I wince.

Since the phrase is used so often to describe the hopes and expectations of people in relationships, I do find myself wincing a lot.

Every couples therapist knows that happiness in a long-term relationship does not come easily. Both members of every couple must fight for their love each and every day. Anyone who has successfully navigated a successful long-term relationship or marriage knows that there is no such thing as happily ever after.

Nevertheless, common culture continues to promote the notion that when you find the right person, things should naturally flow in a positive direction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the worst enemies of happiness in a relationship is stagnation. The couple that stops growing together ends up growing apart. In every successful relationship, each member of the couple must be challenging the other to grow and change in meaningful ways.

It’s not about changing into a different person for your partner; it’s only about listening to your partner’s feelings and needs and making an honest effort, out of love, to meet them. As long as your partner is asking for healthy things (even if they’re painful or difficult), this is a process of pushing each other to grow. That is the hallmark of a successful relationship.

When you are truly in a relationship that is working, there must be friction to keep both partners growing. The friction shows that you are being honest with each other and that you are willing to fight for the relationship. The changes you make for each other are both an expression of your love and a product of your love.

Every healthy relationship follows a predictable, productive pattern. This pattern is the hallmark of a healthy, stimulating, growing, resilient relationship.

Harmony — Rupture — Repair

  • Harmony: This is everyone’s favorite part of the relationship cycle. It’s the feeling you have when things are going smoothly between you and your partner. You’re enjoying each other’s company and you are getting along. No fighting, no friction. This is what people are imagining when they utter the phrase “happy ever after.” And it’s the picture that popular culture likes to paint of successful relationships. Everyone would like to believe that this is how relationships are supposed to be. But actually, this stage must be earned not just once, but over and over again.
  • Rupture: It is actually not humanly possible for the Harmony stage to last forever. Every single coupling of human beings on this earth is on a path toward rupture. It’s not a matter of whether a rupture will occur; it is a matter of when. But the good news is that ruptures are not bad. They are actually opportunities to deepen, enrich and enliven the relationship. The rupture holds the passion and the clash brings out the feeling. And feeling is the glue and spice that makes every relationship valuable and worthwhile.
  • Repair: The Repair phase is where the real work happens. What do you need your partner to do to fix this problem, and what can you do to make him happy? Working out a new understanding or a compromise, or deciding to work toward a change communicates love and care, shows commitment and builds trust with each other. When you do this phase right, you continually learn more and more relationship skills that you can use over and over again, making problems become less and less painful as they happen. Going through rough waters together and coming through to the other side intact propels you into the Harmony phase, where you enjoy the love and dedication and care that has been there all along.

If you grew up in a family that avoided conflict, squelched emotions or discouraged meaningful conversation (Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN), you are at great risk of avoiding or squelching the healthy rupture your relationship needs or being unable to initiate and/or tolerate the meaningful conversation to repair it.

If you grew up with CEN, learning that rupture in your adult relationship is not a failure but an opportunity can open doors to building valuable communication and emotion skills and to a much more rewarding and resilient relationship.

Harmony – Rupture – Repair – Harmony – Rupture – Repair – Harmony – Rupture – Repair. On and on it goes, one phase following another. It’s not a sign of a problem, but a sign of health and love and commitment.

The harmony brings the joy, the rupture stokes the passion and the repair builds the trust.

And that’s what “Happily Ever After” actually looks like.

To learn exactly how to take the steps to connect emotionally with your partner, see the book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, your Parents & Your Children.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty No More. 

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) can be invisible and unmemorable so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out, Take the CEN Questionnaire. It’s free.


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Katie - April 27, 2018 Reply

Love love this article! My last 4.5y on and off relationship ended mainly due to his by his own admission ‘I avoid confrontation/conflict at all costs’. He took the choice of preferring to see his relationship that he really wanted dissolve before his very eyes than risk the potential awkwardness, frustration anxiety that may have happened by facing his fear and joining me in repairing the ruptures.Too many unrepaired ruptures finally proved too much . It broke my heart but he refused every invite I made to work as a team and I had to finally admit defeat. Really look forward to your article on conflict avoidance.

MaryGrace - April 16, 2018 Reply

Thank you. I’m wondering can I use this format with my therapist i.e. between myself and the therapist, when we have a rupture?
One may think it’s strange. But I don’t know how to do this in “the real world”. But the ruptures happen in my therapy because I sabotage all my healthy relationships. So maybe using this template with the therapist can help me learn?

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 16, 2018 Reply

    Dear MaryGrace, what a wonderful idea. You not only can use it with your therapist, I highly recommend it! That would be a really useful and powerful way to practice learning the skills involved. Thanks for sharing your idea with others!

      Katie - April 27, 2018 Reply

      Would that be like role playing?

HarmenB - April 16, 2018 Reply

Hello Jonice,

Thanks for another good post. One that I recognize much in.

I imagine you will have no dearth of blog subject matter to write about.

But, a suggestion: a follow-up post about CEN and conflict avoidance.

Because that is what I have learned from my parents: to avoid, to bury conflict, with the result that it simmers, only to erupt later. And with the result that my needs and emotions are not met, listened to and handled in a healthy way.

And, from what I read in other comments, books, and see in people around me, conflict avoidance is one of the main issues so many people struggle with, and it often is connected to something such as CEN.

Whether you take it up or not, I love your blog posts. They give me things to reflect upon. Looking forward to the next one!


    Jonice Webb PhD - April 16, 2018 Reply

    Dear Harmen, that is a very good suggestion. I’ll write an article on conflict avoidance so watch for it!

      HarmenB - April 17, 2018 Reply

      Dear Jonice, I am very much looking forward to this article. Thanks 🙂

      Warm greetings, Harmen

Claire - April 16, 2018 Reply

Great article. Just a little bit of feedback, in the “repair” section, it should state keep “them” happy rather than “him” happy.

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 16, 2018 Reply

    Hi Claire, I understand why you’re suggesting that. But using “them” in that type of sentence isn’t actually grammatically correct so I never do it. Instead, I alternate between he and she, him and her. Thanks for your comment!

Greg - April 15, 2018 Reply

Thanks very much for this blog post and for all you have written about CEN, Dr. Webb. It really has explained a lot about my situation.

I am still reluctant or afraid to initiate the “Rupture” phase. I have avoided conflict all my life. I will re-read your book, because clearly I am too thick-skulled to get the message first time around, but in the meantime do you have any suggestions to get that first rupture going and not back down from it?

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 15, 2018 Reply

    I know that rupture is scary Greg! But the two main parts of facing it are these: 1) Give up trying to be right. Right/wrong is seldom relevant in a conflict between partners. 2) Instead of focusing on facts and events, focus on what your partner is feeling. When you both do that, it has an amazing effect. It takes practice but it is totally learnable.

      Greg - April 15, 2018 Reply

      Thank you. I appreciate your response!

Karen - April 15, 2018 Reply

Thanks Dr Webb once again, much appreciated. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’m really good at the Harmony phase. However from your article I realise I have absolutely no idea what to think/feel/do when the Rupture happens and no Repair skills. Instead I do what my parents do. My father acts as if nothing happened and my mother piles it on to her long list of resentments and grievances to be trotted out when the moment is right. Unlike them however, when the list gets long enough I just leave. Well well, no wonder I’ve never had a long term successful relationship. Very enlightening, thanks!

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 15, 2018 Reply

    Dear Karen, your description of what your parents do is the classic pattern of those who don’t know the value of a rupture. I hope you’ll take this forward to have happier and stronger relationships yourself, and I have a feeling that you will 🙂

Lm - April 15, 2018 Reply

I read this with amazement. It provided so much insight to me. In retrospect it seems obvious, but for whatever reason I never made the connection between my childhood relationship with my parents and my seeming inability to sustain long-term relationships as an adult. Thank you for this viewpoint.

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 15, 2018 Reply

    Dear Lm, now that you see the connection it can open up doors for you, and new possibilities. Sending you my best wishes!

Mette - April 15, 2018 Reply

I love all your posts. You write with such clarity. You have helped me immensely. Thank you a million.

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 15, 2018 Reply

    That’s wonderful to hear Mette! I am so glad.

Ashita - April 15, 2018 Reply

Very very helpful. Thank you so much. I will be looking forward for more such blogs. Thank you again.

    Jonice Webb PhD - April 15, 2018 Reply

    You are welcome Ashita. Take care!

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