Learning How to Relate
Dee Dee Mayer, recently appointed as director of the RelateStrong program at Pepperdine’s Boone Center for the Family, explains the psychoeducational model that is built on a foundation of theology and Restoration Therapy, a marriage and family therapeutic model that identifies identity and safety patterns while empowering emotional regulation and mindfulness for behavioral change.
The Pain Cycle
If a conversation is making you feel unloved and unvalued, you might feel emotionally dysregulated and cope in a destructive way. You might try to control the situation by criticizing and blaming the other person. Or you might withdraw from the relationship completely. These coping mechanisms tend to simply further your pain. The other person is likely to respond in anger or to withdraw themselves. The pain you’re experiencing has been reinforced, and the interaction has been unsatisfactory for both participants.
The Peace Cycle
When you can identify old patterns of communication, regulate your emotions, and respond in ways that affirm what is true rather than what you fear, you promote a relationship that is healthy and healing. This type of mindfulness encourages the development of an orienting truth that regulates those emotions. By affirming the truth that you are loved, you propel out of the reactivity of the circumstances and are able to respond differently in a way that is not destructive.
Mayer says that the types of emotional pain that affect our ability to communicate are typically influenced by our home environments growing up and the people and circumstances of influence in our lives. These experiences impact the way we respond to others. For example, if you saw a parent get angry, acknowledge their anger, and yet not respond in anger, you learned that emotions need not control you. But if a parent figure did not demonstrate healthy emotional regulation, that experience may have influenced your behavior as you developed.
Relating well with people is an essential life skill—one that applies to relationships beyond romantic partnerships. While RelateStrong offers great relationship preparation for someone interested in finding a partner, improving your understanding of your emotional triggers and knowing how to take a firm hold on your orienting truths can help you further good relationships in every aspect of your life. When you have the ability to engage in healthy ways, you tend to choose friendships and partnerships that are healthy and pursue people and relationships that feel safe and worthy of contributing emotional depth.
A Christ-Like Love
As a therapist and spiritual life advisor, Mayer trusts that scripture has much to teach us. She encourages and employs a Christ-like approach to caring for the emotional well-being of all parties. “Christ died in order to show us the depth of God’s love for us, to secure our relationship with our creator,” says Mayer. “When we learn to have good relationships with one another, we’re giving a picture of something that is holy.”