From Rupture to Repair: Working Towards Healing in Your Relationship

Unhappy young couple, rupture and repair in relationships

Every relationship experiences ruptures. Husband/wife, parent/child, good friends – we are all sinners, and that means some rupture in relationships is both inevitable and painful. The good news is that rupture need not be the end of the story. Brain research and social science show us how repair is possible. And isn’t that also the very nature and truth of the gospel?! So, how can you move towards healing in your relationship?

You know what a rupture feels like. Something breaks the connection between you. It might be an innocent misunderstanding. Or perhaps one of you failed to follow through on a commitment, or shot out your prickly spines in self-defense against some less-than-holy moment, or acted in some way that elicited frustration or fear. You’ve withdrawn behind your walls of silence or anger or pain.

Rupture can happen in small or large ways, and in any relationship where there has been some level of attachment. It may happen in a moment, such as when your spouse shows up late. Or it may be deep and wide, as when a parent consistently uses their child to try to fulfill their own dreams, or a spouse repeatedly acts out an addiction to gambling or pornography. And sometimes rupture becomes deeply toxic, such as with repeated abuse.

What relationship feels ruptured to you right now? And what can you do when that happens? How can you move toward healing in your relationship? I’m glad you asked.

What Is Repair?

Repair is forging a renewed connection between the individuals involved. It’s not about being right; it’s about the relationship. In the big picture it’s the paradigm of how God deals with us, repairing the rupture sin has caused. God could be “right” and we could still be disconnected from Him. And some might wish God would “ignore” the problem and say, “No problem; that’s OK.” But instead, God moves toward us showing us the way to transformation even if that journey is hard. That’s the same with our human relationships.

Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson writes, “Rupture is not the final word for our lives. Regardless of its severity or duration, rupture does not have to define us. God did not settle for, nor do we have to accept, a dis-integrated prefrontal cortex or disconnection between people or between people and the earth. Instead, we can experience repair.”

Let me be clear that not every relationship rupture can be repaired. Repair must be initiated by the person in power who has caused the other some harm – anxiety, pain, shame, etc. If you are the person who has been wounded it may be appropriate for you to ask for repair, but you cannot do it on your own.

I’m talking to the person who realizes they have caused a rupture, and you desire to seek healing in your relationship that you deeply care about. Here are some ingredients in the process to repair the connection between you.


Your own brain needs to come fully online before you seek to re-engage with the other person. You may realize you “lost your mind” in your angry outburst to your child, or in the way you tried to manipulate your spouse (consciously or unconsciously). In doing so you may have been acting out of your own past shame, embarrassment, or fear, but you must do your own work to regulate your internal world. Now you’re working out of your highest brain centers, not your reactive emotions.

The more mature you become the quicker you can come to this centered brain state. You may need some outside help to get there, especially if you’ve regularly been rupturing relationship with those you care most about. This includes coming to experience God as your Source of validation, strength, peace, etc.


With your own brain online you can begin to pay attention to the other person’s brain. You can look at the world through their eyes and begin to imagine the hurt or fear or shame they may feel. You approach them seeking not for validation for yourself, but seeking to understand and to make the relationship better.

Your body language and vocal tone demonstrate to the other that your internal posture has changed. You are noticing their body language and emotions, and responding accordingly. You have enough control over your own internal world that you are intentionally responding rather than reacting.

Taking Initiative

If you’re the parent, this means you’re the one who initiates. In a marriage, I’ve seen God do amazing things when the husband initiates the repair (though either spouse can do this). In a relatively mutual friendship it may simply mean you choose to be the bigger person and initiate the repair. You put aside your own feelings long enough to take the high road.

Most of the time you’ll have to begin by apologizing, even if the other person was “wrong.” It might be simply, “That didn’t go well. I apologize for how I reacted. I caused you pain. Can we try again?” You ask questions in truly seeking to understand how the other person experienced the situation. You’ll have to keep a check on your own emotions; you’re still a work in progress also.

Taking initiative will look different depending on the kind of relationship and the circumstances. It may take time, sometimes a long time. And you’ll likely need support from a healthy community and certainly an ongoing relationship with God in such a journey.

A New Ending

Repair is possible. I know a mother whose relationship with her now 13-year-old daughter was deeply ruptured over many years. This mother did her own internal work and became able to be curious and invite her daughter into a process of repair. Her daughter has noticed a change and is now seeking out long conversations with her mother about the deep things in her heart.

I know a husband whose chronic anger pushed his wife to close herself off to him in every possible way. He reached a point of brokenness and initiated a long process of repairing his marriage. His wife was amazed by his different spirit and a different emotional temperature in the home, and started her own process of healing as they came closer together.

That’s the kind of repair I pray for you. Let this be an encouragement to do your own internal work, attune to the person you need to repair relationship with, and take initiative to connect again.

You can seek healing in your relationship.

Your Turn: What relationship has been ruptured that you need to work to repair? Where are you in the centering, attunement, and taking initiative process? Leave a comment below.

Want More? This week on the podcast I talk with Jeff and Tami Allen. Their relationship was deeply ruptured, and now it’s not! Listen or watch here.

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