Everyone’s reconciliation story is different, but everyone can reconcile in one of four ways:
1 Deep, mutual healing. The first is the one we long for the most in which both people grow and change, and there is a deep healing in the relationship. When this happens, amazing transformations can occur. When this kind of reconciliation occurs, it’s a gift to be cherished.
2 Shifting your expectations. In this type of reconciliation, one person changes his or her expectations of the other person, and the relationship opens up, whether or not the other person makes significant changes.
3 Agreeing to disagree. In this instance, two people have dramatically different versions of past history–like whether or not abuse occurred–and rather than each trying to convince the other that he or she is right, they agree to disagree. They try to find common ground that isn’t connected to the dispute as a way to forge a new relationship.
4 Inner resolution. The final kind of reconciliation is the inner path we travel when direct reconciliation with the other person is impossible. The other person may be dead or may be too drunk, too damaged, or too hostile to make reconciliation possible. The other person may have slammed the door in your face and isn’t about to open it anytime soon. Or you attempt reconciliation, and your efforts fail. In these instances, our task is to grieve for the relationship we don’t have and slowly, gradually learn to move on.
Many people experience a combination of these four. Sometimes a relationship starts in one place and shifts to another over time. There’s nothing fixed about reconciliation. It’s a fluid process that shifts and changes.
Laura Davis is the author of The Courage to Heal Workbook, Allies in Healing, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, and I Thought We’d Never Speak Again. She teaches writing and lives with her family in Santa Cruz, California.