“Mom, have we repaired yet?” I can hear my twelve-year-old daughter now. I think I have created a monster.

Every relationship, albeit one with your partner, child, friend, coworker or neighbor, can be pinpointed at one of the three places – harmony, disharmony or repair.

Harmony is the fun phase. We are skipping through the daisies. All is well with the world. We are both in a good place so our relationship is in a good place. We are playful, free, safe and at ease. Emotions are regulated and for the most part, there is peace, creativity, laughter and joy.

But, we are human. Trying to get along with another human being who is not us. Shit. Along comes disharmony. One party becomes disgruntled, injured, frustrated or hurt and then like dominoes, the other party often quickly follows suit. Emotions flair and we wonder where those daisies went to. Tension and conflict arise and we are all of a sudden disconnected. Our relational engine has clogged and gunk is quickly accumulating. Not so fun anymore.

Two things about disharmony. First, disharmony is inevitable. It’s called relationship in real life. To have a relationship of any depth or length and not have disharmony is called denial. Secondly, your relationship can be in disharmony and you may not know it. If your partner is in disharmony, the relationship is in disharmony. Sorry to be the one to tell you but that’s just the way it is.

Thus, the success of any long-term relationship relies not on avoiding disharmony but on the partners’ ability to repair effectively. Having no repair tools and/or choosing not to use them is a recipe for the demise of the relationship. Or at least one for a limited connection that we choose to avoid and not grow further.

Do you have repair skills? If not, get some. Having a stocked tool box can come in very handy in navigating the complicated world of relational living.