Have you ever been in a situation where somebody else said or did something, and another person reacted in a way that was dramatically disproportionate to what you said or did? Of course! Have you ever been in a situation where somebody else said or did something, and you reacted in a way that was dramatically disproportionate to what the other person said or did? Of course you did that, too. This is called ‘file emptying.’ In file emptying we do not react just to what was said or done at the moment; we react with all the fury that exists in a cumulative file. Given that the reaction is totally out of proportion to what just happened, the recipient of the file emptying is caught off guard in the wilderness, almost guaranteeing that he or she will take the communication personally, get defensive, and attack back.
Sometimes, instead of the file emptying, the other person becomes the enemy. You drift apart and fight about everything. The file becomes evidence of something negative about the other person, you start to use the file against him and make him wrong. And, of course, the payoff is that we get to be right and avoid being wrong; we get to dominate and avoid being dominated.
So instead of leaning into that relationship knowing without a shadow of doubt that they have your best interest at heart, you start making all sorts of assumptions about them. You start subtly and not-so-subtly manipulating them. You start controlling. You start avoiding. You think you’re “protecting” them from the truth. You basically withhold from the relationship. Withholding is actively not telling the truth. If you want to kill a relationship, just withhold the truth from them.
We have all experienced this occurring in many forms sometimes people are polite with each other, but we can feel the underlying tension. Everybody knows it is there, but nobody is willing to confront it. Two people become like strangers, exchanging pleasantries and doing the best they can to make the most of that situation and get on with what they have to do. This is definitely not a formula for a great relationship. Sometimes it is worse. Sometimes people climb into their foxholes, arm themselves, and dare anyone to walk into their space. It can get ugly.
Recreating Trust Series
Learning how to create and recreate trust is the most critical step to being intimately connected with others. This is one part in a six-part series that explores how trust and intimacy breaks down in relationships and how to recreate it. And, by the way, if you’ve been in a relationship romantically or non-romantically for longer than two months, then you're probably inadvertently experiencing breakdown.
- Part 1—The Honeymooon
- Part 2—The Letdown
- Part 3—Storing Our Resentments
- Part 4—File Emptying
- Part 5—Take an Inventory
- Part 6—Expressing the File and Listening
[jbox color="blue" vgradient="#fdfeff|#bae3ff" title="Complimentary Relationship Rescue Coaching Session"]If you are ready to make a shift in your relationships and want help developing a game plan, I offer a complimentary 60-minute Relationship Rescue coaching session. There's no obligation; I love doing these and hope you'll get in touch.