Synopses & Reviews
IntroductionThe Path of Reconciliation"It is not impossibilities which fill us with the deepest despair,
but possibilities which we have failed to realize.
-- Robert Mallett, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of CommerceWhen we lose a relationship that has been precious to us, the fabric of life is torn. Whether the end comes suddenly in an explosion, inevitably after a long, painful struggle, or by simply petering out, we feel a sense of loss. Even when our predominant feeling is relief at no longer being engaged in struggle, there is still an empty place where the other person used to be. As one woman put it, "When I was estranged from my father, it was like having a rotten tooth. It gnawed at me all the time."This book is about relationships that have been torn apart -- and the many paths to reconciling them. Whether we are dealing with a brother we no longer speak to, an adult child we wish we knew, a parent we long to make peace with, a friendship gone sour, or an enemy we have been taught to hate and fear, there is a path that we can use to repair -- or make peace with -- relationships that have been painfully estranged."What Enables Reconciliation to Occur?I began my research hoping to pinpoint the steps people need to take in order to transform blame, alienation, and bitterness into compassion, acceptance, and love. Early on, I discovered that there are no hard-and-fast rules about reconciliation. No matter how much I tried, I could not delineate an orderly series of stages that would lead to rapprochement. In fact, every time I thought I had pinned down some essential truth about reconciliation, an exception would appear.I began with several working assumptions. Ibelieved that reconciliation necessitated taking things slowly, so people could gradually ease back into trusting. But then I talked to Linnie Smith, who, after a ten-minute phone call, reembraced her brother wholly and completely. I assumed that reconciliation could only occur when people talked openly about the differences that had torn them apart, only to find numerous examples of people who found their way back to each other not by discussing the past but by carefully avoiding potential minefields. In families where incest and other heinous crimes occurred, I presumed that reconciliation could only occur if the perpetrator took responsibility for what he or she had done. Then I talked to Kathleen Ryan, who made peace with parents who continue to deny that she was ever abused.Again and again, my assumptions about reconciliation were shot down, to be replaced by a growing sense of respect and admiration for the diversity of strategies people use to make peace with relationships that once seemed irreconcilable. It became clear that there was no objective lens through which I could judge the progress of someone's reconciliation -- that the only measure of success was the emotional integrity of the solution for the people involved.What I consistently observed in people who had achieved satisfying levels of reconciliation was a particular constellation of inner qualities: it was the maturity, autonomy, discernment, courage, determination, honesty, compassion, humility, and accountability that one or both people brought to the table that determined the depth and quality of their reconciliation. These themes, which overlap and influence each other, manifest in an amazing variety --depending on the people and circumstances involved."The Reconciliation ContinuumThe reconciliation continuum presented here encompasses four possible outcomes. The first -- the most coveted and the hardest to achieve -- is reconciliation that is deep and transformative, in which intimacy is established (or reestablished), past hurts are resolved, and both people experience closeness, satisfaction, and renewed growth in the relationship. The second outcome, which is far more common, is a relationship in which one person changes his or her frame of reference and expectations, so that the perception of the relationship -- and its possibilities -- opens up "whether or not the other person makes significant changes. In the third, much about the relationship remains unresolved and ambivalent feelings persist, yet both people "agree to disagree" and establish ground rules that enable them to have a limited but cordial relationship. The final outcome is realizing that no viable relationship is possible with the other person, and that our only option is to find resolution within ourselves. Although this alternative is not the one that most people would choose, it too can bring peace.Reconciliation stories are always works-in-progress. Frequently when I asked people to review their stories, months after our initial interview, they informed me that the ending had already changed. We often achieve one level of reconciliation -- figuring out how to have a limited, social relationship, for instance -- only to have things shift later, enabling a deeper connection. Other times, there are reversals; a setback undermines the tentative trust that has been built, and relations drift back towardestrangement.With human relationships, nothing is ever final. We cannot be sure how things will end until both people are dead. There are always surprises, unexpected twists, moments of grace, and at times, unfathomable tragedies. If we approach reconciliation with an intention to stay open and see what is possible, there are few limits to what might happen."Big Reconciliations, Little ReconciliationsThis book is filled with stories of everyday estrangements and reconciliations: friends who stopped speaking over a misunderstanding at the movies, siblings who fought over a will, children who made peace with parents they hadn't spoken to in years.Mixed with these stories are more dramatic tales: victims of drunk drivers facing the people whose actions devastated their lives, children of Holocaust survivors meeting with children of Nazis, Palestinian and Israeli teenagers learning to get along. These stories are deeply inspiring and demonstrate that the principles of reconciliation are consistent whether we are dealing with family members or the larger world.I have also included stories where attempts at reconciliation led to small, positive changes rather than major transformations. Wendy Richter, a woman I interviewed, had one such experience. When I sent her a copy of her story for her to review, she e-mailed back: So many times it is the phenomenal recoveries, the great emotional stories, the magnificent changes that are told. But each of us can only make a few such breakthroughs in our lives. However, the rest of the time we shouldn't experience the failure to be miraculous as a failure. Even a few tiny steps forward represent progress."Telling Both Sides of the StoryThis is anextremely subjective book. I interviewed more than one hundred people about their experiences of estrangement and reconciliation, and in most cases, I spoke with only one of the people involved in the relationship.I made no attempt to tell both sides of the story, to be fair, or to objectively portray reality. I chose not to question the veracity of people's stories, the accuracy of their memories, or the process they went through in seeking reconciliation. Yet despite the fact that each person was free to tell the story as he or she wanted it to be told, all of these stor
“Davis identifies a continuum of reconciliation, from the deep and transformative to the utilitarian... and distinguishes between reconciliation and forgiveness.” Booklist
In her bestselling classic The Courage to Heal,
Laura Davis helped millions heal from the pain of child sexual abuse. Now, in I Thought We'd Never Speak Again,
she tackles another critical, emerging issue: reconciling relationships that have been damaged by betrayal, anger, and misunderstanding.
With clarity and compassion, Davis maps the reconciliation process through gripping first-person stories of people who have mended relationships in a wide variety of circumstances. In these pages, parents reconcile with children, embittered siblings reconnect, angry friends reunite, and war veterans and crime victims meet with their enemies. Davis weaves these powerful accounts with her own experiences reconciling with her mother after a long, painful estrangement.
Making a crucial distinction between reconciliation and forgiveness, Davis explains how people can make peace in relationships without necessarily forgiving past hurts. In addition to a special section called "Ideas for Reflection and Discussion," she includes a self-assessment quiz, "Are You Ready for Reconciliation?"
Whether you want to reconcile a relationship that has ended, improve a relationship that is difficult or distant, or learn the skills you need for dealing with the inevitable conflicts we all face in life, this book will teach you to mend troubled relationships and find peace.
About the Author
Laura Davis is a nationally recognized expert on healing from child sexual abuse. She is the co-author of The Courage to Heal, Beginning to Heal, and Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, as well as the author of Allies in Healing. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA.