I've been wanting to write about the grey zone for a while; it has been slowly growing into a fully formed conversation inside my mind.
While I understand everyone processes things differently, I have noticed the grey zone present in my own world for ages. I thought maybe it was just me and my way of feeling things deeply, or perhaps just fear of revealing a challenging part of myself in a relationship.
Lately, this wonderful thing has been happening where friends and clients are sharing their experiences with this very challenge, unprompted. This collective sharing from different people in my community felt like a push to bring me here and write about the grey zone.
I'm talking about what happens when there is an upset in a relationship, that thing where a break in connection happens: a fight, an argument or hurt, and repair has not happened yet.
In the grey zone, while not actively engaging in conflict, you are definitely not in connection. Maybe you are still able to talk about the necessities of life: picking up the kids, what to have for dinner or errands, et cetera. But there is not much more beyond surface-level chatter.
Touch, affection and heartfelt communication go right out the window when you are stuck in the grey zone. It can last for an hour, days or even years, depending on the relationship.
The thing about the grey zone that really gets me is the loss of creativity and overall interest for however long you are stuck in it. Usually, I will not be able to complete any writing; my inspiration will be about as alive as a rock. Maybe I’ll take the dogs for a walk, and sure, it is relieving not to be arguing and accessing some space to breathe or think.
Maybe you go out with some friends, go to work or to the beach. That may look like you are taking space and having a break, but it also will not feel like free, unconditional space because your mind is clouded or, at the very least, space is taken up in the back of your mind. This can feel heavy, sticky or damp and make usually enjoyable engagements feel like climbing a mountain with a backpack full of mud.
You can lock it up and file it away, but the reality is that filing things away means they are still there, taking up precious space and condemning your relationship to the grey zone. The only way to escape the grey zone is to turn toward each other and co-create repair.
Niseema Emery is a certified intimacy and relationship coach in Powell River.