Relationships go south sometimes. Humans are complex creatures and our love lives are even more complex. As days go by and our lives get busier, it is often our links with our loved ones that suffer the most. When communication and connection break down, it takes knowing both yourself and your partner to make the meaningful changes needed to turn things around.
Like so many things, working on our romantic relationships can be difficult. Sometimes, the grievances and frustrations we have with our partner or our circumstances run deep. It can be hard to forgive or move on when there’s emotions like shame or guilt at play.
If you want to reset your relationship, you have to be ready for a fresh start, but that starts with a deepened understanding of your love and it starts with accepting yourself. Broken things can be fixed, but the fixing is often harder than the breaking. Are you ready to fix your relationship? Then get ready to fix yourself.
Why relationships fail.
When things get thrown off kilter and our romantic entanglements start to break down, it can be tempting (and easy) to jump into a winner-take-all blame game, but the truth is there are a number of reasons our relationships don’t pan out the way we hoped.
A clashing of expectations
All suffering and unhappiness in life comes down to a failure of expectations. Getting mad, sad or frustrated is all a result of disappointment. When things don’t go the way we thought they would, it upsets us and we look for someone to blame.
The same can be said of our relationships. One of the most common reasons for a coupling breakdown is a clashing of expectations.
Somewhere along the line, the two of you came to expect different things of each other and couldn’t keep up the game. This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it just is, and it’s something that happens naturally over time.
We change, and as we change the things we want from life and the people around us changes too. The key to happiness is realizing this, and realizing too that everything is impermanent.
Everything changes, including our relationships. Nothing is necessarily forever and nothing is ever guaranteed.
The trust issues
At some level, everyone has a certain degree of trust issues. Loss of trust is one of the most harmful contagions in any relationship and one of the most common reasons we fail to meet eye-to-eye with our partners.
Trust issues can stem from many factors, including childhood trauma, but it always results in some unsavory behaviors that can be damaging not only to ourselves but our partners and families as well.
When we don’t trust the people around us, we don’t trust ourselves, and we leap into things like unreasonable rigidity, physical and sexual infidelity, emotional infidelity and violent and disruptive jealousy and possessiveness.
If trust is a major issue in your relationship, you must examine whether that lack of trust is based on a pattern of evidence or just emotional baggage that hasn’t been let go of yet. Consider honestly whether your missing trust is based on substance or a culmination of unjustified fears you haven’t addressed yet.
The grow-apart rut
Sometimes, things just get stale or boring for us and it causes us to pull away from someone that once thrilled us.
Obligations distract us and time passes quickly. Once you’ve finished struggling up the hill together there’s barely any time to congratulate one another before you realize you’re no longer standing next to the person you started the journey with.
This rut can be overcome, but it takes some time and it takes some effort. Finding your way back to a mutual connectedness is a process and one that requires you both to start by peeling back some of those new layers you’ve grown over the years.
Communication is one of the most critical pieces of any successful relationship (and one of the most common reasons they break down). Numerous studies have identified communication as one of the primary reasons couples seek therapy, as well as one of the biggest reasons they seek divorce or separation.
The way you communicate with your partner can be one of the biggest indicators of where your partnership is and where it’s going. If you treat one another regularly with contempt, which is the opposite of respect, then odds are there’s a poison somewhere that’s eating away at your connection.
Moving at different speeds
Life happens in ages and stages and through those stages, we can sometimes transition the way we move and the pace at which we move. When one of you hits the gas, it can be hard for the other one to keep up. The more space that grows between you, the more resentment that grows over time.
Relational divergence can happen for a number of reasons, but a change of pace is always a factor. If one partner advances quickly in their career, while the other remains stagnant at home, things become unbalanced over time and paths separate.
Moving at different speeds can be a good thing, but it can be a bad thing too.
Overcoming it comes down to an awareness of pacing and an awareness of your partners needs. Know when things are heading in the same direction and know when they’re diverging onto different paths.
A shift in priorities
As humans, we all have different goals and different priorities in our lives. For some, their focus will forever be on work and advancing themselves in their chosen career. For some, they will forever be chasing the perfect family and that picket fence in the suburbs.
We all have our priorities, but it is imperative that those priorities align or compliment one another in order for our relationships to thrive. When priorities become too drastically diverged, it can cause a dramatic rift that cannot be overcome — try as you might.
You’d think we’d be wise enough to choose partners that are compatible to who and what we are, but that’s not always the case. Some of us are so desperate to love that we’ll settle down with anyone that will have us, set as we are on the idea of changing ourselves or others to fit whatever delusional fantasy we picture in our mind’s eye.
You could write a book on compatibility issues, but let’s just suffice it to say this: without compatibility, there can be no true intimacy. Know yourself and know who you’re attracted to and why. Only then can you unlock the keys of what you truly need from your romantic entanglements.
There are so many kinds of abuse that contribute to the downfall of a relationship that it’s impossible to list them all. For the purpose of this article we’ll focus on the big ones: habit abuse and relational abuse.
Habit abuse contributes to the breakdown of a relationship when one partner develops a lifestyle or substance abuse habit that corrodes the relationship due to its pervasiveness or intensity. This could be a drug habit or a gambling habit; a porn habit or a work habit.
Relational abuse is the abuse we typically think of when we think of a break up or a breakdown in a romance. It’s the repeated mistreatment of one or both partners, and it can be comprised of physical, mental and emotional abuse and torture.
When a relationship is worth saving.
Even though a relationship is badly broken, it’s still possible to mend it. As a child that grew up in an abusive home, though, I think it’s important to note here that not all relationships are worth saving.
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship (be it physical, emotional or otherwise), there is no saving or changing the other person. Not now; not ever.
Some relationships can be saved, however, and it is those relationships that we should work hard to salvage at any cost.
One issues might be more challenging to over than another, but it can be done with open lines of communication and an understanding that the honesty that comes next is going to be raw. When you both start taking responsibility for the fixing of your relationship, you can get back on the same team and realign your goals and expectations.
Brutally assess whether or not you both want it to work and reach out to outside sources for help if needed. You may not have lost that loving feeling, but you might need the help of a third party to find it again.
The 10 keys to fixing your relationship.
So how do you go about working things out when they’re starting to go “wrong”? There’s no one single way to go about it, but according to the experts, these are some of the areas you should be focusing on if you want to reconnect with the one you love.
1. Make peace with and accept the undesirable elements of your partner.
If you’ve spent any time reading any of my articles on self or love, then you’ll know that the first step in fixing any problem that we have is often acceptance. This is doubly true when it comes to fixing our relationships.
When we commit to loving someone, it has to be completely and without exception. While you may not love the fact that your partner is allergic to cats (making it impossible to ever own a kitten of your own) you have to learn to accept that fact, rather than just begrudgingly moving on.
Failing to accept all facets of our partners, the good and the bad, leads to resentment and an inability to be flexible and understanding with one another. If you want to heal the hurts that are ripping apart the fabric of your love, start with accepting one another as you are — not as you want the other person to be.
2. Learning to be fluid when it matters.
Couples often split-up because they become polarized in their thinking and are unwilling to appreciate their partner’s viewpoints. For any relationship to truly succeed, it is necessary to adopt a more flexible approach and be subjective in the way we view our partners beliefs.
When spouses or partners perceive things differently, it can feel threatening or invalidating.
In the honeymoon phase, we try to mask these differences by camouflaging them or paving over them all-together, in an effort to make things “work” whatever the cost.
Being in long term relationships have a funny way of bringing those things to the surface, though, and when they do come up we have to work hard to open our minds and be accepting of — rather than threatened by — these differences in attitude or perspective.
A shift in our partner is not a betrayal. It’s life. Accept them for who they are and make an honest effort to adjust when things change.
3. A showing of genuine interest.
The longer we spend with someone, the better we think we know them. When we get too comfortable, we go on autopilot, and when that happens we can forget to show genuine interest in our partners and the things that are important to them.
Whether or not you have a lot of common interests and concerns, you have to deepen your friendship by cultivating an interest in the interests of the people we love. Regularly enquiring into their lives and the things that make them tick takes effort, but it’s also an expression of love and commitment.
Make it a point to ask your partner about their life, their hopes and their dreams and you might just be surprised at what you uncover along the way.
4. Genuine displays of affection.
If you love someone you have to show it. Too often, we forget about the power of a genuine display of affection, but it’s one of the most powerful tools we have in fixing a broken relationship.
Think back to those compellingly romantic first moments in your relationship; remember the butterflies and the way they made you feel. While you may never be able to recapture the exact power of those feelings, you can recapture a piece of it, by talking openly with your partner and expressing your love through small, authentic displays of affection.
When life gets busy, we can sometimes forget to let people know that we love them, but it’s important. Don’t assume your partner knows how much you care for them; show them every day by telling them and showing them how much you care.
5. Bring back that childlike wonder.
There are all types of ways to refresh that childlike wonder in our relationships, but it requires us to get creative about how we address our romantic woes.
Reinvigorating a relationship sometimes takes a drastic move like planning a romantic vacation or scheduling regular date babysitters and date nights. It can be as simple as getting out into nature, though, or spending time just discussing your dreams and all the things you two want to accomplish with your lives.
Think back to the joyful things you did during your courtship and consider the things about your partner that caused you to cement your commitment to them. Were there exciting activities that you two once engaged in? The more positive things you share, the more it will light up the love the two of you share.
6. Respecting boundaries.
What boundaries do you set with your partner? What boundaries do they have with you? If you have trouble answering one or both of those questions, chances are there is a serious imbalance in your relationship that needs to be corrected.
Our boundaries and our limitations are the indications we set of what we will and will not tolerate. They are a manifestation of our self-worth, and without them we create adversity in our life that is damaging.
For us to feel comfortable in our relationships, our boundaries (as well as those of our partners) need to be clearly defined. These borders indicate everything from what you see as appropriate behavior in your partner to how much privacy you require for your own mental wellbeing.
Get familiar with your owns needs and limitations as well as your partners, and work hard to negotiate agreeable compromises where those things just don’t meet up. If you come from the mindset that solutions exist for all these problems, you’ll find them…but you’re going to have to do a little digging.
7. Stop arguing over money and start talking about it.
Every couple disagrees over money at some point, but that can be avoided by adopting an open an honest attitude about the whole thing from the jump.
We’re all concerned with things like our earnings, investment and debts, but subjects like accumulating wealth and dealing with debt are hard.
Get your ideals on the same page first. While the goals you have financially may never meet up, it’s possible to find a middle ground. You have to reach a place where you’re both willing to accommodate each other’s preferences with entirely sacrificing one side or the other. If there’s debt, be honest about it, and don’t try to gloss over the facts just because you wish they were better.
8. Break out of the isolation.
The pursue-withdraw pattern can happen when one partner clings tightly to the other or when both partners want closeness and connection but there’s a perceived disconnection somewhere in the middle. One half of the equation starts to believe their needs aren’t going to be met, so they pull away because it feels safer than being let down.
They might also complain or push for more connection, but that doesn’t work unless both parties are aware and onboard for change.
Withdrawing in our relationships or withdrawing into our relationships is a sure-fire way to lose ourselves and the authentic truths that define who we are at our core. It undermines the trust and security that we seek in a relationship and it undermines the trust and security we find in ourselves. This pattern is a universal torture technique and the only way to break it is to be blunt and be brutal about what your problems are and what’s causing them.
Resolving this isolation problem comes down to having a frank conversation. You have to address your behaviors, as well as the behaviors, views, reactive emotions and basic needs and longings of your partner.
Sometimes, just having the conversation allows the change to be facilitated. You have to be honest about your needs as well as the needs of your partner as well. Companionship is a constant give and take, and you have to play on both sides of the field, not just one.
9. Satisfy your sexual needs.
It’s an uncomfortable topic for a lot of us raised in the cast-off worlds of the Puritans, but satisfying our sexual needs is critical in any romantic relationship.
The only way to deal with issues of sex is frank conversation. Talk about your fantasies and what you need to feel fulfilled in the bedroom. If you need your partner to take charge more often — tell them so. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and don’t be afraid to give in either.
Like love, sex is a give and a take. Learn how to enjoy both.
10. Resolution and forgiveness.
How much have you actually endeavoured to resolve and forgive past hurts? Odds are, not as much as you think you have.
More often than not, a breakdown in our relationship is the result of a failure to resolve a previous hurt, misunderstanding or injury. If past conflicts haven’t been fully worked through, those wounds can stay open for a long time; festering and bleeding until they become something toxic to your relationship.
Let go of grudges and recognize the importance of reviewing past disappointments with a critical eye.
In retrospect, the hurts inflicted by our partners are more often caused by misunderstandings than actual maliciousness, but we need time and space to recognize and accept that.
Forgive your partner for their missteps and acknowledge that they are human — just as you are — and capable of all the foibles entailed with that mortality. If something they did continues to peeve you off over time, bring it up with them, and don’t be afraid to as accepting of your own reactions as you are of theirs.
Putting it all together…
Despite what we see in the movies, our romantic relationships are anything but sunshine and roses all the time. Being in a committed partnership takes work and it takes and understanding of self as well as an intimate understanding of others.
Resolve your issues and forgive your partner when they step out of line or fail to meet the expectations that you have of them. Understand why relationships fail and know when a relationship is worth keeping or letting go.
Being in love is never easy and staying that way is even harder. It takes a lot of brutal honesty and retrospection to keep our love alive, but it’s isn’t impossible. Bring your relationship back from the brink by getting creative and getting back in touch with the things that bring you and your loved one together.
Being in love is hard but being alone can be even harder. If your love is worth saving, save it — one step at a time.