Ways To Fix A Broken Relationship

Holly and her partner are spending less and less time together. She feels distant from him even when they are together. They argue constantly about little things until one of them leaves the room, so nothing is ever resolved. Holly feels as though he doesn’t care and she’s starting to resent him.


Signs of a Broken Relationship

Signs of a broken relationship might include:

  • Lack of communication
  • The relationship doesn’t take priority for one or both partners
  • Physical or emotional withdrawal
  • A feeling of resentment toward one partner
  • Dishonesty and trust issues
  • Purposely distancing yourself from affection or intimate connection
  • Treating each other with disrespect

If you spot any of these signs in your relationship you might consider your relationship to be fragile. However, your relationship might just need some effort from you and your partner. You can remain hopeful because your relationship can be fixed if both parties are willing to take action and make lasting changes.

Understand What is Broken

Fixing, making repairs to what is broken requires more work than a temporary bandaid. But while the effort is much greater, so is the reward. How can you repair things in a way that causes your relationship to operate better? The first step is to look beyond the surface to discover what your root issues are. What are your fights really about? Chances are it’s not as simple as it seems. You might fight about household chores, like cleaning the kitchen or maybe there’s conflict over someone’s spending. These may seem like trivial things, but it’s more than the dishes and the tab at the bar.

She feels underappreciated when her partner assumes she will do the dishes every time. He feels like his partner doesn’t value their goal of saving up for a house and starting a family when they spend so much.

Talk to Each Other

You won’t get anywhere without communication. The strength of your communication determines the strength of your foundation.

If you’re having communication issues, you might have different communication styles. You can identify what your and your partner’s style is. There are 4 main communication styles that a partner can exhibit:

  • Assertive

If there’s an ideal communication style this is it. It’s the sweet spot between submissive and aggressive. Not surprisingly this style isn’t used as often as the others.

  • Aggressive

With this style, you’re focused on “winning” by all means necessary. This means the other person’s feelings are disregarded.

  • Passive

A passive communicator avoids conflict and wants to keep the peace. They’re hesitant to speak up or give their opinion.

  • Passive-Aggressive

The passive-aggressive communication style is displayed by showing anger in an indirect way. The person is trying to harness control by using sarcasm or by using the “silent treatment”.

Acknowledge Your Differences

Different communication styles in relationships only become a problem when partners don’t understand their differences and fail to accommodate one another. But partners can learn to relate more positively.

Here are some tips:

  • Choose to interpret the problem as a problem with communication styles.

It’s easy to make assumptions about your partner’s intentions or blame them for dealing with issues differently. Try not to assume negative intentions like “she’s attacking me” or “he’s always abandoning me.” Rather, try to view what’s happening as a simple difference in communication style.

  • Accept your partner as they are.

Acceptance is different from giving in or trading in your integrity. You shouldn’t accept any behavior that mistreats or disrespects you or goes against your beliefs. You should consider your own needs, while also remembering a relationship is about two people.

Remember that you will not always agree because you are different people. Think about how boring would it be if you were exactly the same.

Establish and Respect Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines for what is acceptable behavior to us as individuals. These behaviors vary based on our personal experiences. There are several types of boundaries to consider such as boundaries around time, physical space, emotional space, material possessions, and sexual intimacy.

Benefits of relationship boundaries:

  • Encourages autonomy and reduces codependent habits.
  • Sets expectations
  • Decreases unpredictability and misunderstandings
  • Gives you a better understanding of yourself and your partner
  • Promotes closeness
  • Gives you a sense of empowerment and self-respect
  • Ensures your physical and emotional comfort
  • Separates your wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings from those of your partner
  • Prevents resentment

How to set boundaries? This brings us back to communication. It’s important to talk at length with your partner about boundaries. You’re coming from different backgrounds and experiences which influence the type of boundaries that are accepted and assumed. Your boundaries stem from your values which helps you remain true to yourself.

Maintaining healthy boundaries can avoid future issues. Keeping healthy boundaries is a way to respect and value yourself, as well as your partner. They can prevent a relationship from becoming enmeshed. Our wants and needs are viewed as equally important compared to those around us, and we are able to hold space for these wants and needs in an appropriate way. Developing healthy boundaries aids us in fostering productive discussions. And boundaries encourage our partners to express themselves in a similar way.

It might not always feel easy to share your preferences and explain what your limits are. But not sharing can cause you to feel disrespected and that can lead to resentment. Boundaries are the invisible part of a relationship that promotes mutual respect. If your boundaries are violated, it’s important you speak up and discuss it with your partner. It’s okay to say, “That’s not okay”. When you do speak up, try not to scold. Instead, tell them how it made you feel when your boundary was crossed. You may have to set clearer guidelines and adjust boundaries as you and your relationship change.

Manage Expectations

Sometimes the problem stems from unrealistic expectations. We may set the bar too high because of what we see in the media, but those things are not realistic. Unrealistic expectations can be devastating because they set us up for disappointment. It’s healthy to have standards, things you will not compromise on. But sometimes the bar is set unfairly high. It’s important to know the difference between healthy standards and unrealistic expectations. You shouldn’t have to compromise on things like respect, trust, or communication.

Examples of unhealthy and/or unrealistic expectations include:

  • Thinking your partner will fix everything bad in your life. Eg. Thinking your partner will save you or that you will save your partner. This puts way too much pressure on one person to be everything, superhuman even.
  • Thinking your partner should be perfect. When you expect someone to be without imperfections, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. With time, you will see that they do have weaknesses because they are human. And that can be hard to swallow.
  • Thinking your partner can read your mind. Sometimes we forget that our partner cannot read our mind. You must communicate your wants and needs. This doesn’t mean your connection isn’t strong enough. Even in the strongest, closest relationships, partners are unable to mindread. Relationships are healthy because of good communication.

How to manage expectations:

  • Recognizing the difference between expectations that are realistic and unrealistic is number one. When you find yourself placing impossible expectations on your partner or relationship, you rob yourself of the joy you could be experiencing.
  • Appreciate the good and stop looking for flaws.
  • Stop comparing your partner or relationship to other people, especially when it comes to what you see on social media.

Learn to Compromise

Compromise is key to a healthy relationship. It’s not about agreeing but finding a middle ground. Compromising is a way to respect your partner’s feelings, bringing you closer and enhancing mutual trust. Seeing things from your partner’s point of view can also increase your empathy and understanding of each other.

As relationship expert John Gottman has said from decades of research, “Compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something”.

When you shouldn’t compromise:

  • Your core values are being threatened
  • Your the only one compromising
  • Your boundaries are being violated

Maintain Intimacy

Intimacy, the feeling of closeness with your partner can fade for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s routine, stress from work, or the passing of time that’s to blame. Perhaps resentment is lingering and acting as a roadblock to intimacy. Whatever the reason, it is possible to build and increase intimacy at any point in your relationship.

Don’t forget that intimacy exists not just in sex. Did you know there are other, just as powerful types of intimacy? You can build emotional intimacy by sharing your emotions and being open with your feelings. You can increase experiential intimacy by sharing a new experience together. You can improve physical intimacy by focusing more on little touches like hand-holding and cuddles.

Ways to build and boost intimacy:

  • Try a new experience together Shake things up. Travel to a different place, plan a unique date night or experiment with an activity. Adding novelty to your relationship can help you relax and have fun
  • Have deeper, more meaningful conversations Think of questions you have never asked each other. The increase in emotional and intellectual intimacy that comes from deeper conversations will strengthen your bond.
  • Focus on each other When you have one-on-one time, make it count. Remove distractions like cell phones. Really listen to your partner and show them you’re present.
  • Prioritize affection Meaningful touch helps build physical and sexual intimacy. Being conscious of incorporating small gestures, such as holding or even touching hands shows a desire to be close to your partner. Writing them a sweet note is another way to display affection.

Make Repairs

A repair attempt is any statement or action — verbal or physical meant to diffuse negativity and keep a conflict from escalating out of control. It could be humor or a gentle touch.

In addition to making repairs, you’ll want to know how your partner wants to receive love and what they need to repair from conflict. Perhaps it’s a gift that speaks to them or they want you to remind them how much you love them. This knowledge is akin to having a secret weapon tailored just to them and their happiness, says John Gottman, Ph.D.

Learn To Forgive

While not always easy, forgiveness is powerful, and capable of transforming your relationship. Sometimes forgiveness is mistaken for weakness. However, forgiveness should be seen as a strength. Studies indicate that forgiving someone is one way of letting go so that you can heal and move on with your life. The opposite of forgiveness is resentment, which can be a silent killer in a relationship. Resentment leads to emotional and sexual distance. When resentment dominates you can feel critical and contemptuous of each other, warning signs that can end a relationship.

Plus, resentment never feels good. It’s a heavy burden that fills you with bitterness. So choosing to forgive is like a gift you can give yourself.

What forgiveness looks like:

  • If you were the one hurt by your partner, you need to first openly and honestly address that with your partner. Use “I statements” e.g., “I felt disrespected/betrayed/unloved when…”.
  • The partner who caused the hurt respectfully listens acknowledges and validates their feelings.
  • The partner who caused the hurt takes responsibility for their part in causing pain. They apologize with sincerity.
  • The hurt partner is direct in describing what they need to have closure and move on.
  • Both partners have a new framework to build from in the future.

Forgiveness may not come instantaneously, but by renewing your commitment to forgive you rid your relationship of harmful toxins while educating your partner on your boundaries.

When a Relationship Can’t Be Fixed

Should you walk away? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question. The following are signs that your relationship may be beyond repair.

  • You don’t want to invest in your relationship. If you don’t see your relationship as worthy of effort, it’s only going to get worse. Are you or your partner unwilling to try something new? Are you unwilling to compromise? Are you unwilling to try therapy? Not caring is a good sign it’s time to call it quits.
  • You’re not yourself around them Your partner should “feel like home”. Meaning you should feel most comfortable with this person. You should feel able to let your guard down and be your authentic self around them. You should not feel like you need to hide any part of yourself or conform in some way to please your partner.
  • You feel “bad” when you’re around your partner. Do you have more negative feelings than positive ones when you’re together? Your partner and your relationship should be a sense of joy, albeit not all the time. But if you’re feeling more bad than good, this could be a warning sign.
  • Your partner is abusing you. Abuse should be a deal breaker. Whether it’s physical, emotional, sexual, or financial, abuse of any type should not be tolerated.

Seek Professional Help

When you feel like your relationship is rocky it can cause a lot of stress. You may even start to lose hope. But your relationship is worth saving. It’s worth taking advantage of all the resources out there. Couples counseling can be an effective way to help you fix your relationship. Couples therapy can help with communication differences among other issues.

A couples counselor or an online course can assist both of you in getting a better understanding of your relationship. Individual counseling can help to give you space to reflect. You’ll be able to see with clearer eyes what is happening in your relationship so that you can know the clear path forward and experience the happiness you deserve.


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