How can you save a relationship, when you fear that your partner doesn't love you anymore, I'm asked all too often.
You too are no doubt looking for the best relationship advice you can find. I understand, then, if you're a bit miffed at the prospect of spending time on improving yourself!
Why would I give such advice, when you don't necessarily consider yourself to be 'the problem'? (Know that - as a therapist - I don't see anybody as a 'problem'. We can all be trapped in behaviours that are less than helpful in any situation, let alone a relationship.)
You can bend over backwards to try and be the person you think your partner wants you to be. But then what, if he or she rejects you after all? You’ll have done all you can to get them to love you, but you’ll have lost yourself in the process.
Or, you can take your partner and your relationship for granted, and forget to devote the necessary time and energy to creating a healthy, happy and fulfilling partnership for the two of you.
It’s important for you to blossom as 'lovable' person in your own right - someone you yourself feel proud of. Then, at night as you lay your head on the pillow, you’ll feel happy and contented with who you are and what you've achieved that day.
Alongside reading my advice here on this site, it can also be useful to ask the people closest to you for their opinions too. Ask them to be honest with you - even if they're not that skillful when it comes to handling delicate situations. They’ll know things about you that you don't know yourself. Be prepared to carefully consider what they're telling you, without becoming unnecessarily defensive (see part 2). But! Make sure you choose carefully who you ask. You know who has your best interests at heart - so don’t ask anyone that you know will be deliberately unkind or critical to you, to suit their own ends.
As we’ve mentioned before, you can’t control your partner, or ‘make’ him or her fall in love with you again (or do anything else, for that matter!). Neither can you save a relationship by blaming and shaming - either your partner or yourself.
So, the best thing you can do is be sure to be the very best version of yourself - whatever that means for you. When you’re feeling confident, strong and secure, you’ll be much more likely to be able to handle whatever comes your way. If it ends up that your partner has fallen out of love with you, you’ll be in a pretty good position to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and be ready for a new relationship, whenever it might come along.
Or, if you spend a little time on improving yourself, perhaps the fog will lift and your partner will remember all the reasons that he or she fell in love with you in the first place.
So, instead of telling you what your partner might be thinking or doing (which, let’s face it, is impossible… there are a million variables there!), I want to help you with your own journey
As I'm writing this, I’m imagining that you're sitting across the table from me. I'm willing you to get the most from this article and to succeed in reigniting - or finding new - love (a relationship can't always be saved).
No relationship self-help books needed here. First scan the following points, then choose the one that most speaks to you and follow the advice...
This is a hard one, because ideally your partner should love you unconditionally, shouldn’t they? If they've accused you of letting yourself go, then I can understand you'd balk at the notion that you're unlovable because of your appearance. And maybe you have let yourself go a little because 'life' happened and there are more important demands on your time - work, the kids, chores, money problems, etc. Or maybe you're stressed to the eyeballs, and potentially suffering from depression, anxiety or an addiction. All of that could lead to you not being the slightest bit interested in what you look like! (We'll cover the mental health problems later.)
So, let's not look at the superficial stuff (clothes, hair, personal hygiene etc.) Instead, let’s consider a more helpful angle.
As human beings, we're much more attracted to people who appear to be vibrant and positive, regardless of their circumstances. Cast your mind over your friends, colleagues and family. Who do you look forward to seeing and spending time with? Who do you try to avoid - and why?
So, yes, you may have put on weight and grown older; your time and energy may have been taken up with life's dramas (I’ve certainly had times like that). The question is, though - has that stood in the way of you remaining positive and solution-focused? Or are you still forward-looking and vibrant (save for the time you needed to adjust to a new and perhaps even dire situation)?
Of course, I wouldn't want you to paint on a smile and pretend all is well all the time. That’s not helpful either! So I hope that, regardless of your appearance, you have people around you who accept and love you unconditionally for who you are.
However hard your life might be, be sure to take good care of yourself - most importantly for your own sake.
You may not even have realised how much your conversations are peppered with negativity. Perhaps, without consciously realising it, you've increasingly succumbed to nagging, constantly carping on about what your partner should and shouldn't be doing, and just generally being crabby. This can play a big role in online relationships too. If this is a habit of yours, I know - as an experienced couple counsellor - that you're likely to have complained about the same things over and over again. And I doubt that it's had any positive or lasting effect.
I really do understand how easy it is to fall into that trap. However, if constantly harping on isn't working, why continue in the same vein? It's time for a fresh approach.
I can guarantee your negativity won't make your other half into a better partner or spouse. And it certainly doesn't make you more lovable. Here’s the best relationship advice to fix that nagging problem:
It's all too easy to switch off from whatever your partner’s talking about if you've no interest in the subject and you've heard it all before, or you're stressed with too many other things taking up your time and attention. However, as you’ve landed on these pages, I’m assuming that you're worried about an impending break-up. So, I hope I can help you prevent it with some expert relationship advice...
It's possible that your partner's interests don't appeal to you. However, it's essential for the survival of your relationship that you take an interest in your partner's experiences, thoughts and feelings. By doing this, you truly get to know and understand them.
Remember those early conversations when you first met? You've both changed since then. Every experience, every conversation, every article or book you read, every person you meet… all of these things cause a change - however small - in how you both look at the world.
If you grab all the attention - for whatever reason - you leave no space for your partner. He or she also needs to be able to express their feelings, wishes, needs, dreams and experiences. They too need to have the time and the freedom to develop themselves. He or she isn't just there for your happiness.
First of all - suffering from a mental health condition does NOT mean you're not lovable or not worth being loved! You are as individual, important and valuable as any star in the sky - whatever problems you might be dealing with.
But, if you're suffering from depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or any other mental health challenge, your relationship can suffer too. Much of your attention will be focused on yourself, your daily survival and your recovery, with possibly very little left to share. And that’s assuming that you truly love your partner and are desperate for the relationship to survive.
With regards to your partner - there are 3 possible scenarios (I'll expand on these further down)...
For whatever reason, your partner may have thought that your problems weren’t too serious. They may have expected - rightly or wrongly - that you'd overcome whatever was troubling you. They may have thought your troubles wouldn't have a significant impact on the relationship. Perhaps they accepted that it would take time, and your problems were simply part of loving you for better or worse. In any case, they're likely to have had little real understanding of what your particular mental health challenges entailed.
Of course (mental) health problems affect a relationship! And often in ways that can’t be adequately anticipated, particularly when you haven't been together very long. And certainly not by two people whose brains are high on love hormones!
However, you're now worried that you're about to lose your partner (unless you found yourself on this page for other reasons). It's therefore time to act, if you haven't already done all you can to deal with your particular problems. Not only to save your relationship, but most of all for your own well-being.
You’ll find help for a whole host of problems right here on my site, so take some time to explore. Or, you can contact BetterHelp and talk to a qualified counsellor right away. Whatever you do, spending some time on working out how to heal and/or manage your own mental health problems will help to improve all of your current relationships, and those in the future too.
If you haven't yet been able to lift that low self-esteem, now is the time to do something about it. I have all the help you need - several articles (see further down) and 7 days free counselling (during which you can contact your counsellor as often as you need).
This is your chance to shine. It's not so much about struggling with mental health problems, but more how you deal with them. It's your attitude towards the situation that's important. Are you being a victim, or a fighter determined to overcome any obstacles?
Of course you'd want someone to unconditionally accept you for who you are… but managing your own problems is something that only you can take full responsibility for. If you just sit back and lose yourself in a world of misery and unhappiness, it’s can get harder and harder for your partner to find the person they loved.
The future of your relationship depends in equal measure upon you and your partner. Talk to your partner; really listen, and find out what’s going on for them.
Take the time to think about your own role in the relationship, and address any of the issues above that stood out for you. If the distance between you and your partner continues to grow, perhaps it’s time to face up to the possibility that the relationship really is over. There’s tonnes of advice right here on my site for dealing with a breakup - it doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world!
Or, perhaps you’ll both get your relationship back on track again, and this will just be another one of those bumps in the road that you’ve managed to overcome together.
Either way, you - and your partner - deserve a fulfilling, healthy relationship, and to feel happy within your own skin.
Whatever the future holds for you, I hope the advice in this series of articles helps you to become more secure in yourself, and to believe that you are worthy of unconditional love.