How to fix a relationship - a 5-point plan
Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 29-07-2015 | Modified: 10-02-2019
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Discover how to repair a broken or unhappy relationship
Even if your partner doesn't appear to be interested, there are many changes you can make when you want to know how to fix a relationship - even seemingly small ones!
I have a 5 point action plan for you to help you repair your relationship.
You may think at first glance that much of it won't apply to or work for you and your situation.
It may take a huge leap of faith for you to trust me that the steps in this article are going to work. But... please give it a go, really commit to it for one month and then evaluate your progress.
What other choices do you really have, beyond just continuing to hope that your partner will change, or constantly telling him or her that they should?!
This article has 10 tips to help you fix your relationship, but before we get to those I have an incredibly important question to ask - and it may surprise you...
Fixing a relationship by getting to know yourself
One of the hardest things to do is to get to know yourself.
So why even bother?
Because without truly knowing yourself it is incredibly hard to make lasting changes instead of those that just start with: "I'll try...".
What "I'll try..." really means is: it will be a huge effort, I'm not sure I can commit, but let's hope for the best.
Guess what? Trying just implies that you're unlikely to reach your desired goal. The difference between trying something and actually deciding to make it work is your approach and motivation.
So, what approach can you take to give yourself the best possible chance of making positive, lasting changes?
A real change that's started by...
A. first taking stock, then
B. making a decision, then
C. committing to the cause...
... is far more likely to stick, regardless of the circumstances, but particularly when you want to fix a broken relationship.
Think your relationship is on death row?
Are you crying yourself to sleep and do you wake up with a jump in the middle of the night worrying about your relationship problems?
Here's my first aid to help you make real changes and potentially fix your relationship.
I just read through your article and found it to be so informative, helpful, and shining so much light on how I really need to work on me in order to fix my relationship. I have gone through your steps yet but I'm putting into action to implement them as soon as I can.
1. How to fix an unhappy relationship by not being - what some might call - needy
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
World Health Organisation
When you feel short-changed, stabbed in the back, passed-over, rejected and in other ways hurt or discarded, you're going to be emotional. However hard that feels, it just means you're a normal human being.
To aid your recovery there are definitely things you can do that are helpful.
But, there are also actions that will get you into even deeper water and prevent you from fixing your relationship.
For example - the more emotional you are, the more needy you'll become or the more you'll shut yourself off. Either one of those can result in your partner being pushed further away. At the same time you're more likely to be short-tempered, less forgiving and less kind.
Can you see how you may be setting yourself up for further rejection and thereby making things even harder?
Research studies have shown that self-soothing is one of the best ways to calm yourself down, rationalise your emotions and so improve relationships. Therefore, if you can sort yourself out, you'll have more success in sorting out your relationship.
Here's how you can reverse the needy cycle...
You may be able to fix your relationship or marriage all by yourself!
Take action now to fix your RELATIONSHIP
Am I being hard on myself?
Do I blame myself?
Do I put myself down?
Do I give myself second and third chances?
It's likely that when you look beyond blaming your partner, you may be giving yourself a pretty hard time too.
Reflect on when you're most likely to give yourself a hard time.
Write down 1-3 action points on how and when you most need to be your own very best friend - that rare kind of person who is non-judgemental, kind, loving and forgiving.
Take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions without making value judgements - blaming and harshness only serve to make you more emotional. Learn to accept your own failings and inadequacies (if you really must use judgemental words). I think you'll also benefit from reading my articles on how to deal with criticism and how to deal with rejection.
Watch Psychologist Prof David Sbarra's talk from about 5:30 min onwards for more information about self-compassion. (Watch it all if you're interested in how to survive divorce.)
2. How to repair a failing relationship by taking responsibility
Your partner cannot meet all of your essential emotional needs. Nobody can.
We are all responsible for our own well-being and our part in the well-being of our relationships. Be dead honest with yourself when reflecting on your role in the ups and downs of your relationship..
One way of doing that is to imagine yourself in the shoes of people around you, i.e. the people who are involved with or affected by your relationship. Be totally faithful to the process and make sure you include people you don't like and those that don't like you.
Even indirectly you'll get some valuable information about you as a person and the way you relate to others and your partner.
There's one big BUT with this, though - what you discover is just feedback. It's not to be used to give yourself a hard time, but simply to discover how to move forward.
Take action now to save your relationship
Be brave and ask yourself: "What do people around me think of the way I act towards others in general, acquaintances, close friends, my family and my partner?"
By answering this question you'll get valuable information about the state of your couple relationship.
You may want to ask others some probing questions about yourself to help with the process.
3. Fixing a relationship by determining your role in the ups and downs
Before, during and beyond an event, a normal day, a situation, ask yourself: "What will be/is/was my role in this?"
Be critical without being judgemental, take responsibility for your role in any ups and downs and be generous in spirit and forgiving when your partner appears to have been less than helpful. Savour the rewards of your and others' efforts and learn from any mistakes without chastising yourself or your partner.
Take action now to mend your RELATIONSHIP
Reflect on the following...
What went really well?
What went okay?
Where did I screw up?
Did I want to blame my partner?
Is there anything I could apologise for?
What can I do next time to make it better?
Take responsibility for your role, without judgement, blame or shame
Write down 1 - 3 action points to update the way you relate.
Fix a relationship by accepting your partner just as he or she is - one of THE most difficult things in any relationship
4. How to change your partner
Maybe your partner can do better, just like you can, and we all can.
But... I also suspect that you've already tried to get him or her change their ways.
Were you successful?
Even if you scored some successes in the short-run, they're unlikely to be lasting in the long-term.
Have you already noticed that?
If they have changed their ways it was either because you've whined or manipulated them by giving them an ultimatum - directly or indirectly.
Or they chose to do something differently based on their own assessment and motivation to change. That motivation came from the inside out - perhaps they saw the sense of it or they did it purely out of love and wanting to give.
Ultimately the change brought about by their own actions and thoughts will be the change that has the best chance of sticking.
Take action now to repair your unhappy relationship
Ask yourself how your needs were met - or not - when you were young.
For example, were you rewarded for non-stop whining and tantrums?
Or did you need to discover on your own how to get even your most basic needs met, with no help or support?
Did you have to learn to look after yourself from a young age? Who was there for you, regardless of the circumstances?
Compare the methods you used to get your needs met when you were young with the approach you take now. It's important to pay attention to anything that may be negative and consider how this may affect your partner and how the two of you communicate.
You'll benefit from using my Loving Communication Kit for Couples to help you reflect on your own role, as well as focus your attention on positive aspects of your relationship. In addition, I'd like you to read my article: How to make someone love you again.
Write down 1 - 3 action points to update the way you relate, based on your re-evaluation..
5. Fix and protect what is left of your relationship
When you've been together for a while, you begin to think that you know each other inside out. However, we all keep learning about life and relationships every day. That implies that we change every single day. Every conversation, every thought, every action builds on previous experience.
When you've become too annoyed with each other to have a decent conversation, you've lost the capacity to be curious about each other. As your relationship deteriorates, your impression of your partner or spouse becomes increasingly jaded, focused only on the negatives and based on old information mixed with much displeasure.
Therefore it might take an effort to remind yourself of all his or her positive characteristics.
Create space in your diaries to talk - set a specific date and time.
Talk about your plans (not problems) for the following week. What to do about the garden, the house/apartment, the children, etc. Refrain from blaming or shaming - simply accept the status quo for now.
Then spend time talking about your relationship, but do it by focusing on how you feel, what you're doing and...
... mention three times when you've noticed your partner doing something for you. Yes, you may think that's difficult, but my Loving Communication Kit for Couples makes it easy to have a meaningful and even fun conversation!
Set a date for the next week and repeat.
Now my 10 tips for repairing your relationship...
10 Point plan to fix a relationship
- Take time out - stop talking before you start to yell when you're having a row and you're becoming over-emotional with frustration, anger, hurt or sadness. You'll only be digging yourself a bigger hole, having to not only deal with whatever you were arguing about but also with the fall-out of being in a very emotional state. For more information on this, read my article: When couples argue constantly.
- List your partner's good points, pin it on a wall, read it attentively at the start of the day, when you're annoyed with him or her and before you go to sleep. Be sure to share it with your partner and pay particular attention to them. This is one of the best ways to fix a relationship.
- Don't go on blaming your partner or yourself. As the saying goes, there's no point crying over spilt milk. Focusing on recriminations is a waste of time and energy, both of which are much better directed towards problem solving during or after a problematic event or crisis.
- Share your troubles, hopes and dreams (see below).
- Don't do things to your partner you wouldn't want done to yourself.
- Apologise with sincerity when you've been in the wrong.
- Be kind, considerate and attentive every day - without being a doormat.
- Be in the moment, enjoying even the mundane, being grateful for what you have and understanding how special it is.
- Keep doing new things and enjoying new experiences together.
- Show that you love, understand and believe in your partner without expecting anything back (if indeed you do!). Do it because you want to do the right thing. Look out for when your partner does that for you, and make sure to comment on it positively.
How to fix your relationship problems
I have a ton of information to help you repair a broken relationship. Here's a list of the most common relationship problems...
Click on the links to find in-depth articles with common sense advice, expert help and healthy relationship tips
- Affairs/infidelity/cheating (see: How to survive infidelity and Signs your partner is cheating). This includes emotional infidelity, one-night stands, internet relationships (including sexting), long- and short-term affairs and financial infidelity (see Your partner is lying about money).
- Sexual problems, particularly loss of libido (male and female) and uncertainty about your sexuality or your partner's sexuality - could he or she be bisexual?
- Significant differences in core values and beliefs (see: Relationship compatibility questions)
- Life stages - you've outgrown each other or have changed significantly for whatever reason
- Traumatic and/or life-changing events (see also: Brain injury symptoms)
- Responses to prolonged periods of stress, such as work-related stress, long-term illness, mental health issues, money issues in your relationship, problems with the children, infertility... the list could go on!
- Feeling bored in or with your relationship.
- Dealing - and coping - with a jealous partner.
- Having blended family issues (see: My partner's children don't want to know me).
- Domestic violence, which includes verbal as well as physical abuse: THE most serious relationship problem (see: Signs of an abusive relationship and Signs of emotional abuse) See also: "My husband doesn't find me attractive anymore".
- Knowing you shouldn't have got married in the first place! (See my relationship or marriage compatibility test).
- Lack of responsibility from one partner regarding finances, children, health and many other issues (see: Children in the middle).
- Unrealistic expectations - still thinking your partner/spouse is the princess or the knight, and not seeing the real human being.
- Addictions - substance abuse, gambling, sex... anything that's become an unhealthy preoccupation (see: Alcoholism stages and Living with an alcoholic).
- Excessive reliance on social media, to the detriment of the relationship (see: Facebook problems).
- Lack of support during particularly difficult times from your partner and people that matter to you.
- Manipulation of, or over-involvement in, your relationships with family and/or friends (see: Getting the Best Relationship Advice).
- Lack of communication about important matters (see: The Complete Guide to (Re)Building a Happy Relationship).
- Poor division of (or one-sided lack of responsibility for) chores and tasks. It's not only women who complain about this relationship problem! (See: Relationship Communication).
- Perceived lack of concern, care and consideration/attentiveness... feeling like the relationship is one-sided is a big one! (see: How to deal with a Narcissistic Partner or How to 'Make' Your Partner Fall in Love with You Again).
- Significant personal disappointments and traumas that lead to a change in relationship dynamics (see: Your Partner in Prison)
- Long-term depression or other mental health issues suffered by one partner - or both (see: Treating depression without medication)
- Significant differences in opinion on how to discipline or deal with the children (see: How divorce affects children and Children in the middle)
- Long-term stress, particularly when not taking responsibility for doing something positive to address the cause, or learning how to deal with it if it can't be changed (see: Stress and your relationship and How to help someone with a nervous breakdown).
- An unsupportive partner during pregnancy and/or significant problems after the birth of your baby, or lack of support with child-rearing (see: how to deal with a birth trauma).
I know that the things I have asked you to do aren't necessarily easy. Again, they require you to make a decision that, to fix your relationship, you'll do whatever it takes - including taking responsibility, without blame.
With commitment to yourself and to the process, you stand the best possible chance of making some real changes.
If, unfortunately, your relationship ultimately falters, you'll be able to break up with your sense of self intact and your self-knowledge increased. But, just in case, see my article on how to win your ex back as a last resort.
You may have lost your relationship and your partner, but not yourself. You'll recover quicker, feel more empowered and be able to move on with your life, regardless of how devastating the ending might be and feel at first.
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World Health Organization - Mental health
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