Relationships are hard work. No matter how well-matched you are to your partner, there may be times you think you can’t continue. This thought occurs for most people at some point during their relationship, but it doesn’t mean it has to be the end. Are you scared for the future of your relationship but still want to make it work? Here are seven tips for repairing your relationship:
1. Communicate your feelings
The first tip might sound simple in theory, but we know it’s often hard to do. That said, learning how to communicate your feelings effectively is one of the most important things you can do to heal your relationship.
As humans, we experience a variety of emotions each day — that’s a good thing. But problems often arise when we struggle to communicate them, expecting those around us to know what’s going on in our inner world. If this is something you find challenging, the emotions wheel might help you pinpoint some words you can use to describe how you’re feeling. It can also be a useful prompt in discussions with your partner if you need to find out what’s going on for them.
As well as communicating your own feelings, it’s crucial you listen to your partner when they’re sharing their thoughts with you. Often, when disputes arise, we’re so eager to make sure the other person hears our points, we can forget to take theirs on board too. Although this isn’t something most of us do consciously, not listening effectively can seriously hinder the relationship repair process.
When you’ve finished making a point, pause and allow your partner to respond. Don’t interrupt them. When they’ve finished making their point, ask questions to clarify what you’ve heard. Not only does this allow you to check your understanding, but it also shows them you’ve taken on board what they said.
3. Own your mistakes
Realising we’ve made a mistake hurts. The human mind doesn’t naturally welcome discomfort, so it will use several defence mechanisms to protect you from experiencing it. These defence mechanisms (e.g., denial) make it hard for us to acknowledge when we’ve made a mistake. Although this isn’t something we do on purpose, it means arguments can continue for longer than necessary, escalating instead of subsiding.
Practise owning your mistakes. Reflect on what your partner’s telling you. And, if they’re making a valid point, accept you’ve made a mistake.
4. Find common ground
When you’re arguing with your partner, we know connection might be one of the very last things on your mind. But what if it’s exactly what you both need? In most cases, neither partner wants to argue. The faster you can get on the same page, the easier it becomes to de-escalate the argument and find a way forward. Some phrases you might find useful to help you find this common ground include:
“It seems like we agree that….”
“What you’re saying makes sense.”
“I know both of us want to resolve this problem.”
5. Learn how to apologise
Sorry seems to be the hardest word. It’s a cliche, but it’s true! Sometimes, we know we need to apologise, yet we struggle to find the words.
Do you ever feel you need to follow an apology with a long list of justifications (i.e., “I’m sorry but-“)? This isn’t an effective way to apologise, and it often inflames the situation even further. If you know you need to apologise, a simple “I’m sorry” is usually the best approach.
6. Take a break
If you find discussions keep escalating, without finding a resolution, take a break. Pause the conversation and do something else — either together or separately. Watch a movie, go for a walk or a run, take a nap. Important discussions take a lot of out of us, and it’s essential we take time to recharge and reflect on the exchange.
7. Give it time
Following our point above, repairing your relationship will take time. You’ll likely have many discussions, try various strategies, and maybe even decide to get some outside help. The important thing is that you give it that time and you don’t give up. As long as both people commit to making it work, it can.
You can repair your relationship
In summary, repairing a relationship that’s broken down isn’t an easy task. But it is possible. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of communication — but you will get there. Why not share this list with your partner, and start with an honest conversation about how you’re both feeling? You’ve got this.