How to save a relationship when it’s falling apart

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Relationships are complex.

They require commitment, trust, communication, compromise, and understanding. When these elements aren’t present, relationships tend to fall apart.

But even when things start going downhill between two people, they can still fix their problems to come back stronger than ever.

Here’s how to save a relationship when it’s falling apart…

How to save a relationship when it’s falling apart?

1) Show more appreciation

One of the first battles, when you’re trying to save your relationship, can be creating a mindset shift.

Particularly when things haven’t been going so well, we can get so bogged down in all the bad that is going on that we lose sight of the good.

But you and your partner need that hope, positivity, and belief in your relationship now more than ever.

A really powerful way to shift your focus onto the good things your relationship has got going for it is through appreciation.

Actively and consciously look for things to be grateful for and you may find you get an instant boost.

Research shows that gratitude strengthens our relationships and bonds by releasing oxytocin which is otherwise known as the cuddle hormone.

Resentment starts to build when we don’t feel appreciated by our other half. Make a list of everything you love and value in your partner and your relationship.

Say thank you and mean it. Show your partner that you really do appreciate them through both your words and actions.

Top tip: focus on showing them in their own love language so that it really gets through to them.

2) Figure out what’s really behind your problems

Sometimes in life, the problems we seem to experience are actually just the symptoms and not the cause.

For example, you may be bickering about seemingly silly things like unloading the dishwasher or taking the bins out. But clearly, that’s not the real cause of the tension, it’s just one of the ways it is manifesting.

It is more likely that other resentments aren’t being voiced and so are seeping out in other ways.

What are your and your partner’s biggest bugbears and struggles in the relationship? With every discovery you make, try to peel back the layers and find out what lies behind it.

What emotions are being triggered in you?

Let’s say you hate how much time your partner spends with their friends. Why? What lies beneath?

Maybe you realize it’s because you feel pretty neglected and ignored. Why? What lies beneath?

Maybe you discover that it triggers a fear of abandonment that traces back through previous relationships or even all the way to childhood.

My point is that the real root of our relationship problems can run so much deeper than we imagine. So start digging.

3) Hold yourself accountable

It’s time to consider your part in where things might be going wrong. What could you do better, and what actions will you take to improve the situation?

Now that could seem very unfair, after all your partner is in this relationship too. Why focus solely on your part in this and on holding yourself accountable?

The bottom line is that you can only ever control your own actions and no one else’s.

So this is the only real power you hold in making your relationship better — focusing your energy on the part that you play.

The good news is that we often prompt positive change in others far more by leading through example rather than guilt-tripping, criticizing, or cajoling someone.

When your partner sees you making an effort and holding yourself accountable, they will hopefully reciprocate and want to do the same for the sake of the relationship.

4) Encourage honest talks

We hear a lot about the importance of honesty, but there is no denying it can be really difficult.

It takes courage and a whole lot of respect to face our own discomfort and give voice to the things we find hardest to say.

Deep honesty requires vulnerability and exposing our soft spots to our partners. And it may involve learning to hear someone else’s truth which can be painful or tough.

Talk about your needs and wants. Ask each other what you can do for one another.

It’s tempting to get defensive and divert blame as a way to put up protective walls around us.

Rather than shy away from uncomfortable topics, just try to handle them as sensitively as you both can.

It can be helpful to use “I feel” sentences to express yourself without sounding like you are trying to dish out blame.

You might decide to set aside specific times each week for a couples meeting. You can use this defined time to check in with one another, raise issues, and work to resolve them.

Try to improve your communication overall as a couple (and individuals). That may mean learning to listen, compromise and respect differences of opinion.

You can come up with your own ground rules for how best to do this so that it works for both of you.

5) Check in with your relationship expectations

Sadly most of us grew up with a skewed vision of relationships. We were spoonfed tales of knights on white horses and happily ever afters.

Romcoms have us believe that our soulmate enters our lives in a flash to make all our dreams come true.

But real life simply cannot measure up and so it sets us up for failure.

We silently pile unrealistic pressure on a relationship through often unspoken and unfair expectations.

The unfortunate truth is that whilst relationships can be great, they are not a miracle savior.

We have to figure out and fix our own sh*t without expecting a partner to come along and make everything better.

This is the powerful message in the teachings of the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê.

In his eye-opening free video, he explains the key to creating joyful and fulfilling relationships. And that involves embracing the whole of the relationship — the good and the bad.

I really recommend you take a few minutes to watch his free short video.

I’m warning you now, it will require some honest reflection about the role of the relationship in your life and the expectations you put on your significant others.

But it’s so worth it. Because ultimately it all comes down to the relationship you create with yourself.

Here’s that link again.

6) Stop trying to be right

If you are arguing all the time, bickering with one another and tensions are running high, this one is especially for you.

It can really help to start questioning the role of ego in your relationship. Because our egos have a nasty habit of causing unnecessary conflict for us.

I have a really bad habit of wanting to be right. Here’s how my ego sees it:

Being right makes me feel better about myself. I get to prove that I am wise or superior. I feel more in control of a situation, or even another person.

But this desire to be right is oh so destructive.

Not only is it our ego’s way of masking deep-rooted insecurity, but it tends to create a widening gap between two people that they find increasingly difficult to bridge.

Both sides get defensive and dig in, rather than trying to understand and show compassion for one another.

Try to catch yourself and notice if or when you are arguing to win.

Instead, seek compromise, let some things slide, and aim to find peaceful solutions.

That doesn’t mean letting your boundaries erode or allowing your partner to walk all over you. Boundaries are vitally important.

But ask yourself, is it better to be happy or right?

7) Take some space

The more we feel like something is slipping through our fingers the tighter we often want to grasp onto it. The same applies to a relationship we feel is failing.

But being sure to take a healthy amount of space from one another can work wonders.

That doesn’t mean back off, disengage or go cold. It means finding some independence in your relationship.

Relationships, especially when they are struggling, can get really intense.

Giving yourself some time and space to process things separately or have fun doing your own thing can really strengthen the relationship.

When you no longer feel like someone is under your feet, they instantly become less triggering.

This isn’t about avoidance. It’s important to simultaneously be doing things with your partner that improves your bond and addresses the root cause of the problems you are facing.

But we need to strike a balance between independence and togetherness.

Psychotherapist and writer Esther Perel so beautifully highlights the vital need for autonomy within any relationship:

“When intimacy collapses into fusion, it is not a lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire. Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other. With too much distance, there can be no connection. But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals.”

8) Try to strengthen intimacy as a couple

The yang to the yin of finding enough separateness in a relationship is creating more togetherness too.

There are many ways to strengthen your intimacy and bond as a couple. It can be done emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Physical touch and sex play a significant role in bringing two people closer together. Countless studies have agreed that couples who touch each other more tend to be happier.

Some other ways to improve emotional intimacy can include:

  • Being vulnerable and opening up to your partner more
  • Offering your partner compliments and praise
  • Getting out of the rut of daily routines and doing something different together

Find new ways to bond by creating new positive memories, spending quality time together, and exploring new interests with one another.

If you feel stretched for time within a busy schedule, don’t worry. Focus on quality over quantity.

9) Get professional support

You may find that your efforts at saving your relationship aren’t having the impact you hoped. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone.

You can seek the guidance of a therapist or relationship coach who is trained in helping couples to better communicate and navigate their way through difficulties.

I know there can be some reluctance to speak to experts. It is a personal and often delicate topic, and it can be uncomfortable airing the details.

But the reality is that we can get so lost that we can’t see the way out. But a professional has a map.

They have walked this path with plenty of other people before and so can be your best guide out of the mess you may feel like your relationship is in.

You can seek support as a couple. But it can also be equally as powerful on your own.

10) Give it time before making any big decisions

Whatever you end up deciding about the future of your relationship, know that you don’t need to jump into any decisions.

Getting a relationship back on track can take time.

It’s important to manage expectations along the way rather than pile on the pressure to have it all figured out and resolved straight away.

As you resolve your problems, it’s important to be able to let go of the past and look to the future.

There may have been pain caused on both sides. And that is going to require some forgiveness.

That includes forgiving yourself for any mistakes you think you may have made, as well as your partner.

None of us are perfect and we often unwittingly end up hurting the people we care about most. It’s a part of being human.

But try not to rehash the past and dwell on mistakes made. Find forgiveness to release resentment.

If you want to move forward you need to learn how to let go and look to the future you want to create together.

To conclude: can a failing relationship be saved?

Failing relationships can absolutely be saved. It happens every single day. The key is to recognize what needs to change and work towards those changes together.

If you’re still not sure where to start, there are people out there who can support you. 

But if you’re ready to make a commitment to your relationship, then you can bring it back from the brink.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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