You've heard about things you should never tolerate in a relationship, and the kinds of people you should never date again. But what about when breaking up isn't the best option? What do you do when you are in love, but the relationship has hit a rough patch? Really, how can you rebuild a relationship?There is no such thing as a relationship that never hits a rough patch — whether it's a suddenly waning sex life, boredom, infidelity, or the buildup of little problems over time. Rough patches suck, but they are also signs of a mature, complex relationship. In fact, never hitting rough patches may be a sign that you are simply going through the motions of a relationship and never delving into the serious foundations of a partnership. People often say that the moment they stop fighting with their partner is the moment they realize that they don't care about the relationship anymore. Partnerships require constant work, and you shouldn't be afraid of that work. I spoke with Lori Bizzoco, executive editor and founder of CupidsPulse.com, a relationship advice website, to learn what partners can do to survive a rough patch and nurture their relationship back to health. According to Bizzoco, the most common causes of rough patches are a lack of communication, a lack of affection, and spitefulness. Bizzoco explains, "If there is no communication, there is really no relationship," so you and your partner have to figure out why you have stopped sharing with one another. Bizzoco also points out that a lack of affection signifies emotionally removing oneself from a relationship, so you have to take active steps to praise each other on a regular basis. Bizzuco suggests nightly talks in which each partner describes one thing they love about the other. When it comes to spitefulness, finding delight in your partner's failure is a huge sign of an unhealthy relationship. It is imperative for your relationship's survival to pinpoint what happened to trigger such resentment within you in order to repair what has been broken.It's important to discern whether something is a rough patch, or whether it is a sign that the relationship should end. Bizzoco advises that you ask yourself four questions:Is this relationship worth saving? Do you truly believe your partner will change and stick to the changes that need to be made? If your partner does make these changes, will it really help the relationship overall? Do you believe you deserve better?Hopefully, your answers to these questions will lead you to realize that your love is worth your hard work. Here are 10 things you can then do to rebuild and strengthen your relationship:
1. Create Space After An Argument
Bizzoco stresses that arguing is a normal and healthy part of any relationship, but a lot depends on how you handle the aftermath of a disagreement. "What most couples tend to do wrong is try to work it out while things are still heated. It's OK to fight, so don't feel like you have to fix it right away," says Bizzoco. The fact is that immediately following an argument, neither you nor your partner will want to understand each others points of view — you'll be more concerned about proving your own side of things. Bizzoco urges that you both leave the situation and give each other space to calm down. She explains that this will help you "to think about the argument by yourself and realize where you may have been wrong or misunderstood." That way, when you two reconvene, you'll be able to logically dissect and solve the issue in a beneficial way.
2. Remember That Arguing Can Be Healthy
And remember, because arguing is actually a healthy, normal part of any relationship, there are specific steps that you can take in order to fight productively and better facilitate rebuilding the relationship following the quarrel. Bizzoco breaks down healthy arguments into three steps: 1. Embrace conflict, 2. Attack the issue, not each other, and 3. Find things you agree on. She elaborates:
"Do not feat getting into arguments; it's going to happen. Embrace it. Having conflict is healthy and it allows you to learn from one other and grow to be better people together... Often times couples get very defensive when they are arguing and that's when they start attacking each other, rather than discussing the issue at hand. If you want to argue in a healthy way, do not start name calling or going after the other person’s character...There are always points of agreement within an argument, find them and focus on those points. It's more important to search for a common solution vs. trying to prove you are right."
Relationships are work, and you have to actively work for them to survive, even when your partner is on your last nerve.When you utilize these methods of argumentation, you are much more likely to actually reach compromises and understand one another. You can move forward to fix the problem instead of holding a grudge.
3. Sometimes "Breaks" Really Work
Often, when a friend tells us that she and her partner are "going on a break," we assume that really means we'll be hearing about their breakup in a few weeks. But slow your roll — breaks that incorporate intentional rules and active reflection can sometimes save a relationship. It gives each partner the time and space to ruminate on their actual desires for the partnership, but Bizzoco stresses that "you should set some ground rules and make sure that they are clear and understood." Otherwise, more problems are bound to develop (i.e. Is it OK to see other people during the break? Are we allowed to contact each other? etc.) As Bizzoco explains, a break works extremely well when you and your partner have "gone to therapy, talked it out, and apologized," yet resentment still remains. She says, "...taking that step of losing each other (in a sense) to finally realize what you have or don't have" may be the very thing to refresh your relationship and shock you both back into love.
4. Vacations Are Helpful As Long As You Bring Those Improvements Back Home With You
A change of scenery and a break from daily routines can sometimes be just what you and your partner need to reignite passion and romance. If you have both become hostile toward each other, a vacation may help you to realize that your disagreements are simply results of the work grind stressing you out. Bizzoco emphasizes that "it's also important to take those positive steps you took while on vacation with you when you come home. Otherwise, you'll just be back at square one." If you've discovered that career frustrations were the roots of your arguments, then you have to actually keep that in mind during any future disagreements. Plus, not taking enough time off with your partner can actually be detrimental to your relationship.
5. Sign Up For Classes Together
Date nights can really help a couple make it through a rough patch, but not just your typical dinner-and-a-movie-type date nights. Signing up for classes together means that you will regularly practice collaboration and teamwork (while having fun), which will then seep into the more intimate parts of your relationship. Bizzoco suggests that instead of going out to a restaurant together, you sign up for a cooking class. Instead of going to a night club, sign up for a ballroom dancing course.
6. Write Letters To Each Other
Creating new habits is also an excellent way to introduce new feelings into a relationship that has become too routine. Bizzoco implores couples in a rough patch to write short love letters to each other every morning or night. When writing your love notes, focus on the traits in your partner that you adore. This has therapeutic qualities because "sometimes writing things down is easier than verbally saying it, and it will make each of you comfortable and confident in your relationship." Opening up communication and celebrating your love can work wonders.
7. Flirt With Each Other
This tip is especially for couples who have lost some of their sexual chemistry. Remember the butterflies and playfulness at the beginning of your relationship? Bizzoco reminds us that "we often stop flirting with each other once we're in a relationship," so flirtation is one of the best ways to reawaken feelings of arousal and desire. For example, she suggests taking steps like texting each other flirty messages throughout the work day. The goal is to act like you still have to "[try] to win each other over" as you once did on your earliest dates. It will help you remember how you fell in love in the first place.
8. Break Your Routines
Another tip especially helpful for couples whose sex lives have grown stale is to break the boredom of daily routines. We already touched on this when discussing vacations and writing love letters, and Bizzoco says, "Simply doing fun things together will bring love back into the relationship, and with that sex will naturally follow." Other new activities to try and "introduce freshness into the relationship" could be hiking, going to the movies, reading together - really just anything that you don't typically do as a couple. Bizzoco references studies that explain why novelty is so successful at improving relationships.
9. Infidelity Doesn't Necessarily Have To Mean The End Of A Relationship
It up to each individual person to decide whether or not cheating is a dealbreaker. It is especially important to be wary of serial cheaters who continually break their promises to change. But sometimes, unfaithfulness is a devastating obstacle that can be overcome. Bizzoco has some important pieces of advice for surviving infidelity (whether you were the cheater or the cheated), should you and your partner choose to work through it. For one, you have to take responsibility for your actions, whatever your role in the infidelity. Bizzoco explains, "When someone is unfaithful in a relationship, it is usually because there were problems in the relationship long before. Often times the cheating partner says that they were feeling neglected, unloved or abandoned. Cheating is NEVER the answer in a marriage and it is not something that should be condoned. However, to successfully move past infidelity, you must be able to take responsibility for where you both may have failed the relationship"If you were the partner who cheated, you have to feel and show deep empathy and patience if you are to ever be forgiven and earn back trust. As Bizzoco states, "You can’t expect your partner to move on from this quickly or easily, so showing empathy and understanding can go a long way. It will show your partner that you are truly sorry and that you will be there for as long as it takes to move past this."
Furthermore, earning back that trust requires brutal honesty. You can't hide anything; communication is your only hope. "Answer every question your partner has and answer truthfully, there is no more room for lies. Listen to how your partner feels and express how you feel. Continuously communicating with them is a must," says Bizzoco.
10. And Remember To Take Care Of Yourself
Rough patches are draining as hell. It is impossible to be there for your relationship during such a hard time if you aren't there for yourself. Bizzoco urges you to take nights off for self-care — whether that's going out for dancing and drinks with your friends, pampering yourself at a spa, or just taking it easy with TV and wine. Bizzoco reminds you that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself: "Just make sure you are doing the best you can to work on bettering yourself and your relationship everyday, but don't obsess over making it perfect. Nobody is perfect."
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