They're pretty much the things soap operas and late night dramas are made of. I'm talking about desperate attempts to save your relationship that will not work. Sure, they sometimes work on TV, but like the plots of those shows, the bliss is usually only temporary and followed by an even bigger explosion of drama and heart break.
There are lots of ways to save a troubled relationship. Therapy. Working on trust issues. Bettering your communication skills. Keeping your promises. Being more reliable. These are all positive steps toward being a better you and a better couple. But there are plenty of ways (and unfortunately they're pretty common ways) to save a relationship that can only make things worse in the long run.
As a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator who worked with couples in failing relationships, I saw some pretty crazy attempts to save things. Gifts involving reptiles. Murals painted on bridges. Million dollar weddings. Threesomes. Even a promise of unlimited Taco Bell forever (which would have probably worked on me, TBH). But I can tell you that the only things that worked were the ones that involved identifying problems and finding real solutions to them. Everything else was just buying more time. And making things worse in the process. If you have tried these, or are having them tried on you, don't fall for it. They're Band-Aids, not cures. There are not enough tacos in the world that are worth your long-term happiness. I know that sounds like nonsense, but it's true.
1. Changing Your Body
There are dos and don'ts to changing your body when you're in a relationship. If you want to change your body because you feel like it will give you more confidence, which will in turn make you and your partner happier, then by all means, do it. But if you are only trying to change your body because you think it will make your partner want you, you're selling yourself short. You shouldn't be with anyone who doesn't worship you, just as you are. A partner who is only in it for your body is not a partner worth having and a partner who would make you change your body is probably not a great match for you.
2. Getting Engaged Or Married
Getting engaged and/married is fun, romantic, and exciting. It brings people closer and often takes a couple's happiness to the next level. It can feel this way for people in both healthy an unhealthy relationships. The difference is, if you have serious relationship problems before you get engaged, then once that happy euphoria lifts, your new ring will feel like the heaviest object on the face of the planet. Your problems will take on a whole new level, and even though you know divorce is legal, you'll feel like your problems are now permanent and inescapable. And then it will cost you a lot of money to break up.
3. Having A Baby
It pains me to write this because I wish it wasn't such a common device used to try to keep two people together, but you can't have a baby to save your relationship. A baby seems like something permanent that will keep you and your partner together for life, but think of how many single parents you know. And if your relationship isn't surviving now, it's not going to get easier when you throw in sleepless nights, lack of sex, financial strain, constant crying, dirty diapers, and a whole new set of responsibilities to navigate. Plus, when you finally do break up, you'll never be free of that person. Because you share a child. A child cannot keep two people together and a child should not have to suffer unhappy parents. Never get pregnant (or get someone pregnant, or adopt a child) on purpose to save a failing relationship.
4. Getting A Pet
If the thought of having a baby fills you with a terror bigger than your student loan balance, you're not immune from using that trap to try to save your relationship. Your baby might just have four legs and a lot of hair. Pets are cute. They bring out those love-y feelings, that desire to nurture, and the spirit of teamwork. They also offer a distraction from your relationship problems. But before you know it, your problems will re-emerge, except now you'll have pet custody to worry about, too.
5. Opening Things Up
Unless not wanting monogamy is the problem you're trying to solve, entering an open relationship will not fix your problems. Especially if those problems are related to cheating. I know this from experience, both personal and professional. If you go into an open relationship with problems, those problems will still be there, plus new problems like jealousy, time management (believe me), betrayal and heart ache. Plus, once you open your relationship, it's a line you cannot uncross. If even if you go back to monogamy, things will likely never be just like they were before. An open relationship is something you both have to want and enter into when you're in a healthy place.
6. Making More Money
You really can't buy love. A lot of people (and I mean a lot) that I worked with stayed with crappy partners who did unspeakable harm to them because those crappy partners had money. Provided cars. Fed their children. In almost every case, it turned out that the stuff was too high a price to pay for unhappiness. The same holds true even if you have a partner who doesn't abuse you. And if you're the one who thinks making more money will keep you and your partner together, you have to realize that even if it works, it will only be temporary. Money can't fix issues with trust, love, compatibility, and sex.
You can't tell lies to get someone to stay with you. Lies like having a job, being pregnant, not talking to your ex, or not cheating, will only delay your breakup, and make it more hurtful and messy when it finally does happens. Plus, relationships are supposed to be built on trust. You can't have a healthy relationship based on trust if your relationship is held together by lies. Even if you lie because you think you can make your lie true (like saying you have a job, then planning on getting one) you still run the risk of being caught. Not to mention the fact that, you know, a lot of people think lying is wrong.
8. Making Them Jealous
Trying to make your partner jealous in order to get them to want you the way they used to is like throwing gasoline on a house fire. Or, more accurately, throwing dysfunction on a pile of dysfunction. It's common advice thrown around on TV and in movies, and it's terrible advice. Not only are you not solving any of the problems that lead to your relationship woes, but now you're throwing even more complex emotions, including those of a third party, into the mix. Sure, you might get your partner to realize that they don't want to lose you, but then what? Anger and resentment from seeing you with someone else will have to get addressed and then all the problems from before.
Nothing says love like two people threatening each other. #Sarcasm. Ultimatums, for the uninitiated, go something like, "If you leave me, my name is on the lease and you'll be homeless." Or "if you leave, I'll tell you mother that you wrecked her car." Sometimes they're more violent, "If you leave, I'll kill you." Sometimes they're disguised as care and concern, "If you leave, who will make sure you take your medicine?" Relationships held together by ultimatums aren't real, healthy relationships.
If someone stays with you because you buy them things, it's not love. It's bribery. More accurately, it's a form of manipulation. If things are going poorly in your relationship, a gift that shows you love your partner and want to make it work can be a nice, romantic gesture. If it's sincere. A series of expensive gifts, or things like paying rent and bills can make a partner feel like they need to stay out of guilt or obligation, and that's not a resolution to your problems. It's a whole new set of problems.
11. Outside Influences
If you're desperate to save your relationship and nothing you say works, you might think to yourself "I'll have their mom or their friends talk to them." That's not just a bad idea. It's an insulting one. Not only is it insulting for your partner to have someone they care about second guess their decisions, but it's insulting to you to be with someone who had to be talked into it by other people.
Unless they're real solutions, they're just going to complicate your life. And life is already hard enough, am I right?
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