How To Save Your Relationship From Failing, According To Couples Therapists
What do you do to save your relationship when it feels like it's falling apart? When you're fighting all the time and you feel disconnected from your partner, it can seem like all hope is lost. What used to be a relationship that was warm and loving might have gone cold and distant. But just because you're going through a really tough time, that doesn't mean your relationship is inevitably doomed to fail. According to couples therapists, there are things you can do to save your relationship from completely failing.
"You'll know your relationship is doomed to fail when there's a sense of uncertainty," psychotherapist, Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS, tells Bustle. Maintaining a good, healthy relationship takes a lot of work already. But if you're having problems, it's going to require twice the effort from both partners in order to succeed. If both people aren't equally invested in putting in that work, your relationship may not work out.
But if you and your partner want to make things work, there's still a lot of hope for your relationship. According to Mendez, the number one things you need to do in order to save your relationship from failure is to communicate. "Talk with your partner about what you think the problem is and things that you think would help," she says. "Ask them what they think, as well. Get their ideas for solving the problems that you are experiencing." It's all about teamwork.
It's no surprise that communication is essential. But here are other couples therapists on their number one hack for saving your relationship from failure.
1. Find A Way To See Each Other Through Fresh Eyes
You know a relationship is in trouble when contempt shows up in the couple’s communication, marriage and family therapist, Jenn Kennedy, tells Bustle. That's when you make little digs or passive aggresive comments to each other. You may not personally see it as a huge deal or you may even write it off as "just a joke," but you never know how hurtful those comments can be to your partner. "I find the best way to 'save' a high conflict couple is to break the cycle," Kennedy says. "Find ways to help you see each other with fresh eyes." That could include sleeping in separate rooms for some time, doing your own thing several nights a week, or as weird as it sounds, you can even just stare at each other for a minute straight. "It’s hard to 'hate' someone that is right in front of you looking into your eyes," she says. "During this intense 60 second exchange, remind yourself that this person has hopes, dreams, joy and also loves you very much. It helps humanize the partner they have demonized. Once the ice melts, couples soften toward each other and are more open to listening and considering the other’s needs."
2. Practice "Practical Honesty"
Let's start with "impractical honesty," because as licensed marriage and family therapist, Ross Grossman, MA, tells Bustle, it's a thing. "Impractical honesty is being honest about matters that will further sink the relationship," Grossman says. For instance, couples who are going through hard times will try to come clean about all their past mistakes in order to start fresh. But someone may take it to unnecessary lengths by confessing that they hooked up with someone else a long time ago when the couple just started dating. "For some couples, total honesty is not necessarily a solution," he says. Instead, it can cause even more problems if it isn't followed up. That's why he says practical honesty is important. "Practical honesty involves taking the hit and telling your partner where you went wrong in your behavior," Grossman says. "Simply acknowledging that you know what you've done that has been damaging to the relationship can go a long way towards forgiveness from a partner."
3. Talk To Each Other For At Least 20 Minutes A Day Without Any Distractions
"My top tip for this would be to put down the technology and connect," relationship therapist, Patrick Schultz M.A., tells Bustle. He suggests spending 20 minutes out of your day to turn the TV off, put the phone and laptop away, and connect with your partner. "You and your partner can talk to each other about your day, but be sure to look at each other and hold hands," he says. "This will begin to help you find that spark and connection again." It's also important to remember that it won't be easy. Maybe you might find that you've run out of things to say to each other. Maybe it will be awkward at first. But that's OK. "It takes a lot of hard work to get your relationship on solid ground," Schultz says. "It takes work to communicate, connect, and commit." As long as you're trying, that's what's important.
4. Validate Your Partner's Perspective
"The number one thing for saving a relationship is opening up communication by validating and taking the time to understand the other person's perspective," individual and family therapist, Samantha Yerks, MSW, tells Bustle. Accoridng to her, most people tend to get frustrated, angry, and resentful right before a relationship ends. "They end up becoming mean and vindictive in an effort to 'make' the other person take on their perspective," Yerks says. But that never really works out. "I frequently say that 90 percent of communication problems in relationships have to do with literal miscommunication through vocabulary," Yerks says. "The more we expand our vocabulary, the more we are able to articulate our thoughts and feelings in a manner that someone else can understand." So try to find the right words that truly articulate what you want to say, and be sure to take the time to really understand where your partner is coming from.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Do Your Own Thing Every Now And Then
Couples often break up because they become too "enmeshed," couples therapist, Marc Zola, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Becoming overly enmeshed with your partner can result in the couple choosing guaranteed emotional security (which is a good thing of course) at the expense of romance and spontaneity," he says. "Ideally, you want to keep the relationship balanced somewhere between those two extremes." If things are too sponataneous, there's no stability. If things are too routine, it can get boring. So according to Zola, the best way to find that middle ground is to spend time focusing on yourself. "Relationships can become stale when each partner sees the other as predictable and solely as 'part of a couple' rather than an ... individual," he says. So don't be afraid to do things that don't involve your partner if you want to keep your relationship from getting stale.
6. Own Up To Your Mistakes
If you want to save a relationship that's failing, both partners need to be willing to own up to their mistakes. "I tell every couple I work with that they each carry 50 percent of the responsibility for their relationship, both the good and the bad," licensed marriage and family therapist, Bianca L. Rodriguez, M.A., tells Bustle. "Being able to take a real honest look at how your behavior has contributed to your issues, owning them and being willing to change are essential." It's going to take some work, and may make you super uncomfortable. But if you want you relationship to overcome any major issues, you need to own up to where you went wrong and then let it go. "Forgiveness is key," she says. "You need to forgive yourself and your partner. Holding grudges or withholding likely contributed to the problems so being able to let them go and have empathy for yourselves creates a space for healing and reconnecting."
7. Don't Be Afraid To Seek Professional Help
"This one may seem silly or self-serving, but I definitely think the number one way to save a relationship is to go to couples counseling," Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center tells Bustle. It may not be the go-to option for everyone, but some relationships that are really on the brink of a breakup may benefit from it. According to Bilek, relationships that are good don't usually fall apart because of simple issues. "If you both care about each other and are interested in working for a solid relationship, the little things aren't what's killing you," he says. "It's the meaning beneath the little things (or the big things). Discovering those meanings, processing them, and resolving them is very hard to do when you are the one in the middle of the relationship." That's why having a trained, objective third party can help you find ways to successfully save your relationship from going under.
If you're going through a ton of issues, that doesn't mean your relationship is really doomed to fail. Unless it's a completely toxic situation, there's always hope. If you and your partner are willing to work at it, you can get your relationship back on track.