Whether you’ve been fighting for months or didn’t even know there was a problem, breakups are never easy. As magical as it feels to fall in love, that’s how devastating it feels to know your relationship is falling apart. What can you do? If you still love your partner and want to mend your relationship, the good news is, you do have hope. “Even if you feel like a victim, you play a role in setting up what is and isn’t acceptable in your [relationship],” says interpersonal relationship expert Dr. Phil. While there aren’t any guarantees that you will restore the failed connection, there is a good chance that things can turn around for the better, especially if you’re willing to work at it. With that in mind, here are five steps to take to win back your loved one, build bridges for communication and restore a relationship that’s been breaking. When you want to get back what you’re losing, these are the ideas to try:
Start with Yourself. Before you even approach your partner, take a good look at your own motives for doing so, as well as your own actions that have contributed to the problem. Why do you want to reconcile — because you’re afraid to be alone? Because you have been with the person so long? Because you are afraid of what your family and friends will say? If your reason for reconciling isn’t love for your partner, take some time to think about whether or not reconciliation is truly worth pursuing. Staying together because of what others think may not be enough to sustain your relationship long term. Likewise, before going to the person, ask yourself what the problem is. How did you contribute? Did you legitimately do something wrong? How have you hurt him or her? If you realize you’ve erred in a clear way, be ready to accept full responsibility, apologize and seek to make amends for what’s happened.
Think through the Conflict. If your partner has already expressed to you what problems have led to relationship failure, think through what root issues are at work. What are you actually fighting about? “The reasons may be obvious, including infidelity, frequent fights or disagreements about key issues such as money, marriage or children,” says Sally Murphy at Match.com. “In some cases, the failure may stem from smaller and more subtle problems.” If you haven’t been able to talk yet about what’s going on, be prepared to listen to your partner and try to understand his or her perspective.
Talk to Each Other. Talk to your partner in the most nonconfrontational, loving way you can and try to talk through your problems. Practice bridge-building communication skills such as attentiveness, affirmation and de-escalation. Apologize for your mistakes. Listen thoughtfully when the other person talks. If you tend to yell when you’re fighting, make every effort to stay calm this time — go to a public place if that will help, where you’ll be more aware of your surroundings and less likely to freak out. Remind yourself of why you’re trying to reconcile and let that guide your discussion. “Couples who are good communicators stay with one issue at a time and talk about what they need from each other in the present,” says Dr. Randi Gunther at Yahoo. “They don’t try to persuade the other of a position that will be satisfying to them at the expense of the other.”
Get Help. When one-on-one conversation won’t lead to reconciliation, try going to a neutral third party like a professional counselor who can help you both reach better understanding. Often, this can remove some of the heightened emotions from the situation, when you both learn to look at your relationship from a more detached, neutral point of view. Likewise, the counselor can provide advice and counsel that is easier to receive than from a person with whom you are fighting.
Be Willing to Change. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together for 20 years already; it’s never too late to renegotiate your dynamics and set new patterns. You may even want to put a new agreement in writing so it’s “SUPER DUPER clear,” says Lissa Rankin at Care2.com. When you both come to terms you can agree on and collaborate in making, it puts you on the same page, both working toward an improved connection.
As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango,” so simply desiring a relationship fix on your own may not be enough to salvage what’s been damaged. That said, by thoughtfully pursuing your partner and showing how you genuinely love him or her, you may be able to create inroads for better communication and understanding, not to mention healing, in the future.