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No relationship is perfect. If two people stay together long enough, they’re bound to face times of struggle or periods when things just feel “off.” However, for some couples, there comes a time when a relationship has turned into something that is so strained and difficult that one or both people may be thinking about leaving.
Some couples who find themselves in these situations are able to get their relationship back on track and create a long-lasting and loving partnership, while other couples are not. If you find yourself in a relationship that feels unfixable right now, but perhaps you’re not ready to let it go, here are some things you can do to help fix your relationship and move beyond your struggles.
When one or both of you hold in how you feel or what you think, including what you think about each other, that can negatively impact your relationship. Whether something is actually said or not, the feelings or thoughts are present in the relationship, and those feelings and thoughts are affecting the relationship.
For instance, if you feel angry at your girlfriend for not giving you enough affection, but you do not verbally communicate that, your anger may be communicated in many other ways. This includes you not responding in a friendly manner toward her or not showing affection toward her as you typically might — testing her to see if she will initiate a kiss or hug, only to rebuff her if she does.
Similarly, holding in emotions from unresolved situations can build resentment. If your girlfriend does something that upsets or hurts you, and you never say anything about it, she’s likely to do it again.
Repeated behaviors that hurt, annoy, or upset you will eventually lead you to a breaking point with her. But she will have no idea that she has done anything wrong because she’s not a mind reader. You’re not a mind reader either, so think about how you would feel if she weren’t sharing her opinions with you.
The only way to keep things flowing smoothly is to keep communication open and be honest.
After being together for so long, it can be easy to forget why things were fun and exciting in the beginning. Most likely, you both put in the most effort into your appearance, dates, and what you did and said around each other. With time, you each got lazy.
If you stop and take the time to do nice things for each other and help each other feel appreciated, important, and special, it can do wonders for your relationship. Try little things like leaving her a sweet note on the mirror or picking up her favorite meal for lunch.
Many relationships start out with the couple spending lots of time together. And wanting to spend lots of time together. It’s almost like they could not get enough of each other. As the relationship matures, being together all the time tends to become more mundane and less exciting.
Try to reignite that spark and interest by dedicating more of your time to each other. Plan dates. Go do things that you know you both enjoy (i.e. cooking classes, concerts, hiking). Reconnect emotionally and physically by purposefully doing things together, including communicating more often throughout the day, going on a couples retreat, snuggling on the couch, or giving mutual massages after a long day at work.
Arguing is one of the main reasons why relationships feel like such a struggle. Both people need to stop digging in their heels and realize that they need to start finding common ground with each other to truly be a team.
This is the key to relating to your girlfriend’s perspective and understanding what it feels like to be in her shoes. For instance, if she tells you she’s sad, think about a time when you were really sad. How would you have wanted someone to treat you when you were feeling that way?
Start by telling her you can understand how she feels and that you want to help her to feel less sad. In a healthy, working relationship, both of you would have empathy toward each other.
As your girlfriend is talking, really listen so you understand what she’s saying. Look into her eyes, and don’t interrupt. When she’s done talking, say to her “So what I heard you say was…” Then, in your own words, repeat back to her a short summary of what you heard her say.
Then, for clarification, ask her “Did I get that right?” If she says yes, then you know she was heard. If she says no, then ask her to help you understand what she said.
Repeat this process until she tells you that you got it right. Then ask if she’s done talking and if you can now speak. Both of you need to listen to each other in this manner, so you both feel heard and completely understood by the other.
Just because your relationship is struggling right now that doesn’t mean it is beyond repair. If both of you are willing to put in the time, effort, and commitment to working on your relationship, trying some or all of the above tips, and/or seeking professional couples therapy, then it’s not yet time to give up on your relationship.
However, in any relationship where there is abuse of any kind, please seek professional counseling. Some of my favorite resources include The Hotline, EndDomesticAbuse.org, loveisrespect, Safe Horizon, Relate, and Planned Parenthood.
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