How to Fix a Relationship

Four Parts:Understanding the ProblemLearning to Discuss BetterReintroducing the ConnectionDeciding How to Move Forward

If you're having a problem in your relationship, you're not alone. Most people have trouble in relationships at one point or another. However, you can make it work out if you decide to work together to fix it, starting with trying to understand what's gone wrong in your relationship.

Part 1
Understanding the Problem

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    Recognize the problems. Any number of problems could be plaguing your relationship. Maybe one person is contributing more than the other, or maybe you just aren't connecting. You should look for signs and symptoms of the problems you're facing. Here's what you should look for:[1]
    • You feel like your partner wants you to be a different person than you are, such as your partner is not wanting you to do certain things you normally like doing, is wanting you to change your personality, or is trying to be controlling of your person and actions. The reverse is also true; that is, if you feel like you keep wanting to change your partner, that could be a sign of a problem.[2]
    • You are having the same arguments over and over or your arguments never reach a resolution.[3]
    • You find you aren't together as much as you used to be or would like to be.[4]
    • One person has more control of the resources in the relationship or one of you just doesn't feel like the relationship is equal in some way.[5]
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    Talk about it with your partner. Bring up the fact that you think there is a problem with your relationship.[6] Be as specific as you possibly can when talking about what you think the problem is, but also make sure you are not angry when you decide to bring it up. In calm tone, discuss what you think is going wrong with the relationship.
    • For instance, you could say, "Honey, I'd like to spend some time talking to you about our relationship. I think we've had trouble connecting lately, and I'd like to discuss how we can fix it."
    • Studies have suggested that talking about what's wrong and what's right on a regular basis can help lead to a better relationship in the long term because you aren't bottling up small problems into a much bigger problem.[7]
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    Look at patterns, not people. That is, it's easy to blame each other for problems. You might find yourself saying "I hate it when you leave dirty dishes in the sink," which essentially blames the other person. Instead, look at the patterns. For instance, you could say, "When I forget to unload the dishwasher, you tend to leave dirty dishes in the sink. Then I get behind on the dishes because they pile up. How can we work to change this situation?"[8]

Part 2
Learning to Discuss Better

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    Stop bottling it up. If little things are bothering you and you shove them down, they are just going to turn into an explosion at a bad time. If you deal with them as they happen, it won't be as big of a deal.[9]
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    Keep emotions at bay. If you find yourself starting a discussion while angry or getting angry while in the middle of a discussion, you may need to spend some time calming down. You know what calms you down. Maybe you need to take a short walk, listen to some music, or take a relaxing shower. You can also try counting to ten or taking a few deep breathes. Whatever you need to do, take a few minutes to calm down before continuing the discussion.[10]
    • Look for warning signs. If you find yourself feeling like you absolutely must win an argument, it's time to take a break. At that point, you're likely to say something you regret or keep the argument going long past the point that it's wise to do so.[11]
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    Think about what the other person is going through. When you're angry, you're just thinking about how you've been wronged. However, as soon as you start forcing yourself to think about what the other person is going through, you start to pull yourself out of that mindset. Being empathetic can help drain your anger.[12]
    • It's important to respect what your partner is feeling, as he or she has a right to feel and express his or her emotions, whatever they are. Whether or not you think your partner is right about the problem, you should still validate what the person is feeling.[13]
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    Listen attentively. Listening to what the other person has to say can help you develop empathy for what he or she is feeling. Don't just let the words pass over you. Actually think about what the person is saying, and maybe try to understand what is behind the words, as well.[14]
    • One way to show you are listening is to try to summarize what the other person is saying. For example, you can say, "What I hear you saying is you get frustrated when you do more than your share of the housework."
    • Another way to show you're listening is to ask relevant follow-up questions to make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
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    Discuss your point of view calmly and clearly. You also have a right to discuss what you're feeling and thinking. The key is to keep a calm head. It's also important to be clear about what you're thinking and feeling. You can't expect your partner to read your mind when it comes to your thoughts and emotions.[15]
    • Keep to talking about what you think about the problem, rather than placing blame. In other words, start with "I" instead of "You." For instance, you could say "I get anxious when the house isn't clean. Can we work on making a schedule for house cleaning so we can stay on top of it?" instead of "You never clean house with me!"[16]
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    Find ways to compromise. The key to any relationship is learning to compromise. You can't just expect to win every argument, as relationships involve give and take. Compromising is about finding common ground, and both of you giving a little on the issue.[17]
    • Discuss your needs and wants.[18] If you can decide on what both you need, you can give a little in the "wants" section. Basically, you need to decide what's most important to you and what's less important to you, and learn to give in the areas that aren't as important.
    • If you hate cleaning the bathroom but your spouse wants you to help out around the house more, maybe you can divide chores into ones you find more tolerable and ones he or she finds more tolerable.
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    Skip the past. When you're arguing, it's tempting to name-call or make unfair remarks that drag up the past. You know how to push your partner's buttons because you know him or her so well. However, all that will serve to do is make everyone angrier, and may even damage the relationship irrevocably. Keep to the task at hand.[19]

Part 3
Reintroducing the Connection

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    Make your relationship a priority. Apathy can be a problem in your relationship. Over time, you become accustomed to being in a relationship, and you stop putting as much effort into it as you once did. Once you understand how it can be a problem, you can work to change it.[20]
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    Be respectful. Being mean towards each other can easily damage your relationship further. If you work hard to be kind and gentle with one another, it can help you reestablish the connection you once had.[21]
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    Spend time connecting. When you're in a new relationship, you spend time talking to each other and learning what the other person likes. You discuss your fears and your interests, what you love and what you hate. If you've been in a relationship awhile, you may stop doing this together. If that's the case, you need to consciously work at rebuilding that connection by making time each day to talk. Make time for just the two of you, and when you do spend time together, try to dig deeper than just the day-to-day dramas that fill your life.[22]
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    Try dating again. Another way to reconnect is to actually make plans to go on dates. Making a plan means you have something to look forward to, plus you're setting aside special time to spend just with the other person.[23]
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    Don't forget to touch each other. Touch is such an important part of a relationship, and it doesn't mean just having sex. Kissing, holding hands, touching your partner's arm, and cuddling on the couch of all ways of being intimate. Touch provides a connection with your partner.[24]

Part 4
Deciding How to Move Forward

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    Brainstorm concrete solutions. Once you've figured out what some of your problems are together, talk about solutions together. How can you solve the problem in a way that both of you can live with? In other words, you need to look for common ground.[25]
    • Start with the place you both agree on. Maybe you can both agree on the problem at least, or maybe you can agree on the first step to the solution. For instance, maybe you agree that you are feeling disconnected. Maybe you can take it one step further and agree that you need to spend more time together.[26]
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    Make a plan together. Once you've agreed to solutions, it's time to put them into concrete terms. For instance, if you both agree you need to spend more time, then maybe the agreement will be that you should make a date at least once a week.[27]
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    Respect each others' needs. Everyone responds to situations differently, meaning that everyone has different emotional needs. For instance, maybe your partner needs more together time after things have been tough, so try to be there for him or her.[28]
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    Keep communicating. When you feel the need to snap at your partner, examine what you're feeling. Instead of snapping, communicate how it is making you feel and why. In other words, you need to continually work on how you communicate with your partner, as your partner cannot be expected to guess what you're thinking or feeling.[29]
    • For instance, if your partner mentions going out to dinner at a place she likes, you may want to snap at her for spending money if your budget is tight. Instead, say something such as, "Spending money right now makes me anxious because we've had a hard time making it to payday. Can we compromise and take a picnic out somewhere?"
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    Don't forget to spend time on self-development. While it can be tempting to focus solely on your relationship, you also need to spend time developing your own interests. You bring more to a relationship when you are your own independent person, so spending time away from each other is important.[30]
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    Don't be afraid of counseling. Even if your partner doesn't want to join you, counseling can still help your relationship. It will help because you're starting to change yourself and the way you interact with other people, including your partner. If your partner is willing to join you, even better.[31]


  • If your relationship is abusive, it's time to get out. If your partner has harmed you physically or repeatedly demeans you, you shouldn't try to fix the relationship.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Breaking Up | Commitment Issues