I’ve been writing for Talkspace for a year and a half, and I’ve shared a bit about myself and my pain points during the process — I obsessively Swiffer, I can’t take a compliment, my sister doesn’t return the clothes she borrows, it’s hard for me to say “no,” my husband bites his nails. You know, the important stuff. But perhaps what’s truest about me is that I’ll do anything to save a sinking relationship. If I’ve welcomed someone into my life, they have a place in it, and almost always, remedying our struggles or re-finding the spark is more important to me than letting go.
My friends joke that I trap people — I still take a yearly vacation with my childhood best friend, keep in touch with my cousins on the other side of the world, and chat with old coworkers from my internships decades ago on a weekly basis. These people bring value to my life, and preserving those relationships is important to me.
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3 Ways to Help Repair a Damaged Connection
Of course, these relationships have ebbs and flows. After all, every relationship has its highs and lows, good days and bad, whether it’s a friendship, family-ship, or a romantic relationship. There will always be differences and disagreements with our loved ones. It’s when it reaches a point where everything feels as though it’s starting to fall apart that’s an issue. And, to me, that’s when you ask yourself three questions:
- Have you done enough to save the relationship?
- Have you exhausted every possible option?
- Are you OK with it being over?
Sometimes a relationship does just have to end. If you’re in danger, can’t find any redeeming qualities about the other person, have lost trust, or have been hurt beyond repair — it’s not worth moving forward with this person. But if you’re in it for the long haul, you can take proactive steps to revive your relationship. Here are three ways to save a relationship.
1. Take action immediately
Instead of letting things boil and build, acknowledge what went wrong and change destructive actions. The sooner you correct the behavior, the sooner you’re on the path to remedying the issue.
2. If you’ve decided to move forward, move forward
While old grievances will want to linger and forgiveness is hard, it’s vital to move on from the negative time in your life if you want to move beyond the hurt. Try to make peace with what has happened and believe that your friend, family member, or partner will work their hardest at being better.
3. Be accountable for your own actions
In every relationship, it takes two. While the other person might be guiltier, at least in your opinion, it’s likely you’re not totally innocent — acknowledge your own behavior, own it, and apologize for it. Seeing your commitment will help the other person get on board.
You May Not Have All The Answers
As mentioned above, when you’re trying to decide whether you should be trying to fix your relationship or move on, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is: Do I want to save this relationship or is it better I leave it in the past?
In my experience, you can’t always answer that question alone. You’re too invested and you know deep down that the only person you can truly change is you. And yet, you love him, she’s been your best friend since kindergarten, she’s your mom. Letting go of these people is hard, so is deciding what to do about your relationship.
That’s where a third party can help. An in-person or online therapist can help you better understand your relationship dynamics, see the other person’s perspective and ultimately make a decision that’s best for you. Whether you attend sessions alone or with a partner, a licensed therapist’s perspective can help (and remember, couple’s therapy is defined only by the fact that it involves two individuals. The pair could be anyone: parents, a romantic partner, a business partner — you name it.)
After all, taking care of your relationships ultimately means taking better care of yourself. Your relationship health is directly related to our individual mental health: Studies have found that those who report being happy in their relationships are less likely to report experiencing emotional and mental health difficulties, such as depression.
Relationships are important, don’t be discouraged if yours need a little rescuing from time to time. They’re not easy and require maintenance even the best of times. The good news is, if you want to make it work, you have options to rebuild it again.