You Can Salvage Your Relationship. Here's How.
All relationships ebb and flow. As our relationships push our buttons and encourage us to grow and evolve, pain and friction are bound to bubble up. Sometimes, relationships hit rock bottom -- the Trenches of Sorrow, as we call them over here at Happy Partners Project. In order to make your relationship great again here are a few steps. They won’t be easy but if you’re both committed to a new and better way, then it can be done and it will be worth the discomfort.
Step 1: Take Responsibility.
Relationships are co-created. Read that again. Yes, if your relationship is in the shitter, there’s not ONE person responsible. There is cause and effect, action and reaction. Both parties need to acknowledge their contribution to the state of the relationship and take responsibility for that. Here’s an example:
Partner A: I stopped giving you the benefit of the doubt and that put you on the defensive.
Partner B: Instead of telling you how I was feeling, I chose to say mean things to you to try to make you feel as bad as I felt.
Step 2: Make Amends.
Ask your partner if there is anything he or she needs to hear from you that can make amends. Often this can be an apology; other times it can be acknowledgment for a positive deed done in the relationship. Continuing with the above example:
Partner A: What can I say or do that can make up for this?
Partner B: You can acknowledge that I was honoring my commitment to be up front and honest with you even if you didn’t believe me.
Partner A: (use the same, or very similar words and phrases that your partner used. Mirror back the sentiment from your heart.) I acknowledge that you have been honoring your commitment to be honest and I’m sorry that I let my fear get in the way of that.
Partner B: and I apologize that I said those mean things to you instead of saying that I was hurting that you weren’t acknowledging my efforts.
Step 3: Future-Gazing
In the Check-In Process created by Happy Partners Project, future gazing is an important category to ground partners into what they are building and where they are headed, together. Answer these questions together and let the future “we” wash over you:
- What do we want our relationship to look like?
- What practices / rituals do we want to create together?
- What bad habits do we want to ditch?
- What habits do we want to introduce into our relationship?
Step 4: Anticipate the Mis-Steps
Now that you’ve gotten clear on the healthier dynamic you want to return and with a renewed vision for what you want to co-create, anticipate where you might slip up and create strategies for how to handle. Change doesn’t happen overnight. That means that there will be slip-ups. You will revert to old habits even though you’re trying to break them. Both partners need to support the shifts being made AND be prepared for the day when the old habit rears its ugly head!
Partner A may say: “When I don’t give you the benefit of the doubt, it’s because I’m scared that you might have broken our agreement about transparency. Maybe you can reassure me in those moments before I spin out in my head?
Outcome: When Partner A fails to give the benefit of the doubt, Partner B can decide to express feelings over hurtful words. “Hey, I sense that you’re not giving me the benefit of the doubt, and I can understand you’re worried I might not be honoring my prior agreement. What can happen right now to reassure you?”
Step 5: Create Commitments / Agreements to each other
Each partner can then say what they commit to the other person. This can also be re-committing to a prior made agreement as well.
Partner B: I’ll agree to not say mean things to you when I’m feeling hurt. Instead I’ll take a step back and need you to give me space to calm down and clear my head so I can express my feelings.
Partner A: And when you start to say something mean, I’ll do my best to not take it personally and instead ask you what’s underneath that and what you’re feeling so we can address that!
Step 6: Express Appreciation
Acknowledge your partner for his / her wonderful qualities. Share in mutual appreciation that you're both willing to invest in re-working the relationship dynamic -- that alone is a wonderful testament to the love shared and the commitment to each other!
In order to stay on track, introduce a regular relationship check-in into your routine. This can happen weekly if you’re in crisis or twice a month if you’re feeling stable and secure in the relationship.
Light and love to you!