When someone says they need help to save their failing relationship, usually they mean avoiding a break up. I’ve written about why equating break-up with failure is a really bad idea.
Sometimes the best decision two people can make is to separate, and if you look at breaking up as failing it prevents you from making that decision.
If you think it makes sense to stay together but things aren’t working out, here’s how to save a failing relationship:
Step 1) Break the Awkward Silence
Generally, people are both aware of when things aren’t working out. Every relationship hits rough patches, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only a problem if neither person is willing to talk about it.
If your partner agrees that the relationship is failing and you both want to save it, set a time to talk about it. Have dinner together at home, sit together after on the same couch, and follow the next three steps to figure it out.
Step 2) Forget About Getting Everything You Want
Everyone wants to save their failing relationship, but no one wants to compromise. In most cases, a lack of compromise is what strains a relationship in the first place.
Make a list of all the things that bother you. Now pick your top three – these will be the issues you try to work through. If you try to talk out more than three big issues each, it starts to feel like you’re negotiating for hostages.
Step 3) Cut the Shit and Be Real
This isn’t about a power struggle. It’s not about showing that you don’t change for anyone. It’s not about being wrong or right. You have to be willing to say you’re sorry, admit your mistakes, and make changes to yourself and your lifestyle to keep the relationship going.
Spend some time alone thinking about what you’re willing to sacrifice to keep the relationship from failing. Don’t agree to change if deep down it isn’t worth it to you; you’ll feel resentful and in the long run it will only make things worse.
Step 4) Keep Your Psychological Bias in Check
Remember how cool it was when you got your driving license? You appreciated it so much because it provided such a big change from the way your life used to be. Over time though, you adjust to driving and it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
This is because of a psychological phenomenon called normalization, and the same thing happens in relationships. Although you appreciate each other and see one another very positively at first, you become normalized to one another and forget all the cool things about your partner.
When you’re normalized to all the positives and don’t make a conscious effort to remind yourself of them, the only thing left to notice are the negatives. If you’re not aware of this, it can create the illusion that the relationship has gone downhill, or that your partner sucks all of a sudden.
Remind yourself of what you appreciate about your partner, be mindful on a daily basis of the things they do for you, and make an effort to show more appreciation for one another. Decide what needs to change for you to be happy, and talk it out.
PS – If your relationship is in serious trouble and you need help ASAP, contact me.