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7 Ways To Heal A Long-Strained Relationship (When You're About To Lose Hope)

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how to save your relationship
Love

Love doesn't automatically come with an “easy” tag.

Most relationships have a pattern. There's an initial euphoria that you have found the "one," then a rocky realization that "the one" is not perfect, after all. Of course, what makes it worse is the realization that you are not perfect too. This is what most relationships might refer to as "losing the spark." 

There are other pressures that surface a few years into the relationship — the partner who compromised on their career for their family, the partner facing a harsh letdown from expectations, the partner facing the shame of losing a job, the partner forced to care for the special child, the partner who is hardly home, the partner who does not listen, the partner who does not speak.


RELATED: 8 Things All Couples Can Do To Fix Their 'Broken' Relationships


And then, there is the devilish temptation to nurture the illusion that ignoring the problem would somehow solve it. 

Non-serving patterns in a relationship are the result of deep-rooted repeating behaviors. Painful though it may seem, the first step to reparation is to admit that there is a problem.

Our own marriage took a surprising U-turn when we both acknowledged we had a problem on our hands. Not to say that it was a fairytale all along, but that acknowledgement corralled us through many a storm later. Gradually, our fights started losing the energy they had and we are in much calmer waters now.

Even though love is such a great thing, it does not automatically come with an “easy” tag. People we love are sometimes the hardest to live with, the hardest to let go, the hardest to give up on. Research says bad relationships can lead to depression and suicide, and not surprisingly, the closest relationships require the most work.

 

 

Every new year brings with it a freshness, a rejuvenation, a surge of energy to start anew. Why not use this energy of 2018 to look at how to save your relationship that is strained and get fresh perspectives to drive them to new depths?

With that in mind, we asked experts to weigh in on the best strategies couples can use to heal their failing relationships, especially now that we are in a new year and it's time for new beginnings.

1. Check your reactivity at the door.

“If you are agitated or angry, now is not the time to discuss your relationship. Spend time taking a self-inventory and seeing what you bring to the party as objectively as you can. What responsibility do you bear for the trouble you have talking to each other?” —Peg Streep, author of Daughter Detox: Recovering From An Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life

2. Give counseling a try.

“Relationships aren’t always strained for the reasons we think they are. There might be some underlying communication or other mental health condition that may be having a negative impact on the relationship. Meeting with a mental health professional can help you uncover some of the biological causes or issues that might be impacting a relationship, and if there aren’t any, a mental health professional can help you develop the tools and skills you’ll need to figure out if your relationship is worth saving.” —Kongit Farrell, licensed marriage and family therapist

3. Visualize your future together.

“Clearly imagining a future with a healthy, happy, successful life and a loving relationship can help you navigate whatever you are feeling at that time. Over 97 percent of people in our country fail at that." —Ti Caine, relationship therapist

4. Pay attention to the little things.

“Sometimes it's the smallest gestures that we remember and that make us feel the most loved/special. There is a time and a place for grand gestures, of course, but because they are often so planned out and out of the ordinary, they run the risk as coming off as forced or disingenuous. It's the small gestures of the heart that truly make the difference.


RELATED: 10 Non-Sexual Ways To Turn Up The Romance In Your Relationship


Try leaving your partner a note when you leave in the morning or getting them a small, sentimental gift for no specific reason. Even something as small as sending them a song that makes you think of them can truly make a difference. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to feel loved, feel special, and feel like their partner is thinking of them.” —Britanny Burr, editor for Psych N Sex

5. Stop talking and open your ears.

“When they talk, just shut up and don't say anything. Period. No excuses, no blaming, no pointing out how they were also at fault. They may be at fault, wholly or in part, but this is not the time for that discussion. Simply listen. Then, do what they say can make things better." —Christopher Gerhart, substance abuse counselor

6. Focus on healing.

"Healing is the foremost requirement. Maybe later they'll be able to have a more symmetrical relationship, but the healing has to come first. Two things are important to reconcile with anyone:

  1. Apologize without reservation.
  2. Avoid debating 'facts' about their experience.

You can be right, or you can be happy. You can't always be both." —Tina Gilbertson, psychotherapist

7. Listen to the emotions, not the words.

"One of the most powerful tools I teach is how to listen to emotions, not words. The steps are as follows:

  1. Ignore the words.
  2. Guess at the emotions.
  3. Reflect back the emotions to the speaker with a simple 'you; statement. Some good examples are: 'You are angry.' 'You are frustrated.' 'You are pissed off. 'You are sad.'

Look for cues that suggest that your message is reaching them. A nod of the head or a sigh of relief could signal a willingness to cooperate much better than words." —Doug Noll, author of De-Escalate: How to Calm An Angry Person in 90 Seconds Or Less


RELATED: The 2 Questions That Will SAVE Your Faltering Relationship


Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha, a happy place to jumpstart conversations around family and millennial parenting, living in India. You can find her voice on the Huffington Post, LifeHack, Parent.co, Addicted2Success, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Tiny Buddha, Sivana East and others on a range of topics.