5 Ways To Fix Your Relationship When You Feel Frustrated And Hopeless

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15 Ways To Fix A Relationship That’s Struggling

Deep in the middle of relationship problems? It could be due to your relationship blindspots. Here's an analogy:

Think about your relationship as two cars traveling in the same direction on a highway. Your partner makes a conversational move to pass you on the left. You think you see an opening to comment. You turn into his lane and BANG! The opening you thought you saw was not there.

You wreck the conversation with a poorly-placed remark and there goes your chance for that romantic evening. But you can fix this!

Eliminating your blind spots:

We can discover much about blind spots in relationships by the blind spots we experience in our car mirrors. Occupational therapists teach that you can eliminate blind spots in mirrors. Try this the next time you drive on a highway:

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

The elimination of blind spots in car mirrors requires that you widen your view in a counter-intuitive way. This feels awkward at first, but if you stick with it, it becomes familiar, increases safety, and builds your driving confidence. The same is true for relationships.

Conversations are building blocks for love and are consistently identified as romance builders when they are good and romance destroyers when they are bad.

Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, has identified five conversational blind spots that wreck relationships. Glaser's work is primarily meant for a business setting, but the blind spots described in this article are set in the context of romantic relationships.

I've also developed 5 easy ways to fix a relationship when it's struggling, and relationship problems leave you feeling hopeless:

1. Stop assuming your partner thinks like you.

It’s normal to be self-centered. It’s a protective instinct that is wired into your brain, but it can work against you in relationships. You and your partner do not think exactly alike and assuming you do is a recipe for misunderstanding and conflict. If you ever ask yourself in frustration, "How is he not getting this," then you know you’re staring into a blind spot.

How to fix it:

  • Stop judging your partner’s idea.
  • Get curious.
  • Seek clarification with phrases like, "Help me understand what you mean by ______________."

2. Don't ignore how feelings change your reality. 

Think about how your attraction to your partner changes from mood to mood. When you’re having a wonderful time with your partner, he’s irresistible, but when things turn sour, your repulsion levels rise. When couples experience high doses of negative emotions over an extended period, they literally become ugly in each other’s eyes.

How to fix when conversations get heated:

  • Don’t speak when you’re fuming. You’ll regret it.
  • Breath to relax your muscles. Relaxation reduces the level of stress hormones in your system allowing you to think more clearly and less judgmentally.
  • Take a timeout even if it’s overnight. Late night arguments can be the worst because your emotional resources are depleted. Say, "I love you, but I need sleep before we work this out."
  • Now you’re ready to create positive conversational experiences. Marriage researcher, John Gottman, has documented that couples need 5 positive conversational experiences to every 1 negative to thrive in their relationship. Marriage therapist, Willard Harley, recommends asking your partner what he loves in conversations. Then build those things into your conversations regularly. Ideally, you want your partner to be doing the same for you.

3. Learn how to empathize when you are afraid. 

Fear inhibits mirror neurons. These little wonders in your brain help you connect with your partner when you make eye contact. Mirror neuron activity is associated with empathy. Empathy is the ability to see the relationship from your partner’s point of view. Without empathy, true romance is not possible.

How to have empathy:

  • Practice warm eye contact during conversations.
  • Ask yourself, "What is this conversation like from his point of view?"
  • Proceed with courage. Believe that, unless your partner is abusive, there’s no need to fear any discussion.

RELATED: How To Become A More Empathetic (And Far Less Defensive) Partner

4. Don't assume that memory is accurate. 

When you remember conversations, you more accurately remember your thoughts about what was said than what was actually said. Also, you mentally drop out of conversations every 12 to 18 seconds to process what you’re hearing. While you process, you miss parts of what your partner is saying. You can’t remember what you miss.

How to fix it:

  1. Be humble, rather than cocky, when you are recalling the past: "I could be wrong, but I remember _______________." That’s better than, "These were your exact words! I would never forget that!"
  2. After your partner talks for more than 30 seconds, humbly admit your mental lapse: "I’m sorry, I was processing what you said. Could you repeat that"
  3. When it’s your turn to talk, ask for feedback so you know what your partner is really hearing.

5. Stop assuming that the meaning of something is determined by the speaker. 

When you are listening, your brain connects every word to memories you have that are associated with those words. Your partner has different memories associated with these same words. His brain creates one meaning while yours creates another.

For example, the word wine conjures up memories of parents in a drunken rage for some people and others associate wine with happy celebrations. The word causes anxiety for one and warmth for another.

How to fix it:

  • Scan the conversation for any vague phrases like "over the top", and ask for clarification. We usually disagree about how much must happen for something to be over the top.
  • When your partner says, "You know what I mean", maybe you don’t. Slow things down by stating what you think your partner means and let your partner verify or modify.

Don’t wreck your relationship by ignoring the 5 conversational blind spots. Look them over again. Which one or two do you need to work on?

Start practicing the 15 recommended tips to overcome your blind spots and watch your repaired relationship take off in a new direction.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Tell If Your Relationship Is Built To Last (Or If It's Going To Fizzle Out)

Jim Merhaut is a professional, ICF-certified relationship coach and leadership coach. He’s the Founder and Director of Coaching to Connect. Learn about his life-transforming work.

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