Humans are complex. Relationships even more so. You may love someone deeply yet mess up the connection you share with them. You’re not ready to let them go but being together is excruciatingly painful. When you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place such as this, you’re left with just one question on your mind – how to fix a relationship you ruined.
The pain of losing someone you love and cherish deeply is augmented manifold when you know that it was your actions that drove you apart. Mistakes in a relationship happen from both sides. But if you have crossed a line with yours, it can be a lot harder to undo that damage. For instance, if you cheated on your partner, the guilt can trigger the “I ruined my relationship” realization, coupled with a sinking feeling, even before your partner comes to know of the transgression.
To fix a relationship you ruined by cheating or hurting your partner can be hard. In those initial days of the setback, it can even feel as if there is no way to salvage your bond. This is not to say that all hope is lost. It is absolutely possible to fix a relationship you destroyed. As long as you’re willing to do the lion’s share of the work needed to mend your bond. We tell you how, in consultation with psychotherapist Jui Pimple, a trained Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist and A Bach Remedy practitioner who specializes in online counseling.
21 Ways To Fix A Relationship YOU Ruined
Maintaining and sustaining relationships can be hard. When you’re together for the long haul, the love that binds you together as a couple can be inundated by the mundane rigmarole of life, relationship issues, differences, mistakes, slip-ups, and ensuing fights. Some mistakes or differences are more damaging than others, and can quickly take a toll on your relationship.
You may be left racking your brains over, “I ruined my relationship, how do I fix it?” Don’t lose heart if that’s where you’re at. Sometimes, it takes a near-break in your bond to realize how much you value your partner and want them in your life. The story of Christy, a banker from Chicago, is a testament to this fact. She was in a long-term, stable relationship with David for over seven years.
The two were living together, and Christy secretly hoped that David would pop the question sooner rather than later. Having been together so long, their relationship had settled into a predictable rhythm. While they enjoyed each other’s company and were much in love, ‘the spark’ had died down. Then, there were the usual fights and bickering now and then.
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Amid this predictable yet stable life, Christy found herself incessantly enamored by a coworker. After a weekend drinks outing with the office gang, she found herself in a lip-lock with Nolan in the back alley of the pub they were hanging out in. A hot make-out session followed by toe-curling lovemaking at his place led to a full-blown affair between the two.
Of course, David got the whiff of it. With Christy’s frequent late nights at work and work trips over the weekend, it didn’t take rocket science to figure out what was going on. When the affair came to light, David was quick to break things off and move out. Not only did Christy find it extremely hard to break up with someone she lived with but also the setback made her realize how much she valued David and their relationship. “I ruined my relationship and I want it back” was all she could think of.
After months of trying, and some counseling, she was able to get David to respond. She still had the momentous task to undo the damage in a relationship to accomplish. With the right support, they were able to move on from this setback. Her journey is a lesson in how to fix a relationship you ruined:
1. Accept your role in damaging the relationship
What to do if you ruined a relationship? Take complete accountability for your actions, so that your partner can believe that you earnestly want to make things right. Yes, the first step to fix a relationship you ruined is to accept that you caused it to crumble. It may not be easy but it is essential if you want to save the relationship.
Speaking from experience, Christy says that it can be the hardest part of the journey. “I ruined the best relationship I ever had and yet I was more focused on finding faults with David and our relationship to feel less horrible about what had transpired. I think it’s a common tendency. You inevitably look for faults in your partner that you can use as an excuse to justify your own actions and mistakes,” she adds.
If you want to fix a broken relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, it is imperative to focus on the I rather than you. Even if your partner may have had a role to play in whatever has driven you apart, now is not the time to bring it up. Acknowledge and accept your mistakes, and only then can you even hope to even begin repairing your damaged bond.
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2. Be honest
Jui says that honesty is the key, especially if you’re trying to repair a relationship when trust is broken. “Being honest, being genuine is one of the important pillars of a relationship. To make amends, start by being genuine about what you feel or do in a relationship. Be honest about what you feel toward your partner and your relationship. It will be respected more than fake feelings of love,” she says.
In Christy’s case, it meant coming clean about the monotony she was feeling in the relationship, which became a trigger for her infidelity. “I ruined my relationship with the love of my life. Now, to fix it, I had to brace myself for the unpleasantness of putting our relationship under the scanner and figure out what wasn’t working and why,” she says.
Saying something along the lines of, “I wouldn’t have to keep secrets if you didn’t blow your top at everything little thing”, is certainly not how you fix a relationship you ruined by lying. Jui advises that while this is a crucial part of the process of fixing a relationship you ruined, it must be done without leveling accusations on your partner or making them feel responsible for your mistakes.
3. Initiate dialogue to get through to your partner
To be able to fix a broken relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you need to get through to them and have a conversation. That entails putting your ego aside and reaching out. Even if you’re not ready to talk about your feelings until you’re face-to-face, reaching out over text can still be a good start to break the ice.
Of course, you can’t hope for a message to fix a broken relationship, but it will give you something to work with. Making an effort to reach out is any day better than sitting around and lamenting, “I made a mistake that ruined my relationship.” You may not make headway right away, but with persistence, you will at the very least get your partner to hear you out.
Christy says, “Soon after my falling out with David, I decided to end the affair and broke things off with Nolan. I tried reaching out to my boyfriend several times but my number was blocked. Then, one day, I sent a simple ‘hi’, with little hope that it’d get delivered. Not only did the message get delivered, David responded too. That opened the doorways for a dialogue between us again.”
4. Brainstorm over how to fix a relationship you broke
“I want to repair a relationship I ruined but I don’t know where to begin or how to break the ice.” This can be a common predicament when your relationship is already on its last legs, as one wrong move can deal a final blow to it. You may fear that your partner may end up saying hurtful things or you may say something that aggravates the pain you’ve caused them, making a bad situation worse.
When such fears and apprehensions engulf you, it helps to remind yourself that not doing anything isn’t going to help either. If anything, a lack of effort from your end may send a message to your partner that you don’t care. That can make it a lot harder for you to fix a relationship you ruined by lying or hurting your significant other.
Jui advises, “When the relationship is ruined or on the verge of breaking, it is important to brainstorm what can be done to mend it. Even if you made a mistake in a relationship that dealt a near-fatal blow to it, try to include your partner in this process. It will help you get more ideas plus the partner will also get to know how much the relationship means to you. Working as a team will always lead to better results.”
5. State your intentions clearly
“Once David and I got talking again, I lapped at the opportunity to lay my heart bare to him. In doing so, I was 100% honest and open about my intentions and what I hoped to achieve by reaching out. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be with him. I knew I ruined my relationship with the love of my life and was prepared to do whatever it took to fix it. And I didn’t hesitate in letting him know that,” Christy says.
This is an important part of the process to undo the damage in a relationship and begin the process of reinstating trust after lying or cheating or hurting your partner in any other way. By being clear and upfront, you’re showing your partner the respect they deserve as well as letting them see that you’re committed to being transparent with them should they decide to give you another chance.
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6. Practice active listening
If you’re working to fix a relationship you destroyed, then you must be prepared to hear some harsh truths and bitter venting or even emotional dumping from your partner. Of course, some of it may be true, some just a projection of the hurt they’re experiencing. But none of it will be easy to hear.
Christy recalls David saying hurtful things that made her heart break into a million pieces. “More than what he was saying, I think, the fact that someone who loved me so much could feel that way about me was harder to stomach. There were moments when I just wanted to get up and leave. But I consciously kept reminding myself why I was there, trying to fix my relationship and let him vent as much as he needed to without retorting or lashing back.
“I think, it was important for him to get that load off his chest before we could hope to undo the damage in the relationship. Afterward, he realized that some of the things he said were uncalled for and duly apologized,” she says.
7. Reflect on what went wrong
How to fix a relationship you ruined? Jui advises, “Reflect on what went wrong, how you could have saved it. Think of the incident all over again and try to see if is it truly as bad as you think.” Introspection can give you a reality check on what really went wrong in your relationship, prompting you to act in a manner that you’re now wondering what to do if you ruined a relationship.
In Christy’s case, this meant reliving the details of her affair with Nolan to David. As David asked her questions about the affair, Christy felt as if she was reliving the different stages of guilt after cheating all over again. While it wasn’t easy for her to lay out the details and for him to hear them, they both felt it was necessary to leave this incident in the past and make a fresh start.
“At the same time, reflect on the good memories and how the relationship was formed. Reliving the love moments will help you feel better and think of ways to mend the ruined relationship,” Jui adds.
8. Build a bridge
To be able to undo the damage in a relationship and move forward, you need to build bridges rather than burn them. This means extending an olive branch and letting your partner know that you’re ready to leave past issues behind and turn over a new leaf. Also, telling them that you hope and expect that they’d be able to do the same.
For instance, if you ruined a good relationship because of trust issues, reassure your partner that you’re willing to put in the work necessary to be able to be more trusting in the relationship. At the same time, ask them for more transparency and honesty if that’s what you need to be able to trust them again.
“Yes, I dealt a severe blow to our relationship by cheating on David. However, there was a lingering sense of discontentment I was reeling under that made me cross the line. With the help of my therapist, I was able to learn how to convey this to David without making him feel responsible for the cheating. At the same time, I told him that I was ready to leave the past issues behind if he could find a way to get over the betrayal and hurt. My words didn’t sit well with him immediately, but he did come around eventually,” says Christy
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9. Focus on the love you shared
When you want to fix a relationship you destroyed and heal together as a couple, it’s important to reset the clock on your partnership to a time before all the problems and issues began to crop up. Christy and David achieved this by treating their partnership as relationship 2.0. Once all the anger, hurt and negative emotions had been put out there and dealt with, Christy asked him to go out on a date with her.
“There was only one thing I asked of him – that we won’t bring up the past, no matter what. Yes, I ruined my relationship but if we kept fixating on that aspect alone, there was no way we’d have made any progress in mending our bond. I have the highest respect for David for keeping his word, even though it couldn’t have been easy for him,” she says.
You have to realize that “I ruined my relationship and I want it back” may well be wishful thinking if the damage to your relationship is significant. There is a good chance that things may never go back to the way they were, but with consistent effort, you can learn how to survive betrayal in a relationship and rebuild it from the ground up.
10. Apologize to undo the damage in a relationship
If you’re trying to fix a relationship you ruined by cheating, know that the road to recovery won’t be easy or straightforward. The only way to make progress is to own up to your mistake unequivocally. Jui emphasizes, “There is nothing wrong with accepting your mistake and being sorry about it. A genuine apology is always forgiven so if the relationship is important then keep the ego aside and accept your mistake.”
Of course, you may have said sorry or apologized for your mistake in the past too. Particularly, in those initial days of trying to fix a relationship you ruined. Once the tempers have cooled down and you’re both more poised, calm, and collected, do it again. Let your partner know how much regret hurting them and reassure them that you’re willing to do whatever is necessary to make amends.
11. Let go of expectations
What to do if you ruined a relationship? Work on setting realistic expectations about undoing the damage, and more importantly, don’t place the burden on your expectations on your partner. Don’t reach out to your partner after your relationship has suffered a setback expecting a certain outcome.
Remember that all you can do is make an effort to fix a relationship you destroyed. Whether or not your partner reciprocates is up to them. By releasing yourself from the expectations of a pre-ordained outcome, you become more accepting of whatever way things pan out. In that situation, if you’re able to fix your relationship, you’ll be able to value it that much more.
Christy says, “After David walked out of our home, I had nearly lost all hope of ever salvaging my relationship. Then, when he blocked me, even the last glimmer of hope died. But I kept trying nonetheless. It was quite possible that he’d have never responded. But I didn’t want to live with the regret of not trying hard enough.”
12. Don’t push their buttons
If you’re done something that has taken a toll on your relationship, pushing it to the brink, it is only natural that your partner may be in a vulnerable state. When you’re trying to understand how to fix a relationship you ruined, be mindful of not pushing their buttons or triggering them in any way.
You need to give your partner space to sort through their emotions and take things forward at a pace they are comfortable with. Remember, personal space in a relationship can be the glue that holds it together. Even more so, when you find yourself in a tricky situation where your actions have ruined a relationship and pushed your partner away.
“My therapist had helped me understand that any mention of Nolan initiated by me could undo all progress I had made in trying to win over David’s love and affection again. So, I made it a point to avoid addressing the elephant in the room until he did. Even then, I noticed that David couldn’t bring himself to say his name. He kept using words like ‘him’, ‘that guy’, ‘fella’ to allude to him. I followed his lead, consciously steering clear of taking his name at all.”
13. Stay in control of the discourse
What to do if you ruined a relationship? Well, when it comes to reviving your relationship and healing as a couple, don’t try to wing it. When you’re trying to fix a broken relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, it can feel like you’re going around in circles and not making any headway. That’s why you must have a plan of action in place, stay in control of the discourse, and keep steering the conversations back on track.
“When we were in the process of mending our ties, David had a tendency to go off different tangents. Sometimes, he wanted me to share details of what went on between Nolan and me. At others, he’d launch angry tirades, targeting me or relationships in general. I would let me vent for some time, and then gently nudge him back toward talking about the future of our relationship and how we could make things work this time around,” says Christy.
14. Steer clear of the blame game
Jui advises, “Playing the blame game is one thing that ruins many good relationships. So, avoiding it becomes even more imperative when you’re trying to salvage a relationship that is standing on its last legs. If you want to mend and save your relationship, you might have to let go of a few things. Blaming the other person for your relationship problems will just cause more cracks to appear in your partnership.”
For instance, if you’re trying to fix a relationship you ruined by lying, don’t shift the blame on your actions onto your partner by saying something like “I wouldn’t have had to lie to you if you weren’t so controlling and suspicious all the time. I made a mistake but you aren’t exactly innocent here, so I don’t see why you can’t give me another chance.” Instead, own up to your part and leave the option of owning up to theirs to your partner. Whether they do it or not is entirely up to them.
15. Be patient
If you made a mistake in a relationship that dealt it a near-fatal blow, you must brace yourself for a long road to recovery. Wounds take time to heal, and sometimes, even then the scars remain – constantly reminding you of that nasty incident that nearly broke your bond. In your pursuit to fix a relationship you ruined, patience is your best friend.
Christy, for example, had to wait months just to get across to David. Even after the two had their first face-to-face conversation, it was another few months before she could muster the courage to ask him out on a date or do anything remotely couple-like with him. Before you reach out to your partner in a bid to make amends, sit down with a clear head and evaluate whether you think your relationship is worth saving. Only if the answer is a resounding yes should you attempt to fix your relationship.
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16. Earn the trust back
“I ruined my relationship, how do I fix it?” If this question has been giving you sleepless nights, know that rebuilding trust after it has been shattered is a lot harder than gaining someone’s trust in the first place. You have to take baby steps to rebuild trust in your relationship, and don’t hold it against your partner if they struggle to accept your words and promises at face value.
Jui says, “If there is something you have done that broke your partner’s trust, you will have to work really hard to earn it back. Do not expect your partner to forget it just so easily, give them enough time to think over it. Meanwhile, do whatever it takes to gain the trust again. Also, never repeat that incident again.”
17. Work together as a team
If you’re working to repair a relationship when trust is broken, bringing back the team spirit can go a long way in helping you heal as a couple. To fix a relationship you ruined by lying or hurting your partner, you need to remind them why you’re so good together. Nothing can drive home that message better than trying your hand at team-building activities that require you to work in sync with one another.
Christy says her therapist suggested an exercise that she initially thought was silly but the visible results changed her perspective. “My therapist asked me to play board games or take part in activities with David that required us to work as a team. So, one day I took him indoor rock climbing, and as we helped each other navigate our way to the top, we felt more in sync.
“Likewise, we’d play the free-fall game with each other where one partner is blindfolded and falls to their side, and the other has to catch them before they hit the ground. Oddly, these exercises helped rebuild trust and reinstate the feeling of partnership more than any words or assurances could have,” says Christy.
18. Do not commit to what you can’t deliver
Often, in the zeal to fix a broken relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you may end up making promises that you cannot keep. However, this sets you up for failure and makes reinstating trust in the relationship that much harder. For instance, David asked Christy if she would be willing to quit her current office or at least ask for a transfer so that Nolan was completely out of the picture.
“My first instinct was to say yes, but deep down I knew that wasn’t something I wanted or was willing to do and didn’t want to make unhealthy compromises in the relationship. I loved my work and the people I worked with. So, I explained to him that quitting or moving was not the answer to our problems. As the saying goes, a cheater can always find ways and avenues to indulge in their transgressions.
“What we needed instead was for David to believe that I meant it when I said anything of this sort wouldn’t happen again. This did upset him initially, and he saw it as a lack of willingness on my part to make sacrifices for the relationship. But I let him ruminate over my suggestion for a few days, and eventually, he saw my point had weight,” she says.
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19. Keep your promises
Just as it is important to not promise what you can’t deliver, it is even more crucial to keep the promises you make. A ruined relationship cannot be nursed back to health unless the partner who’s in the wrong is prepared to take earnest steps to show that they’re willing to go the extra mile to revive the connection.
It’s vital to make your partner see that they can trust you and there is no better way of doing that than by letting your actions speak for themselves. By keeping the promises you make to your partner, you’re conveying that you value them. Upon seeing you put in the work to fix the issues that drove you apart, your partner may regret breaking up and give the relationship another chance.
When David asked Christy to quit or seek a transfer, she promised him that she’d avoid any and all such situations where she and Nolan were likely to be together outside of work. “That meant giving up on our weekly office outings and asking my boss to ensure that if we had to travel for work, Nolan and I weren’t sent away together. Even if other people from the office were going too. It was a small price to pay for mending my relationship with David, and I have upheld my end of the bargain religiously,” she says.
20. Bring back affection in your relationship
The hardest part of trying to undo the damage in a relationship is reestablishing different forms of intimacy. Your first kiss or the first time in bed after a major setback can be awkward and full of apprehensions. Christy and David navigated this hurdle by prioritizing emotional and physical intimacy over sexual.
“Rather than end up in bed together swayed by our emotions, we decided to hold back. That was hard because there were moments when we both wanted to. First, we talked and talked and talked till all our issues were sorted and we started to feel emotionally connected again.
“The next step was bringing back displays of affection in the relationship. Holding hands while watching TV, kissing often, cuddling while sleeping, and so on. It was only when we were both absolutely sure that we were ready to move past this setback that we had sex for the first time in over a year,” Christy says.
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21. Prioritize spending time together
It’s one thing to fix a relationship you ruined, and quite another to keep it afloat. That spell of “I’ll do anything to revive this relationship” wears off eventually, and you do settle into a rhythm once again. When that happens, the risk of falling into old patterns is immense. You need to take conscious measure to keep the relationship strong during such times.
At that stage, it becomes imperative to steer clear of the mistakes of the past and not take each other for granted. Christy and David, for instance, have made it a rule to eat dinner together every night and then spend some ‘we time’ where they both talk, swap stories about their days, ask questions, laugh, and watch movies, before hitting the sack. This has helped them keep the spark alive in their relationship 2.0.
It is possible to fix a broken relationship you ruined and heal together as a couple, but it takes a lot of effort and hard work. Not just from your side but also your partner’s. Before you make an attempt to salvage your bond, be doubly sure that your partner is just as committed to making it work as you. Otherwise, all your effort will have been in vain.
Yes, a damaged relationship can be rebuilt provided both partners are willing to put in the effort and work needed to resolve their issues and make a fresh start. However, in such situations, the onus of setting things right primarily lies with the partner whose actions have caused the relationship to crumble.
When rebuilding a damaged relationship, you need generous amounts of patience and a will to see things through no matter how tough the going gets. That’s why, if your relationship has suffered a substantial setback and is hanging by a thread, it’s vital to take stock and assess whether it is worth saving.