No matter how strong the connection, every relationship goes through a churn or turmoil. When you’re in the thick of these stormy patches, it is natural to wonder how to save a relationship. After all, being constantly at loggerheads with your partner can leave you feeling like your bond is crumbling into pieces.
In such moments, it is important to reflect on whether you’ve done everything to save a relationship in crisis. If yes, then where do you go from here? If not, then what can you do to fix a relationship in trouble? And most importantly, how do you know if your relationship is worth saving.
Sometimes bad relationships, codependent relationships or a narcissistic partner can leave you drained. In that case, too, can you save a relationship? We address these questions to help understand how to tackle such a situation delicately and effectively in consultation with psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT and couples counseling.
Can You Really Save A Dying Relationship?
Intimate partners trying to save a struggling relationship often find themselves engulfed by despair. In some cases, the constant fights and repeated arguments can make them feel like each other’s adversaries. This in itself can be an emotionally disheveling experience.
Can you really save a relationship with your boyfriend when he has cheated on you or a girlfriend who still has unresolved feelings for her ex? Do you treat it as the end of the road or do you want to rebuild trust? Is there a way to save a relationship on the verge of breaking up?
These questions can be daunting. Then, to search for a way back to a love you once shared and save a relationship that’s falling apart can seem like insurmountable odds. Some couples resort to therapy while others struggle to breathe life into a dying relationship on their own. Either way, this can be a suffocating place to be.
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It is natural to question can you really save a dying relationship. As the bond between two people cripples under a string of crises, finding a way back to ‘normalcy’ can become a distant dream. The good news is that many of these withering relationships still have the potential to bounce back to life. They’re healable as long as both partners have the intent to make it happen.
“It is definitely possible to save a relationship that’s falling apart, provided both partners are willing to do their share of the work to bring their connection back from the brink. As long as there is a mutual intent and commitment to work things out, most relationships can be saved and turned around,” says Nandita.
All you need is the right kind of support, the willingness to acknowledge what’s wrong and do the work necessary for correcting the course. That said, not all relationships can – and should – be revived. For instance, if:
- There is emotional abuse or physical violence in the relationship
- One of the partners is a compulsive cheater or lair
- There is a problem of substance abuse or addiction and the affected partner does not want to get help
- One of the partners struggles with mental illness and shows no inclination to get treated
- Either one or both partners are unwilling to enter into couples therapy, if necessary
So, can you really save a dying relationship? The bottom line is that unless a relationship is marred by toxic tendencies, there is always hope for reviving and regenerating the bond between two partners.
How do you know if your relationship is worth saving?
Can you save a relationship when he wants out? Or she wants out? How do you know if there is scope to save a struggling relationship or you’re flogging a dead horse? Here are seven clear cut indicators that address the ‘how do you know if your relationship is worth saving’ dilemma:
- Holding on to happy memories: Even if you don’t feel alive in each other’s company, you long for a time gone by where your partner was the source of joy and happiness. And vice versa
- Will to try: As long as the idea of giving one last try to make things work makes you feel driven and energized, there is hope that you can save your relationship from a breakup
- Intent to identify issues: The willingness to get to the root cause of your problems and accepting accountability for your role in it is an encouraging sign. Irrespective of whether you’re trying to fix a relationship you ruined or your partner, the will to set things right is what counts
- Effort to work through issues: Couples who can bring themselves to address any unresolved issues and traumas, be it from shared or individual, definitely share a relationship that is worth saving
- Prioritizing the relationship: Even in this stage of emotional despair and exhaustion, you prioritize healing yourself and each other to save your relationship from a breakup
- Looking at the bigger picture: You are willing to let your feelings and emotions take a backseat if it can help revive your relationship
- Can’t see a life without each other: The biggest indicator that you can fix a relationship in trouble is that both you and your partner shudder at the thought of parting ways. Even when staying together seems like the hardest thing to do, you hold on. Mainly because nothing is worse than staring at the possibility of not seeing each other ever again
Nandita explains, “If both partners in a relationship feel the need to save a relationship and see potential in it, they should give it a shot. All relationships go through phases of waxing and waning. There are times when things seem to work perfectly well and phases when they absolutely don’t.
“One of the most crucial tips on how to save a relationship is to accept that relationships don’t have a linear progression. When a relationship touches a low, it takes conscious effort by both partners to keep it going. Otherwise, boredom, monotony alone are enough to kill a connection, making it near-impossible to save a relationship.”
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8 Tips On How To Save A Relationship
If you feel like you’re hanging in there by a thread, oscillating between whether to let go or save a relationship that’s falling apart, knowing what exactly to do to improve your equation with your partner can help. It can give you the purpose and motivation to make a final push in the right direction.
To save a relationship with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, it’s important to take stock of what your issues are, what brought you to a point where you like that things just aren’t working out, and what you can do to change the course of your journey as a couple. That’s the only way to save a relationship on the verge of breaking up.
How exactly do you navigate these steps? We break it down for you with these 8 actionable tips on how to save a relationship:
1. Individual healing can strengthen your relationship
As they say, you cannot pour from an empty vessel. The differences and discord with your partner ought to have taken a toll on you. The same goes for your partner. To be able to save your relationship from a breakup, you both have to be committed to healing as individuals before you can heal as a couple.
“To save a relationship that’s falling apart, you need to introspect and identify the areas that need to be worked on – be it your individual issues or problems as a couple – and then decide what needs to be done to work through these stumbling blocks. From boredom to conflict and even giving each other too little or too much space, seemingly insignificant problems can sometimes take a toll on the relationship,” says Nandita.
Reflect and connect with your core values, embolden your strengths and let go of fears and inhibitions. Most importantly, free yourself from the clutches of root causes of resentment in the relationship and grudges toward your partner.
2. Quit playing games to save a relationship in crisis
People going through a relationship crisis tend to develop their own defense mechanisms to deal with the unpleasantness. This may include anything from giving each other the silent treatment to ignoring one another partner on purpose, acting cold or distant intentionally, and using passive-aggressive tendencies.
For instance, instead of focusing on ways to save a relationship when she wants out, you may end up cold-zoning your girlfriend or wife just for the sake of one-upmanship. Or you may develop a tendency to be overly critical rather than investing your energies in learning how to save a relationship with your boyfriend.
Even if it gives you momentary satisfaction, this behavior can do more harm than good. If you want to save a relationship in crisis, quit playing these mind games on each other. If you or your partner continue with this pattern, the other will eventually lose interest in making an effort to improve things. Nothing hurt’s a relationship’s odds of survival more than a loss of intent.
“Instead of resorting to these petty games, communicate. Be open and honest about what’s working in the relationship and what’s not, and more importantly, what each of you can do to fix the problem areas. However, in doing so, it’s absolutely crucial to be mindful of your choice of words. Put your point across without placing blame or hurling accusations,” advises Nandita.
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3. Admit mistakes to fix a relationship in trouble
This is perhaps the hardest but also the most critical part of the process. To fix a relationship in trouble, a couple must accept that mistakes have been made. In doing so, it is crucial to accept responsibility and own up to your role in contributing to the problem.
Otherwise, this exercise can quickly turn into a nasty blame game. When faced with situations like this, stubbornness stemming from our inherent defense mechanisms kicks in. After all, it is so much easier to say “you did this” rather than saying “I’m also responsible for this”.
Nandita says, “To save a relationship on the verge of breaking up, you must introspect your part in augmenting the issues and acknowledge it. At the same time, if your partner admits to their mistakes or shortcomings, be empathetic and kind toward them. It takes a lot of courage to own up to one’s mistakes.”
Knowing the right words to say to save your relationship is vital here. Remember to focus on your shortcomings and flaws, ask your partner to do the same. To facilitate this, make sure you don’t judge, mock or demean each other. The key is to work together.
4. Positive memories can save your relationship from a breakup
You were once two people head-over-heels in love with each other. That’s what brought you together in the first place. From this love, sprang the hope that you can share a life. Those rosy days can appear so distant in times of a relationship crisis that you feel they belong to another time and different people altogether.
But those moments are yours. They have been chronicled in pictures, memories and stories. Revisiting them can save your relationship from a breakup and infuse a new life into it. If possible, revisit the places you frequented as a happy couple. Engage in activities that you loved doing together. Meet up with friends from that part of your life.
It is the perfect reminder of what brought you both together in the first place. With a trip down memory lane, you can build a close connection, revive your intimacy and be certain that your relationship is worth saving.
5. Be conscious of the words to say to save your relationship
Just because you want to make things better doesn’t mean all your problems and differences will vanish overnight. Even though fighting when trying to save a relationship can sound counter-productive, it doesn’t have to be. The rider here is to fight respectfully and be conscious of the words to say to save your relationship.
Make a conscious effort to steer the discourse away from saying hurtful things and toward a genuine sharing of grievances. If things get too heated, don’t hesitate to take some time off and reconnect later. You can save a relationship when he wants out or she seems to have checked out emotionally by simply restoring compassion and empathy toward each other. When hostility is taken out of the equation, reconnection becomes a lot easier.
Nandita recommends a shift from seriousness to silliness to save a relationship that may seem beyond help. “Apart from being mindful of what you say or how you say it, it’s vital for couples to learn to laugh together again. Moments of silliness translate to cherishable memories that keep a relationship alive. Focus on the positives of your relationship. Talk about what makes the relationship important to you both. Most importantly, have fun and laugh often,” she adds.
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6. How to save a relationship? Learn to negotiate
A lot of times people lose grip on their relationships because they fail to incorporate one key element in the couple dynamics – negotiation. Whether you like it or not, romantic relationships are also transactional. That’s because 100% agreement between romantic partners is just not realistic.
There are bound to be differences of opinion and clashes of values and life goals. So, how to save a relationship from the negative impact of such conflicts? By learning to negotiate and compromise.
Hold your ground on matters that you feel strongly about and let go of things are seem trivial to you. If there is a situation where both of you have strong, divergent views on a subject, try to arrive at a middle ground through open, mature discourse.
7. Express gratitude to save a struggling relationship
If even amid all this turmoil and upheaval, you feel thankful for your partner, it’s a clear sign that you can save a struggling relationship. In fact, you must. For that, you have to overcome your ego and express gratitude for the little things you appreciate in your significant other.
It can be something as simple as them taking out the trash every morning or bringing you your morning coffee even when you’re fighting. Or something as big as them overlooking a transgression you made or sticking by your side during an illness or personal loss. Make this a habit you build upon day after day. Soon, the positivity of your appreciation and gratitude for each other will begin to outweigh the negativity of your differences.
“Expressing gratitude for the small pleasures and comforts the relationship brings to you. Make it a habit to say “thank you” when your partner does something nice for you. Try to tell your partner what you appreciate about them,” says Nandita.
8. Make up for mistakes to fix a relationship you ruined
To save a relationship when he wants out can be the hardest. Or when she wants out, for that matter. That usually means that you’re trying to fix a relationship you ruined. There can be a host of reasons for this – cheating, long-term infidelity, addiction, financial mismanagement, to name a few.
The only way to bounce back from this abyss and salvage your relationship is to make up for your mistakes. Show your partner that you’re genuinely apologetic about whatever it is that you have done. Also, let your actions reflect your resolve to make amends and never go down that path again.
It may take time, but slowly and surely your partner will come around. The only caveat is that you do not repeat your mistakes. No matter how tough the going gets. “Forgiveness in a relationship is just as important as owning up to your mistakes, if not more. In any long-term relationship, you have to forgive a lot. So, don’t hold on to the small things and the hurt they may have caused. Let go. If that’s not possible, go back to the issues and communicate until all negative feelings have been addressed and resolved,” advises Nandita.
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When To Let Go Of A Relationship?
Even when they’re stuck in a hopeless situation, most people’s first instinct is to figure out how to save a relationship. But it is also equally important to address – how do you know if your relationship is worth saving? If you’re in a relationship that’s rife with abuse, be it emotional, physical or sexual, there is simply no point in staying on.
Similarly, repeated breach of trust, either through cheating or lying, is a red flag. On the other hand, cases where one of the partners struggles with mental illness or addiction are somewhat of a gray area. If your partner is willing to get help and get better, you can save your relationship. But if the intent to improve or heal is missing, there is no reason to stay.
To assess whether your relationship is worth saving or would you be better letting do, take a step back and view the situation dispassionately. You can also seek the guidance of a counselor or a trusted guide to arrive at the right conclusion. If you decide to stay and fight to save your relationship from a breakup, bolster your endeavors with the right conflict resolution strategies.
You know your relationship is dying and you have drifted apart when you are not emotionally or physically connected and you are going through a severe rough patch. You do not know if you can get out of the quicksand you have landed in.
Lack of communication and lack of intimacy – both physical and emotional – are signs that the relationship is over.
The first step is for both partners to accept that they have grown apart in the relationship and they have to make that extra effort to feel alive in the relationship again. Communication, small gestures, the extra effort put in by both partners make a relationship work.
The relationship is worth saving when you cannot imagine staying without each other, being with someone else or being apart. You have silly arguments but you still kiss and make up and you make each other laugh.
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