How To Save A Relationship — 13 Tips From A Therapist

Suffering and Healing | | , Editor-in-Chief
Updated On: May 6, 2024
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No matter how strong the connection, every relationship goes through its share of ups and downs. 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.

However, not all rough patches are created equal. It’s one thing to tide over minor, even recurring, issues, and quite another to try to navigate the reality of a relationship falling apart. So, when you’re in the throes of despair, wondering, “Can my relationship be saved?”, know that the answer to that question, as well as your approach to handling this crisis, depends on the core issues at play.

That said, as long as both partners have the right intent and make the right efforts, in most situations, mending a relationship is possible. We are here to help you figure out how, in consultation with psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couples counseling.

Can A Broken Relationship Be Fixed?

In any struggling relationship, partners often find themselves engulfed by a sense of hopelessness about the future. The discord and disconnect paves the way for constant fights and repeated arguments, which can make them feel like each other’s adversaries. This in itself can be an emotionally disheveling experience.

Then, you find some daunting questions: Do you treat it as the end of the road or work toward repairing your bond? Can a broken relationship be fixed? How long can you grapple with a relationship falling apart without it taking a toll on your mental health and emotional well-being?

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This can be a suffocating place to be. As the bond between two people cripples under a string of crises, finding a way back to a healthy relationship can become a distant dream. The good news is that many of these struggling 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 salvage a struggling relationship, 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.

Related Reading: 11 Relationship Arguments That Spell Doom For Your Bond

How do you know if you can save a broken relationship?

When discontent, discord, and conflict establish a stronghold, it’s only natural to wonder, “Can my relationship be saved?” As we said, in most cases, it is possible to turn things around. But not every relationship can be saved and fixed. So, how do you know the difference? Here are some clear-cut indicators that a broken relationship can be saved:

  • Holding on to happy memories: Even if you don’t feel alive in each other’s company, you long for a time gone by when 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 to salvage a relationship
  • Intent to identify issues: The willingness to get to the root cause of your problems and accept accountability for your part in the deterioration of your relationship is an encouraging sign. Irrespective of why you find yourself trying to fix a damaged relationship, 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
  • Looking at the bigger picture: You are willing to let the small stuff slide if it can help revive your relationship
  • Can’t see a life without each other: The biggest indicator that you can fix a damaged relationship 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
heal a relationship
It’s important to determine if it’s possible to heal a relationship

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, and monotony alone are enough to kill a connection, making it near-impossible to save a relationship.”

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 equally important to know when to let go of a relationship. The question here is not, can relationships be fixed, but whether you should invest effort, time, and emotions in trying to salvage a relationship. It is best to walk away from a damaged relationship instead to trying to revive it, if:

  • There is abuse in the relationship of any kind, be it emotional, physical, sexual, or financial
  • 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 go into couples therapy, if necessary

Related Reading: How Important Are Common Interests In Relationships?

13 Therapist-Recommended 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 of a relationship falling apart or work toward saving it, knowing what exactly you can do to improve your equation with your partner can help. It can give you purpose and motivation to make a final push in the right direction.

To salvage a relationship, it’s important to take stock of what your issues are, what brought you to a point where you feel like things just aren’t working out, and what you can do to change the course of your journey as a couple. How exactly do you navigate these steps? We break it down for you with these 13 actionable tips on how to save a relationship, recommended by Nandita

mending a relationship
To mend a relationship, you must take stock of your issues

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 salvage a relationship, both partners must be committed to healing as individuals before they 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.

To free yourself from the clutches of resentment in the relationship and grudges toward your partner, you need to take stock of your own emotional health and embark on the path of healing. Now, this may look different for everyone, but here are some things that can help:

  • Turning to a trusted philosopher, friend, and guide for counsel
  • Introspecting and identifying areas you need to work on
  • Educating yourself about the role of individual patterns in couple relationships
  • Inculcating self-awareness about triggers and problematic behavior patterns
  • Practicing meditation or mindfulness exercises to feel centered and grounded
  • Seeking individual therapy

2. Learn to communicate better

There is no alternative to open and honest communication when you are working toward mending a relationship. Nandita advises, “Go back to the issues and communicate until all negative feelings have been addressed and resolved. 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.” 

In other words, practice healthy communication aimed at conflict resolution, and not resort to yelling, name-calling, or verbal abuse in the garb of communication. Nandita recommends the following tips for improving communication to heal a relationship: 

  • Find a time and place where you can discuss your issues without any distractions 
  • Take turns expressing your feelings but without resorting to the blame game or leveling accusation 
  • Use “I” statements to put your point across. For instance, instead of saying, “You never have time for me”, say, “I feel ignored when you focus all your attention on work”
  • Give your partner a chance to say their piece without interruptions. 
  • Don’t cut each other mid-sentence or talk over one another 
  • If tempers soar, disengage and revisit the conversation when you have both calmed down

3. Quit playing games

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 being passive-aggressive.

While this behavior can give you momentary satisfaction, it doesn’t in any way aid your pursuit of figuring out how to save a relationship. If you or your partner continue down this road, the other will eventually lose interest in making an effort to improve things. Nothing hurts a relationship’s odds of survival more than a loss of intent.

“Instead of resorting to these petty games, be 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,” advises Nandita.

Related Reading: 20 Questions To Ask Your Partner To Build Emotional Intimacy

4. Prioritize your relationship

Can a broken relationship be fixed? If you remember, in answering this question right at the beginning, we said, most relationships can be saved provided both partners are willing to put in the work necessary to turn things around. One essential aspect of that is prioritizing your relationship. 

Think back to those days of the honeymoon phase, when you went above and beyond to make time for your partner, when you’d do anything in your power just to see your partner smile, when driving across the city to bring them dessert just because they were feeling low didn’t seem like too much work. 

It’s time to bring back the same level of effort in your relationship. “To heal a relationship, you must make your partner feel seen, valued, and appreciated. Often, that doesn’t require grand gestures but small, consistent effort,” says Nandita. Here is how you can prioritize your relationship: 

  • Make it a point to spend quality time together every day, even if it is for 30 mins 
  • Plan regular date nights 
  • Include your partner in your plans 
  • Set your phone aside, and ask your partner about their day 
  • When your partner talks to you, listen intently

5. Take accountability for your actions

This is perhaps the hardest but also the most critical part of mending a relationship. 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 repair a damaged relationship, 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.” 

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. 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.

infographic How To Save A Relationship
How To Save A Relationship — Tips From A Therapist

6. Focus on building deeper intimacy

My friend, Alisha, was going through a rough patch in her marriage that just didn’t seem to abate. Two years of watching her relationship falling apart, she was at her wits’ end. On one of our regular girls’ night outs, she opened up to me and said, “Josh and I have practically become strangers who live under the same roof. I don’t remember the last time we touched each other or shared a laugh. Can my relationship be saved?” 

Nandita says this problem is not uncommon in couples who have been together a long time because somewhere along the way, people tend to assume that this intimate connection they share will sustain itself without any effort from them. However, it doesn’t quite work that way. To heal a relationship, you have to make an effort to nurture different types of intimacy — physical, emotional, sexual, and intellectual. Here are some ways you can do that: 

  • Talk to each other, ask questions, and share details of your day and life, even if it’s about the most seemingly inconsequential things 
  • Express affection through hugs, kisses, and cuddles
  • Be invested in each other’s sexual pleasure to avoid routine and predictability from taking hold of your intimate moments 
  • Work toward bringing laughter back into your relationship

7. Positive memories can help in mending a relationship

You were once two people head-over-heels in love with each other. 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 heal a relationship and infuse a new life into it. So, 

  • 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. With a trip down memory lane, you can build a close connection, revive your intimacy, and be certain that your relationship is worth saving.

8. Be conscious of the words

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 figure out how to save a relationship can sound counterintuitive, it doesn’t have to be. The key here is to fight respectfully.

Make a conscious effort to steer the discourse away from saying hurtful things and toward a genuine sharing of grievances. 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

Related Reading: 8 Conflict Resolution Strategies In Relationships That Almost Always Work

9. Commit to rebuilding trust

No matter what the root cause of a damaged relationship, trust is almost always a casuality of hostility between partners. Contrary to popular belief, trust issues in a relationship don’t only stem from setbacks like infidelity or deception. Trust also erodes every time you, 

  • Tell a white lie to avoid another argument with your partner 
  • Hurt their feelings by saying something mean 
  • Don’t keep a promise 
  • Disrespect them in public 
  • Share something personal they told you in confidence

That’s why, if you’re wondering, “How can my relationship be saved?”, work toward rebuilding trust. Nandita says, “Unless partners can trust each other implicitly, they will continue to hurt and wound each other in some way or the other, and the cycle of unhealthy behaviors that damage a relationship will continue.”

10. 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. If you want to know how to save a relationship from the negative impact of such conflicts, you must learn to negotiate and compromise.

Hold your ground on matters that you feel strongly about and let go of things that seem trivial. 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.

Relationship Advice

11. Express gratitude

If even amid all this turmoil and upheaval, you feel thankful for your partner, there is hope for a struggling relationship. In fact, overcoming your ego and expressing gratitude for the little things you appreciate in your significant other can be an effective way to turn things around in a struggling relationship. 

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.

Related Reading: Here’s What Midlife Crisis Taught Me

12. Practice forgiveness and empathy

One surefire way to bounce back from this abyss and salvage a relationship is to practice forgiveness and empathy. It may take time, but slowly and surely your partner will come around. The only caveat is to repeat the same mistakes that brought you to this point. 

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,” advises Nandita.

13. Seek professional help

Can relationships be fixed? Yes, but the path to recovery and healing can be different for different people and is often determined by the severity of the issues at play. If your relationship problems are of a serious nature — infidelity, codependency, for instance — have become chronic, or are stemming from underlying issues such as abandonment issues, incompatible attachment styles, you and your partner may not be equipped to resolve them effectively. 

In such cases, seeking professional help by opting for couples therapy becomes an essential part of figuring out how to save a relationship. Don’t hesitate to ask for the help you need or you may regret letting go of a relationship that could have been saved. If you’re considering getting help, you can avail of Bonobology’s counseling services from the comfort of your home.

Key Pointers

  • Relationships go through rough patches and when that happens you may find yourself desperate for a way to turn things around
  • More often than not, it is possible to resolve the underlying issues and save a relationship, provided both partners are willing to make an effort to that end
  • However, not every relationship can be saved. You must know when to let go of a relationship
  • Abuse, compulsive cheating and lying, struggles with addiction and mental health issues coupled with a refusal to get help are some indicators a relationship is not worth saving
  • The answer to how to save a relationship lies in open communication, prioritizing your relationship, strengthening intimacy, taking accountability for your actions, and practicing empathy, gratitude and forgiveness

It’s never easy to find yourself in a situation where you’ve to look for ways to revive and rebuild a struggling relationship. To navigate this precarious situation, the first step is to dispassionately assess whether your relationship is worth saving or would you be better off letting go. Once you find that there is still hope for a future together, give it your all to revive your relationship and strengthen your bond with your partner.

FAQs

1. What are the signs of a dying relationship?

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.

2. What are the signs when a relationship is over?

Lack of communication and lack of intimacy — both physical and emotional — are signs that the relationship is over.

3. How do you make a relationship work?

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, and the extra effort put in by both partners make a relationship work.

4. How do you know if a relationship is worth saving?

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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