Some relationships are toxic or abusive and should be ended as soon as possible; others simply run their course. But many could be saved if only those involved were prepared to try a little harder.
1) Be sure you want to save the relationship. Begin by asking yourself some tough questions. Do you want to save this relationship? Be honest. If the answer is yes, ask yourself why. Are your motives positive or negative? A fear of being alone, for example, is not good enough. Consider your initial attraction. What first drew you to your partner? Is he kind? Maybe he is cheerful and amusing. Before you try to heal the relationship, you must understand why you are doing so.
2) Understand the problem. Again, be brutally honest. Many relationships fail because of trivial irritations: dirty socks thrown on the floor, unstacked dishwashers, shaved hairs left around the sink, and so on. It isn’t easy to live with someone, but such minor problems can soon be remedied. Do you want different things? Do your personalities clash? Maybe you are an extrovert who longs to go drinking and dancing at the weekend, while your partner dislikes your friends and simply wishes to spend their evenings with a book. Whatever the problems, you need to get them clear in your mind.
3) Communicate. Communication is key to all relationships, whether that be with a partner, a friend, or even a child. But be careful, and be sensitive. For example, do not tell your wife that she is ageing badly, that you no longer find her attractive, and that you are lusting after the new girl at work. Neither is it advisable to tell your husband he bores you to death and that you wish to spend less time with him. Above all, avoid striking an accusatory note. Do not use the word ‘you’; use the personal pronoun ‘I’ instead. So if you feel sexually unsatisfied, say “I think we need to be more experimental in bed. I don’t feel satisfied”; do not say “you are no good at sex”! Many couples fear admitting something is wrong. They imagine that doing so would be like pulling at a loose thread: one tug and the whole thing unravels.
4) Drop the fantasies. Too many people expect a flawless relationship, in which they are fulfilled in every way. Such relationships are rare, and most people have to make compromises. Relationships are hard. This needs to be repeated over and over. People with unrealistic expectations soon begin to fantasise about other people. They imagine how wonderful life would be with the lady next door, or the man who works in their local bank. But end this relationship and begin a new one and you will eventually encounter a whole new set of problems.
5) Try and empathise more. Your partner is not a pet, nor a toy, nor an extension of you. You are sharing your bed with a different human being, and the realisation of this can take months, even years, to fully dawn. People tend to assume that others, especially their partner, see the world as they do. Never assume anything. Make a real effort to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Consider the things that make them them: their genes, their temperament, their childhood, the values they were taught, and so on. Many relationships falter because those involved simply do not understand one another.
6) Commit. Stoic endurance is not the same as commitment. Commitment should be a positive act, not one of grim resignation. Affirm both to yourself and your partner that you love them and want to iron out the problems.
7) Revive the romance. No relationship can last without love and romance. Too often, especially once children arrive, relationships begin to resemble a business partnership. Small romantic gestures can mean so much. But they must be sincere. If your idea of romance is a bunch of cheap flowers, a box of chocolates, and a table in a moderately priced restaurant, you need to make more effort. Romance only works when it is authentic. Make it personal. Everyone goes for dinner with their partner. Think of something unique instead. What does your partner love? Going out of your way during rush hour to buy their favorite sandwich can mean more than a romantic vacation.
Of course, there is no magic wand. Some relationships are doomed, and no amount of effort or commitment can save them. However, follow the advice offered in this article and you may be surprised by the results. Whatever you do, patience, time, and effort are crucial.