Relationships aren’t necessarily easy to fix. It can take many hours of effort to get it right, emotional risks that feel like life or death, and there are no guarantees.
There are, however, a few things you can start doing today to fix your relationship if you find yourself struggling. These 10 ideas to fix your relationship will hopefully start the trend toward a deepened connection and satisfaction in your marriage.
Let’s dive in:
1. Take 100% Responsibility
Many of us tend to underestimate how powerful we can be.
People reach out to me wishing their partners could change, often without taking any responsibility for the role that they play in their relationship. You know you can’t change anyone (I hope) — yet at the same time, your impact is mighty.
This is something that couples in distress fail to recognize: they have no idea how much they matter to each other, which is exactly the problem. (The solution, in part, is recognizing how much you do matter and how much of an impact you make.)
When you don’t realize how much you matter, which is something we all long for and need to feel our best, you might act in ways with your partner that are ultimately sabotaging your connection, and wind up in vicious negative feedback loops that can be tricky to get out of.
I get that you’re doing your best and what might feel right to you in the moment, but sometimes what you think is your best isn’t in your best interest.
When you take 100% responsibility, you say you are going to figure out how to get this right so you can fix your relationship. You believe in yourself and your incredible resilience as a human. You do what it takes.
You are no longer a victim and you are no longer waiting for something to change on the outside. You realize it’s up to you to fix your relationship and you own the problem as 100% your responsibility to change.
Does that mean your partner has no role here? No, of course they do, but that’s not your business nearly as much as your role is. They are 100% responsible for their relationship. Even if you’re married, however, your marriage and their marriage may feel entirely different.
The paradox is that you can’t change them, but you can impact and inspire them beyond words. How you choose to do that depends on how much responsibility you are taking to get what you want.
Once you own your power and responsibility and realize you get to decide and have free will, the rest (of life) is so much easier.
Is that a guarantee that taking 100% responsibility will fix your relationship? Nope. But if you are committed to nothing less than a stellar relationship, you’ll either create one with your current partner or you’ll let them go.
2. Understand they want the same thing as you
Relationships are actually quite simple.
We all want to be seen, valued, appreciated, desired, accepted, and loved for who we are.
“Yes, of course I want to feel that way, and I don’t!” you may be thinking.
Consider this: Your partner wants that too.
It’s hard to appreciate and value someone who you feel is being hurtful toward you and you worry you may either mean nothing to them or no matter what you do you can’t make them happy…
So be the one that breaks that pattern (ahem, take 100% responsibility).
Start being kinder and start showing your partner that you love and accept them for who they are.
3. What you appreciate appreciates
You’ve heard this one before I hope: Where attention goes, energy flows. You get more of what you look for.
From quantum physics to psych 101, it’s a popular idea that we simply do not use to our advantage nearly enough.
This idea certainly works when you are trying to fix your relationship.
I imagine that if you are in any kind of relationship distress, there is good in your marriage. Otherwise it would not suck that it’s not going the way you want! You are fighting for something in trying to fix your relationship.
The negativity bias in all of us can make it hard to see the good.
We are scared to see the good, scared to share the good, maybe we are even scared of the good.
We think, without realizing it, “if it gets too good and I let my guard down, the rug is going to be pulled out from underneath me.” So we focus on what’s wrong, and get more of that instead.
Take 100% responsibility for your thoughts and your actions and start consciously appreciating what you like so you can get more of it!
Apply this wisdom to your marriage so you can finally fix it.
Your partner pisses you off all day but does a great job taking the garbage out? Let them know how much you appreciate that!!
Your partner always forgets to take the garbage out despite saying they would but actually took care of something else you didn’t expect them to? Thank them for that!!
You can’t think of 1 thing you appreciate about your partner in the present moment because they feel like they’re on another planet and you are so frustrated? Why did you choose them – think of one thing and tell them. Randomly. “When we met, I knew I liked you because we hit it off so well and I felt totally comfortable being myself with you.”
What you appreciate, appreciates.
Tell them what’s working, what you like, pay extra attention to those things, notice it, challenge yourself to filling a quota daily. Build those muscles.
4. The grass grows where it’s watered
The majority of people I work with are in love with their work in the world. Guess what?
I am too.
When your work is your passion it can be easy to get swept away by it.
I almost started this email by writing, “here we go another 6 weeks went by and I haven’t written to you’ — and I honestly feel bad I don’t email as much as I’d like to, because I love writing to you! It’s true. But I have a family, clients, and friends who get me first.
My practice is super busy and I need some me too, that includes downtime.
Even if your work isn’t your passion, it can be easy to get swept away with it…! And all of your other responsibilities and things you care about.
Far too many couples come to me after leaving their marriages last.
So – take some time together.
Spend quality time. Don’t turn away. Water the garden where you want it to grow.
This can be tough at first if things are strained, but if you truly want to fix your relationship, it’s necessary.
5. The best present is your presence
Make sure you’re not just going through the motions when you’re watering the garden…really BE there in the moment.
In her best selling and game changing book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Sue Johnson gave us the acronym A.R.E. to describe the foundation of a solid relationship.
You can remember it like this: “ARE you there for me?”
If you can answer that question about your partner affirmatively and feel that YES in your bones, your marriage is likely in good shape.
A.R.E. stands for being ACCESSIBLE, RESPONSIVE and EMOTIONALLY ENGAGED.
In other words: present, attuned, connected, empathic.
Get out of your own way and start listening to your partner.
Put your experience on the shelf and trust that the two of you will get to it.
Make efforts every day to be more Accessible, Responsive and Emotionally Engaged, and recognize and acknowledge the times you fail to be connected in that way.
6. Remember that taking care of your relationship is an extension of self-care
Neuroscience and other qualitative research have revealed to us that the quality of our relationships have everything to do with how happy, successful, fulfilled and healthy we are.
If you’re doing all the things to take care of yourself with your healthy nourishment, exercise, meditation, good sleep and hydration, I am hoping your relationship is also on the list.
I so often see couples in which at least one partner puts themselves last.
Your relationship is usually juuuuust ahead of the lowest thing on the list (you), so that does not bode well for you or your relationship.
Put yourself up a few notches (you should be at the top of the list) and allow your relationship to join you in higher ranks.
7. Act as if
Yep, another cliche but one that can work wonders to fix your relationship if you take the risk of actually doing this.
What do you want your relationship to look like? What did it look like that you want it to resemble once again?
Get super clear on that, then act as if it’s already happened.
I could go on and on about this, but I will leave it there.
Do you even know what you want? Really take the time to get clear.
Never had a solid relationship?
No good role models?
You are not alone.
Thankfully we have answers as to what most of us want and need in a healthy relationship:
Recall that a strong relationship is built on the solid foundation of A.R.E.
Accessibility – Responsiveness – Emotional Engagement.
Imagine it going both ways — you know beyond the shadow of a doubt, your partner has your back, they are there for you, they love you, accept you precisely for who you are, and you can count on them.
Act as if it were all true, until it is.
8. Apologize and accept the apology
We all screw up at times, and can easily misperceive and be misperceived.
You should see my husband’s reaction to how I load the dishwasher (like, every day)!
While he doesn’t apologize for his reaction nor do I apologize for the way I load the dishwasher when I put stuff in it, this rarely becomes an issue with us because we just accept the fact that we each think the other person is a psychopath for loading it so casually (me) or rigidly (him). (He is welcome to put all the dishes away the way he likes.)
When we do screw up or hurt each other’s feelings though (and yes it happens), I like to think we’re pretty good at apologizing and accepting the apology.
Especially with so many people living on top of each other these days, you’re going to step on each other’s toes. If you don’t, there are likely bigger problems in your relationship.
Success in relationships isn’t about avoiding conflict at all costs, it’s about reconnecting and repairing after the rift.
Swallow your pride, you have nothing to be proud of if you’re being a jerk to the person you love the most.
9. Embrace more compassion – for yourself and everyone else
Some say you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself, or you can’t truly receive love if you don’t love yourself.
I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it’s so all or none.
I believe it’s more of a chicken or egg phenomenon. We absorb and offer love freely at first from wherever we find it, and as life goes by with misses and hurts along the way, some seemingly trivial and some unfathomable, walls come up. People lose touch with their essence and lose sight of themselves and the incredible intrinsically valuable resilient beings that they are. The “self-love” everyone raves about may seemingly be absent, and sometimes it is up to someone outside of you to see you so that you may begin to start to see yourself again as you once did.
If you can embrace more self-compassion and really get in touch with your innate value beyond measure…well, that is a big solution to a lot of your problems right there.
It will certainly open up more possibilities for the kind of richer and deeper relationship you’ve been looking for.
10. Love that it will never be perfect
I often don’t reach out or share little bits I could share because I care about quality and want things to be worth your time and attention. A lot of the stuff that infiltrates our inboxes (at least mine) is garbage…! (And if you know by now how I load the dishwasher you may have figured I’m not an “inbox zero” kind of gal so I’ve yet to unsubscribe to the hundreds of lists I’m on).
Seriously though, I only want to share something that adds value. Even writing this, squeezing it in, sending it off…ugh, I could spend hours improving this message. And I’m not going to do that, but I am going to send it anyway. You’ve probably heard “done is better than perfect” — is that Marie Forleo? It’s true.
And that’s true for your relationship (not necessarily that done is better than perfect, but that it will never be perfect). Accept your partner and their different styles or ways of doing things. My husband wishes I would load the dishwasher more like him, but accepts and loves me for who I am (which is not someone who loads the dishwasher perfectly like a rigid psychopath, hehe).
John Gottman’s research shows that 69% of happily married couples’ conflicts are PERPETUAL. They are happily married and of the things they disagree about, nearly 70% of those things are ongoing.
It will never be perfect.
Your partner will never be perfect, they just want to be loved for who they are, by YOU.
Be careful not to take your stylistic differences as further proof that you don’t matter to them.
Assume you matter, you matter so much, and that the cup was put where the dish should go not because your partner takes you for granted but because her brain works differently and she just wants to cram it all in as fast as possible and go about more meaningful parts of her day, like spending time with you.