- How to fix a broken relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend
- What makes a healthy love relationship?
- Understanding the Five Love Languages
- Become a better communicator
- How to have difficult conversations
- How to say ‘sorry’
- How to strengthen your relationship and make love last
- How to keep your relationship afloat
- The deal breakers
- Relationships can change
- How do you know they’re the one?
- What is a positive and respectful relationship
- Get help for relationship problems
- When is a good time to seek professional relationship help?
- Finding the right therapist for you
- Finding a therapist in the U.S.
- Finding a therapist in other countries
- Questions to ask yourself when choosing a therapist
- Types of therapy and therapists
- What to expect in therapy or counseling
- Your first therapy sessions
- How long does therapy last?
- Making the most of therapy and counseling
- Is therapy working?
- When to stop therapy or counseling
- Signs that you may need to change therapists
- Paying for therapy and counseling
- Affordable therapy and counseling options
- Why do relationships get into difficulties?
- How to fix a broken relationship with your girlfriend
- How to fix a broken relationship with your boyfriend
- Signs that it may be time to move on
- Your partner uses the silent treatment and withholds kindness or contact
- Minor disagreements turn into constant arguments
- Your partner doesn’t like you hanging with your friends or family
- You feel worse about yourself since you started the relationship
- You seem to be doing all the work to keep the relationship going
- Signs of an abusive relationship
- Things you might feel in an abusive relationship
- What is emotional abuse?
- What are the signs of domestic violence?
- How to break up with someone
How to fix a broken relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend
A relationship can start with you feeling on top of the world, but it can go downhill over time. Relationships—whether they’re love or friendships—are more than things you want, they’re necessities for you to be your happiest, healthiest, most productive selves. But supportive, fulfilling relationships don’t come automatically. Having a satisfying romantic relationship takes hard work. Knowing what to expect from a relationship and what you want from it, and how to communicate with (and listen to) your partner, are really important aspects of having a good relationship. If you are lonely or if romantic relationships have disappointed you, there are steps you can take to repair old connections and build meaningful new ones.
A healthy, secure romantic relationship can serve as an ongoing source of support and happiness in life. It can strengthen all aspects of your wellbeing, from your physical and mental health to your work and connections with others. However, a relationship that isn’t supportive can be a tremendous drain on you emotionally. Love and relationships take work, commitment, and a willingness to adapt and change with your partner. Whether you’re looking to keep a healthy relationship strong or repair a relationship on the rocks, these tips can help you build a caring and lasting union.
Good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. When people stop communicating well, they stop relating well, and times of change or stress can really bring out disconnect. As long as you are communicating, you can work through whatever problem you’re facing.
Communication skills can make or break any relationship – with friends, family members, partners, or even co-workers. Communicating well means you can get your point across clearly, and mastering the art of listening shows other people that you care about what they have to say.
Communicating well can help you to maintain good relationships, avoid conflict and even increase your likelihood of getting what you want. Learn how active listening, assertive communication and body language all add up to awesome communication skills.
Lastly, although it can be tough, remember that breaking up isn’t failing; it’s an important learning experience for the future.
What makes a healthy love relationship?
Everyone’s relationship is unique, and people come together for many different reasons. But there are some aspects that good relationships have in common. Knowing the basic principles of healthy relationships helps keep them meaningful, fulfilling and exciting in both happy times and sad.
Staying connected with each other. Some relationships get stuck in peaceful coexistence, but without the members truly relating to each other and working together. While the partnership may seem stable on the surface, lack of involvement and communication increases distance between two people. When you need to talk about something important, the connection and understanding may no longer be there.
Don’t be afraid of (respectful) disagreement. Some couples talk things out quietly, while others may raise their voices and passionately disagree. The key in a strong relationship, though, is not to be fearful of conflict. You need to feel safe to express things that bother you without fear of retaliation, and be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, degradation or insisting on being right.
Keeping outside relationships and interests alive. Despite the claims of romantic fiction or movies, no one person can meet all of your needs. In fact, expecting too much from your partner can put unhealthy pressure on the relationship. To stimulate and enrich your romantic relationship, it’s important to preserve connections with family and friends and maintain hobbies and interests outside of the relationship as well.
Open and honest communication. Good communication is a key part of any relationship. When both people feel comfortable expressing their needs, fears, and desires, trust and bonds are strengthened. A big part of good communication is having the ability to pick up on nonverbal cues. For a relationship to work well, each person has to understand their own and their partner’s nonverbal cues or “body language.”
Don’t sweep things under the carpet. It can be really tempting to avoid difficult conversations to keep the peace or because you’re worried you’re being silly. But the risk with this is that you keep putting off talking about things until you or your partner finally snap because the tension has been building over time. It’s better to get little things out in the open and do this regularly rather than having big arguments that risk causing damage to your relationship. Of course, that doesn’t mean taking your partner to task over every little thing – it will always be important to be able to let the little stuff go – but if there are things that seem to keep bothering you over and over, it’s better to discuss them than keep them bottled up.
Behaviors common to healthy relationships
When looking at behaviors that are common to relationships that work, you might think about the following:
- Being willing to express emotions openly. Being open with your emotions means you can tell your partner when there’s something on your mind – which is crucial if you’re upset about something or want to discuss a potential problem. If, instead of doing this, your partner either freezes you out – expecting you to guess when there’s something wrong – or consistently lashes out, it can really affect how you feel about them.
- Being able to resolve arguments. This is closely connected to the above. Being willing to talk through any disagreements calmly, reasonably and honestly is an essential skill in any relationship. We always say the disagreements in relationships are inevitable – it’s how you deal with them that counts. Again, if your partner refuses to engage with you – stonewalling any attempts to resolve things – or just gets really angry or abusive, it can make it really difficult to address any disagreements, often leaving negative feelings to fester over time.
- Talking about commitment. Being able to make plans together is a key part of maintaining and developing your connection. If you feel you and your partner are working on a life shared together – not two lives lived separately. If it feels like your partner isn’t willing to talk about the future in any concrete detail, this can be quite scary, as it can make you worry that they aren’t interested in having something long-lasting.
So what can you do?
If you feel like any or all of the above are missing from your relationship, you may well feel that your partner needs to grow up.
So what can you do about it? Well, the simple-but-not-so-simple-answer is: ‘talk about it’.
We say ‘simple’ because, in truth, this is the single most important thing you can do when it comes to addressing difficult things in your relationship. And not so simple – because, obviously, this is often easier said than done.
It’s important to remember that talking things over with your partner isn’t necessarily about getting them to change their behaviour. If you approach things with the attitude of telling them everything they’re doing wrong and blaming them for all the problems you’re experiencing together, you’re not likely to get a good reaction.
Talking things over is about trying to address problems as a team. It’s very likely that if you’re finding certain things difficult, then they are too. If you approach the topic in terms of making things better for both of you, your partner may be more interested in hearing what you have to say.
You might like to read our tips article on having difficult conversations in your relationship. It has some really useful advice on how to approach a conversation – including how to put across what you want to say, and when and where you might like to try to talk.
Hearing what your partner has to say
The other reason to talk to your partner about your concerns is that it will give you a chance to hear what they have say.
While it can obviously be really frustrating to feel like your partner isn’t being mature, it’s also important to consider their perspective on things. It’s not uncommon for what might seem to be immature behavior to be a symptom of some other issue in the relationship.
Rightly or wrongly, your partner may be expressing some frustration or sadness of their own by refusing to properly engage or be open with you. Very often, one person may resort to this kind of behavior if they feel they aren’t being treated with respect – acting like a child because they feel they’re being viewed as one.
Talking things through in a calm, honest and open manner will give your partner a chance to say anything that they’re feeling. Although it can be hard to hear this kind of thing, it’s also important to be willing to – just as you’d like them to be willing to hear what you’re not liking at the moment.
Understanding the Five Love Languages
According to Gary Chapman (marriage counselor and author) and his bestselling book “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts”, there are five emotional love languages — five ways that people speak and understand emotional love.
The five love languages are something many relationship counselors and therapists use in their work with couples. Although they don’t use that term specifically, it’s a framework by which they help couples understand each other more deeply.
In a relationship, peoples’ styles of thinking are very different, so it would follow that what their needs in a relationship could be different. Therefore, it’s important to understand what your partner’s language of love is. Because if you don’t know that, it’s likely you’ll get it wrong. And without wanting to, you might end up hurting each others’ feelings. Or, your actions might not be as well received as they would be if you spoke a language they understood.
That’s why, understanding each other’s love languages can be vital to building and maintaining a healthy relationship. But first, it’s important to have the ‘building blocks’ in place. There needs to be love for each other, there needs to be trust, and there needs to be a desire to communicate with each other. For example, in a good, healthy relationship, somebody saying, ‘You don’t tell me you love me,’ is them talking about the language of love that’s relevant for them. They’re saying the love language known as ‘words of affirmation’ is really important.
Here how to identify your partner’s or your own love languages
Identifying your love languages is part of the communication process among the couple. When counselors see clients, they don’t ask them what their ‘language of love’ is specifically. Instead, they ask, “What will make you feel loved and cherished in the relationship?”
Here are the five love languages you need to learn:
Words of affirmation
One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up. Put simply, telling your partner you love him/her. Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other.
Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
- “You look sharp in that suit.”
- “Do you ever look incredible in that dress! Wow!”
- “I really like how you’re always on time to pick me up at work.”
- “You can always make me laugh.”
Words of affirmation are one of the five basic love languages. Within that language, however, there are many dialects. All of the dialects have in common the use of words to affirm one’s spouse. Psychologist William James said that possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated. Words of affirmation will meet that need in many individuals.
Quality time means giving someone your loved one an undivided attention, it’s about spending time with each other. Quality time doesn’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. When you spend time that way, Netflix or HBO has your attention — not your loved one. What quality time means is sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, devices put away, giving each other your undivided attention. It means taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other and talking.
Time is a precious commodity. We all have multiple demands on our time, yet each of us has the exact same hours in a day. We can make the most of those hours by committing some of them to our spouse. If your mate’s primary love language is quality time, she simply wants you, being with her, spending time.
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him or her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him or her. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.
But what of the person who says, “I’m not a gift giver. I didn’t receive many gifts growing up. I never learned how to select gifts. It doesn’t come naturally for me.” Congratulations, you have just made the first discovery in becoming a great lover. You and your spouse speak different love languages. Now that you have made that discovery, get on with the business of learning your second language. If your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts, you can become a proficient gift giver. In fact, it is one of the easiest love languages to learn.
Acts of service
Acts of service means doing things you know your partner would like you to do. You seek to please her/him by serving her/him, to express your love for her/him by doing things for her/him.
Consider actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, changing the baby’s diaper, picking up a prescription, keeping the car in operating condition — they are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.
A willingness to examine and change stereotypes is necessary in order to express love more effectively. Remember, there are no rewards for maintaining stereotypes, but there are tremendous benefits to meeting the emotional needs of your partner. If your partner’s love language is acts of service, then “actions speak louder than words.”
Experts have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, stroked and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.
Physical touch is also a powerful vehicle for communicating love. Holding hands, kissing, embracing and sexual intercourse are all ways of communicating emotional love to one’s partner. For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled, and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.
Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language and if you did not grow up in a “touching family.” Sitting close to each other as you watch your favorite television program requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. Touching your spouse as you walk through the room where he is sitting takes only a moment. Touching each other when you leave the house and again when you return may involve only a brief kiss or hug but will speak volumes to your spouse.
Once you discover that physical touch is the primary love language of your spouse, you are limited only by your imagination on ways to express love.
Become a better communicator
It’s no great secret that communication is an important part of any relationship. What’s less understood is how to be a good communicator and just how beneficial building good communication habits into your relationship can be.
And while there’s no single, simple solution for making this happen, there are a few key communication tips that can help both with difficult conversations and good communication on a day-to-day basis.
Tell your partner what you need, don’t make them guess.
It’s not always easy to talk about what you need. Even when you’ve got a good idea of what’s important to you in a relationship, talking about it can make you feel vulnerable, embarrassed, or even ashamed. But look at it from your partner’s point of view. Providing comfort and understanding to someone you love is a pleasure, not a burden. So tell your partner what you need. And remember, everyone changes over time. What you needed from your partner five years ago may be different from what you need now.
Be an active listener
Good listeners ask questions, respect people’s right to disagree, and know when to offer help. Learn how to be a great listener with these simple steps:
- Let your partner talk. If your partner talks to you about something difficult or important, don’t interrupt him/her with a story about yourself, even if it’s relevant. Let your partner finish what he/she wants to say and then help your partner work out how he/she feel about it.
- Don’t judge your partner. If your partner comes to you with a problem, help him/her work through whatever they’re dealing with and suggest options rather than pass judgement.
- Accept that your partner may disagree with you. If your partner comes to you for help or advice, don’t expect him/her to do exactly what you say. While they may have sought your advice, they may also disagree with it. Let him/her choose their own path.
- Ask open questions. Instead of asking ‘yes/no’ questions, use open questions that let your partner take the discussion in the direction they want. For example: ‘Can you tell me about…?’
- Show your partner you’re listening. Ask questions about what he/she tell you, and recap what they’ve said in different words to see if you’ve got it right. Your partner will trust you more if they know you’re really listening to them.
Be an assertive communicator
There are three main ways to communicate:
- Aggressive communication involves speaking in a forceful and hostile manner that alienates others.
- Passive communication is characterized by not expressing your thoughts, feelings or wishes. This form of communication can make you feel like others are walking all over you.
- Assertive communication involves clearly expressing what you think, how you feel and what you want, without demanding that you must have things your way.
When you are assertive, you can:
- express your own thoughts, feelings and needs
- make reasonable requests of other people (while respecting their right to say ‘no’)
- stand up for your own rights
- say ‘no’ to requests from others, without feeling guilty.
Mind your body language
The way you speak – including the volume and tone of your voice, your physical gestures and your facial expressions – has an important impact on how your message will be received. For example, if you fold your arms in front of your chest and look stern, people are likely to feel defensive even before they’ve heard what you have to say.
On the other hand, an open posture, calm voice and relaxed body language will help the other person feel at ease.
Here’s an acronym that might help you remember good body language:
- R – Be relaxed and comfortable, and don’t fidget
- O – Adopt an open posture (no crossed arms)
- L – Lean towards the person – not too much, but just enough to show interest
- E – Maintain eye contact, without staring
- S – Face the person squarely
Be aware of how your body language can make people feel comfortable.
Take note of your partner’s nonverbal cues
So much of our communication is transmitted by what we don’t say. Nonverbal cues, which include eye contact, tone of voice, posture, and gestures such as leaning forward, crossing your arms, or touching someone’s hand, communicate much more than words. For a relationship to work well, each person has to understand their own and their partner’s nonverbal cues or “body language.”
Think about what you are transmitting as well, and if what you say matches your body language. If you say “I’m fine,” but you clench your teeth and look away, then your body is clearly signaling you are anything but “fine.”
When you experience positive emotional cues from your partner, you feel safe and happy, and when you send positive emotional cues, your loved one feels the same. When you stop taking an interest in your own or your partner’s emotions, your ability to communicate will suffer, especially during stressful times.
Types of nonverbal communication
The many different types of nonverbal communication or body language include:
- Facial expressions. The human face is extremely expressive, able to convey countless emotions without saying a word. And unlike some forms of nonverbal communication, facial expressions are universal. The facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same across cultures.
- Body movement and posture. Consider how your perceptions of people are affected by the way they sit, walk, stand, or hold their head. The way you move and carry yourself communicates a wealth of information to the world. This type of nonverbal communication includes your posture, bearing, stance, and the subtle movements you make.
- Gestures. Gestures are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. You may wave, point, beckon, or use your hands when arguing or speaking animatedly, often expressing yourself with gestures without thinking. However, the meaning of some gestures can be very different across cultures. While the OK sign made with the hand, for example, conveys a positive message in English-speaking countries, it’s consider offensive in countries such as Germany, Russia, and Brazil. So, it’s important to be careful of how you use gestures to avoid misinterpretation.
- Eye contact. Since the visual sense is dominant for most people, eye contact is an especially important type of nonverbal communication. The way you look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. Eye contact is also important in maintaining the flow of conversation and for gauging the other person’s interest and response.
- Touch. We communicate a great deal through touch. Think about the very different messages given by a weak handshake, a warm bear hug, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on the arm, for example.
- Space. Have you ever felt uncomfortable during a conversation because the other person was standing too close and invading your space? We all have a need for physical space, although that need differs depending on the culture, the situation, and the closeness of the relationship. You can use physical space to communicate many different nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy and affection, aggression or dominance.
- Voice. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When you speak, other people “read” your voice in addition to listening to your words. Things they pay attention to include your timing and pace, how loud you speak, your tone and inflection, and sounds that convey understanding, such as “ahh” and “uh-huh.” Think about how your tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection, or confidence.
Question your assumptions
If you’ve known each other for a while, you may assume that your partner has a pretty good idea of what you are thinking and what you need. However, your partner is not a mind-reader. While your partner may have some idea, it is much healthier to express your needs directly to avoid any confusion. Your partner may sense something, but it might not be what you need. What’s more, people change, and what you needed and wanted five years ago, for example, may be very different now. Getting in the habit of expressing your needs helps you weather difficult times, which otherwise may lead to increasing resentment, misunderstanding and anger.
Don’t put your partner on the defensive
It’s so easy to react to a disagreement with your partner by telling them everything you think they’re doing wrong and making lots of accusations. But the problem with this is that it’s only likely to put them on the defensive.
In counseling, experts often recommend that people try using ‘I’ statements. This means talking primarily in terms of how things have made you feel. Although it can feel a little clinical, you might like to try saying: ‘when you do x, it makes me feel y’.
Putting the focus on yourself like this means taking responsibility for your feelings and is much less likely to make your partner feel attacked. It’s a simple change, but one that can really shift the tone of a disagreement and make it less likely to spin out of control.
Make time to talk and listen
We tend to assume that communication is all about making yourself heard but this is really only half of it. It’s also just as important that you’re hearing each other.
Lots of the time when we’re having a discussion, we’re just waiting for our turn to talk. We’re hearing what they’re saying, but we’re concentrating our response: ‘that’s not true, that’s really annoying me’. This is understandable: no-one loves hearing something they disagree with. But in order to truly understand your partner’s perspective, you really have to pay attention and take it in.
You may find it useful to use the following simple pattern: one person talks, the other listens and then paraphrases back what they said: ‘what it sounds like you’re saying is…’. And then switch. Again, it sounds a little clinical, but repeating back what your partner has said can be a really powerful technique. It both shows them you’re trying to understand what’s they’re saying and actually makes it much easier to do this – just as it’s easier to memorize a fact by stating it out loud.
This isn’t necessary about agreeing with each other. It’s about understanding one another so you can begin to move towards a solution. If you’re always bearing this in mind as a goal then you’re much less likely to find yourself arguing.
Pick a place and time
It’s not just about what you say and how you say it, but also where and when. Sometimes, it’s useful to plan to have a discussion at a specific time and place.
There are a few benefits to this. When you set time aside, it means you’re able to give the conversation your full attention and aren’t trying to fit it in before doing something else like going out or going to bed. If you were trying to have an important business meeting, you wouldn’t usually try to fit it in while walking down the corridor, so why do we so often do the same with our relationships?
Also, changing location can mean changing your thinking. If you’ve been arguing a lot at home, you might associate the space with the same patterns. Going somewhere else, or even doing something else while you talk, such as driving or walking, can help shift you into a different mindset.
Our final tip is to remember that communication is a skill and it takes practice to get good at it. If you want to develop your ability to communicate as a couple, you’ll need to build positive habits into the way you talk and make a real effort to stick to them.
Some days you’ll be better than others, and some days you won’t manage it at all. But if you persevere, you will find that, over time, your ability to say what’s on your mind and listen when your partner tells you what’s on theirs, does get better.
How to have difficult conversations
Whether you need to apologize to your partner or to confront him/her about a negative situation, having a difficult conversation can be nerve-wracking and scary. Here are some tips for making difficult conversations a little easier.
This can help if:
- you need to apologize to your partner
- you don’t know the best way to express yourself in a difficult situation
- you find it hard to get stuff off your chest.
One of the most effective ways of communicating is to use whole messages. This is particularly useful when you need to raise an issue that is difficult to talk about or that makes you feel uncomfortable. A whole message involves expressing how you think and feel, while at the same time stating what you want. It consists of four parts:
- Observations. What happened. In your description, stick to the facts. (For example: ‘The other day when Mike came over, you didn’t talk to him.’)
- Thoughts. Your interpretation of what happened. (For example: ‘I thought it looked rude – as though you don’t like him.’)
- Feelings. How you feel about the situation. (For example: ‘I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable.’)
- Wants. What you would like to happen in the situation. (For example: ‘The next time Mike comes over, I’d like you to say “hi” and to make an effort to talk to him.’)
How to say ‘sorry’
Apologizing can be awkward and difficult. Depending on why you want to apologize, you might have some hesitation. Here are some tips for saying ‘sorry’ effectively.
- Spell out why you want to apologize. It might sound obvious, but the first part of apologizing is to clearly state what you have done before saying you’re sorry for it. It might be helpful to rehearse exactly what you are going to say before you apologize.
- Show that you’re sorry. Showing that you regret what you have done is an important part of apologizing. If possible, think about how you can fix the problem and make things right. For example, if you’ve done or said something hurtful your loved one. However, some things can’t be fixed, such as cheating on your partner. In this instance, the best thing to do is to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and show the ways that you care in your actions.
- Acknowledge your partner’s feelings. A good apology involves describing how your actions have impacted your partner. For example, you might say: ‘I understand you must have felt really upset, angry and confused when I said something hurtful to you.’ This shows your partner that you’re on the same page as them and understand why he/she feels hurt.
- Ask for forgiveness. Ask for forgiveness by saying, ‘I know it will take time, but I really hope we can be friends again’ or even by asking, ‘Is there anything I can do to make this right?’ This lets the your partner know that the relationship is really important to you. After you’ve apologized, give your partner some time to think about what you have said, then check in with him/her later to see how they are feeling.
How to strengthen your relationship and make love last
For most people, falling in love usually seems to just happen. It’s preserving that “falling in love” experience that requires commitment and work. Given its rewards, though, it’s well worth the effort. By taking steps now to preserve or rekindle your falling in love experience, you can build a meaningful relationship that lasts—even for a lifetime.
- One small change can sometimes make a big difference!
Ideas to nurture your relationship include:
- Talk about your day and the things that both excite or worry you.
- Spend time alone together and ensure it is a priority.
- Celebrate the good times together.
- Express affection and give your partner thoughtful little surprises like a small gift, a flower from the garden on their bedside table, a favourite treat, an unpacked dishwasher or a special meal.
- Develop common interests, though allow time for independent interests as well.
- Listen to your partner and communicate your needs. Don’t wait for your partner to try to guess what is going on for you.
- Talk about sex and what is good about your sex life and what, if any, issues there are.
- Tell your partner when you are happy or unhappy about something – honestly and respectfully – and encourage your partner to do the same. This is better than avoiding difficult topics.
- Try to find solutions that are suitable for both of you. Prepare to compromise.
- Respect and accept both your differences and your similarities. Try not to make judgements when your partner makes mistakes, or doesn’t do things your way.
- Aim to be flexible and willing to change or try something new.
- Be supportive in the good and the challenging times, and ask for help when you cannot cope with a situation.
- Share the load – agree on who will do what in the household and to what standard.
- Make some time just for yourself and encourage your partner to do the same.
- Take responsibility for your actions and feelings.
Spend quality time together
You fall in love looking at and listening to each other. If you continue to look and listen in the same attentive ways, you can sustain the falling in love experience over the long term. You probably have fond memories of when you were first dating your loved one. Everything seemed new and exciting, and you likely spent hours just chatting together or coming up with new, exciting things to try. However, as time goes by, the demands of work, family, other obligations, and the need we all have for time to ourselves can make it harder to find time together.
Many couples find that the face-to-face contact of their early dating days is gradually replaced by hurried texts, emails, and instant messages. While digital communication is great for some purposes, it doesn’t positively impact your brain and nervous system in the same way as face-to-face communication. The emotional cues you both need to feel loved can only be conveyed in person, so no matter how busy life gets, it’s important to carve out time to spend together.
Here are simple ways to connect as a couple and rekindle your love:
- Commit to spending some quality time together every day on a regular basis. Even during the busiest times, just a few minutes of really sharing and connecting can help keep bonds strong.
- Find something that you enjoy doing together, whether it is a shared hobby, dance class, daily walk, or sitting over a cup of coffee in the morning.
- Try something new together. Doing new things together can be a fun way to connect and keep things interesting. It can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or going on a day trip to a place you’ve never been before.
Do things together that benefit others
One the most powerful ways of staying close and connected is to jointly focus on something you and your partner value outside of the relationship. Volunteering for a cause, project, or community work that has meaning for both of you can keep a relationship fresh and interesting. It can also expose you both to new people and ideas, offer the chance to tackle new challenges together, and provide fresh ways of interacting with each other.
As well as helping to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, doing things to benefit others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to help others. The more you help, the happier you’ll feel-as individuals and as a couple.
Keep physical intimacy alive
Touch is a fundamental part of human existence. Studies on infants have shown the importance of regular, affectionate physical contact for brain development. And the benefits don’t end in childhood. Affectionate contact boosts the body’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone that influences bonding and attachment.
While physical intercourse is often a cornerstone of a committed relationship, it shouldn’t be the only method of physical intimacy. Frequent, affectionate touch—holding hands, hugging, kissing—is equally important.
Be sensitive to what your partner likes. Unwanted touching or inappropriate overtures can make the other person tense up and retreat—exactly what you don’t want.
Learn to give and take in your relationship
If you expect to get what you want 100% of the time in a relationship, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Healthy relationships are built on compromise. However, it takes work on each person’s part to make sure that there is a reasonable exchange.
Recognize what’s important to your partner
- Knowing what is truly important to your partner can go a long way towards building goodwill and an atmosphere of compromise. On the flip side, it’s also important for your partner to recognize your wants and for you to state them clearly. Constantly giving to others at the expense of your own needs builds resentment and anger.
Don’t make “winning” your goal
- If you approach your partner with the attitude that things have to be your way or else, it will be difficult to reach a compromise. Sometimes this attitude comes from not having your needs met while younger, or it could be years of accumulated resentment in the relationship reaching a boiling point. It’s alright to have strong convictions about something, but your partner deserves to be heard as well. You are more likely to get your needs met if you respect what your partner needs, and compromise when you can.
Learn how to respectfully resolve conflict
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but to keep a relationship strong, both people need to feel they’ve been heard. The goal is not to win but to resolve the conflict with respect and love.
- Make sure you are fighting fair.
- Don’t attack someone directly but use “I” statements to communicate how you feel.
- Don’t drag old arguments into the mix.
- Keep the focus on the issue at hand and respect the other person.
Be prepared for ups and downs
It’s important to recognize that there are ups and downs in every relationship. You won’t always be on the same page. Sometimes one partner may be struggling with an issue that stresses them, such as the death of a close family member. Other events, like job loss or severe health problems, can affect both partners and make it difficult to relate to each other. You might have different ideas of managing finances or raising children. Different people cope with stress differently, and misunderstanding can rapidly turn to frustration and anger.
Relationship advice for getting through life’s ups and downs
- Don’t take out your problems on your partner. Life stresses can make us short tempered. If you are coping with a lot of stress, it might seem easier to vent with your partner, and even feel safer to snap at him or her. Fighting like this might initially feel like a release, but it slowly poisons your relationship. Find other ways to vent your anger and frustration.
- Some problems are bigger than both of you. Trying to force a solution can cause even more problems. Every person works through problems and issues in his or her own way. Remember that you’re a team. Continuing to move forward together can get you through the rough spots.
- Be open to change. Change is inevitable in life, and it will happen whether you go with it or fight it. Flexibility is essential to adapt to the change that is always taking place in any relationship, and it allows you to grow together through both the good times and the bad.
How to keep your relationship afloat
Having a boyfriend or girlfriend can be great, but there are a whole bunch of things that can get in the way of feeling content and happy.
- Internal pressures can come from things like differences in culture or age, jealousy, lack of compromise, and unreasonable or unfulfilled expectations.
- External pressures can come from people or factors outside of the relationship itself, such as study or work, illness, money, family and friends.
Work out what pressures, internal and external, are affecting your relationship. Then, when you’re ready, try some of the following strategies to help relieve the pressure and keep your relationship afloat.
Communicate with each other
We have smartphones and airplanes, and yet there’s still no device that helps us to read minds! So, the next best thing is to communicate by using words.
How is your partner supposed to know what’s wrong if you don’t tell them? If something is bugging you, let them know in a calm manner. You can then try to resolve the issue together.
Learn to compromise
You can’t always get what you want. Talk with your partner to figure out the stuff that’s really important to each of you, and the stuff that isn’t such a big deal.
It might be hard to accept that someone you’re close to doesn’t care about all the same things you do. But, as with everything, compromise becomes easier with practice.
Reassure your partner of your feelings for them
Everybody likes to hear how much they’re loved. If you know that you feel the same way about each other, the relationship will tend to flow more smoothly and problems such as jealousy will be less likely to arise.
Get a fresh perspective
Sometimes it can be handy to view your relationship from a fresh perspective. By talking to someone who’s not directly involved in the relationship, such as friends or family, you might be able to see the situation in a different way and find the pressures easier to deal with.
Don’t be afraid to spend time apart
Sometimes the best thing for a couple is to spend some time away from each other. After all, you can’t miss someone if they’re always around.
Don’t try to work things out when either of you is angry
It’s almost impossible to work things out in a mature fashion when one of you is angry. You’re more likely to say something unkind that you’ll later regret. Try to change the topic of conversation, or walk away and revisit the issue later on when you’re both feeling calmer.
Respect your differences
Differences in culture, religion or opinion can be the source of difficulties or friction in relationships. Instead of rejecting the unfamiliar, make an effort to understand it and to embrace it. Differences between partners can make things more interesting and unpredictable. You might even learn a thing or two.
Sort out any problems with your family
If your family doesn’t approve of your relationship, you need to ask yourself why.
Is it because they worry that you might get hurt in some way? Or maybe they simply don’t understand your relationship and how you feel about it.
Be clear about what you think, feel and want. Describe your situation in a way that will help them understand it better. If you’re honest, calm and respectful, they will be more likely to hear what you have to say and to believe you. Try to understand their point of view; it may make them more willing to see yours.
Parents won’t always see things your way. However, if they see that you’re acting in a mature manner, they’ll be more likely to accept that you’re capable of making big decisions for yourself.
The deal breakers
Emotional and/or physical abuse is NEVER EVER acceptable in any relationship, and violence is against the law. If your relationship has become unhealthy and you feel unsafe, seek help immediately.
Other things that your partner might be doing that also need immediate attention include:
- making you feel disrespected
- not being open and honest
- disregarding what’s important to you.
Working through relationship pressures can be really hard. If these tips don’t work for you, you might want to seek professional help so that you can work together to get to the bottom of what’s going on and try to fix it.
Relationships can change
Over time, people change in many ways including their interests, confidence and attitudes. Relationships can change when:
- children arrive and as the children go through various developmental stages and eventually leave home
- there are financial pressures
- work demands increase and responsibilities change
- one or both partners retire from work
- if you stop doing things together.
Some couples also face unexpected changes like:
- addiction problems
- living apart due to employment or family issues.
All changes bring their own challenges, but are easier to cope with if the couple relationship is solid and they can talk and work their way through the issues that concern them.
How do you know they’re the one?
Sometimes, it can be hard to know whether your relationship is going to make it in the long term. You might worry about whether your partner is truly ‘the one’ – the person who will be able to fulfill all your needs and make your life complete. But the truth is, ‘the one’ is a myth. What’s more important is that you have some basic compatibility and you’re able to put the effort into maintaining your connection together.
A lot people think of compatibility as something fixed and formulaic, often basing it on stuff like having similar personalities or hobbies and interests in common.
But focusing on these kinds of factors can leave you feeling that when things aren’t going well there’s not a lot you can do. You can get stuck in the cycle of thinking ‘it’s not working because we’re so different, so what’s the point of trying?’
Human beings aren’t fixed and formulaic. As individuals, we’re constantly changing, growing and (hopefully) learning. Compatibility is enriched by how much time you spend together, how much you’re both willing to give and take and by your willingness to work together as a team.
Of course, it does help if you start off with certain things in common, but this is much more likely to be stuff like your values, beliefs and ideas – things that matter deep down. And even then, any relationship requires constant nurturing to maintain a strong connection.
If you’re worried about how compatible you and your partner are, taking an online quiz (https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships/feeling-unsatisfied-your-relationship/quiz-are-you-and-your-partner-compatible) may help. It will allow you think about whether your values are in sync, how much effort you’re making to develop and maintain your compatibility, and look at what you can do to grow it together.
What is a positive and respectful relationship
Good relationships are good for you and good for your partner and/or children. It’s never too late to start working on improving your relationships.
People in supportive, loving relationships are more likely to feel healthy, happy and satisfied with their lives. They are less likely to have mental or physical health problems or do things that affect their health. People in good relationships help each other practically as well as emotionally. They share the good times and help each other through the tough ones. All relationships have challenging times.
Your relationship greatly affects your children as they grow up and become adults. Children will benefit from your efforts to enrich your relationship.
Get help for relationship problems
Sometimes problems in a relationship may seem too complex or overwhelming for you to handle as a couple. In that case, it’s important to reach out together for help. Available options include:
Couples counseling. Both partners need to honestly communicate what they need, face the issues that arise in counseling, and then make the necessary changes. It’s also very important that both people feel comfortable with the counselor.
Individual therapy. Sometimes, one partner may need specialized help. For example, if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, you may need counseling to help process the grief. If your loved one needs help, don’t feel like you’re a failure for not providing everything he or she needs. No one can fulfill everyone’s needs, and getting the right help can make a huge difference to your relationship.
Spiritual advice. Advice from a religious figure such as a pastor or rabbi works best if both partners have similar convictions of faith and a good relationship with the spiritual advisor.
Emotional Intelligence building.
When is a good time to seek professional relationship help?
- The sooner that you act on issues, the easier they may be to resolve.
If your relationship is in difficulty, professional support can help you identify the issues and strategies to improve your lives. Family dispute resolution practitioners (family mediators) can work with you to define the practical issues and identify present and future needs.
Many people in a relationship need assistance at some time to:
- help them deal with problems or difficulties in their relationship
- improve communication
- cope with a relationship that has broken down
- help to change a relationship where there is violence and abuse.
If you are having difficulty in resolving conflicts, you can seek the professional assistance of a counselor. Couples who are able to communicate effectively are more likely to be able to handle conflict constructively. A useful first step might be to attend a course or workshop on communication skills, or a relationship course for couples or parents.
Finding the right therapist for you
Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists.
Experience matters. One of the main reasons for seeing a therapist, rather than simply talking to a friend, is experience. Look for a therapist who is experienced in treating the problems that you have. Often, therapists have special areas of focus, such as depression or eating disorders. Experienced therapists have seen the problems you’re facing again and again, which broadens their view and gives them more insight. And for some problems, such as trauma or PTSD, seeing a specialist is absolutely essential.
Learn about different treatment orientations. Many therapists practice a blend of orientations. However, it’s a good idea to learn about the different treatment types, because that can affect your therapist’s way of relating and the suggested length of treatment.
Check licensing. Credentials aren’t everything, but if you’re paying for a licensed professional, make sure the therapist holds a current license and is in good standing with the state regulatory board. Regulatory boards vary by state and profession. Also check for complaints against the therapist.
Trust your gut. Even if your therapist looks great on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right—if you don’t trust the person or feel like they truly care—go with another choice. A good therapist will respect this choice and should never pressure you or make you feel guilty.
Finding a therapist in the U.S.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) provides information about Marriage and Family Therapists (https://www.aamft.org/), as well as a Therapist Locator national database of qualified therapists.
- American Psychological Association (APA) provides a Psychologist Locator (https://locator.apa.org/) to find a psychologist in your area.
- American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) provides a member directory (http://www.apsa.org/find-an-analyst) for finding an analyst, by city and state.
Finding a therapist in other countries
- In the UK, Relate (https://www.relate.org.uk/find-your-nearest-relate) offers relationship and family counseling; or you can Find NHS Psychological Therapy Services in your local area (https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search).
- In Australia, Lifeline’s Service Finder (https://www.lifeline.org.au/) offers a directory of low-cost mental health services; or you can Find an Australian Psychological Society Psychologist (https://www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist) or Find a Mental Health Practitioner (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/find-a-professional).
- In Canada, Search for a Psychologist (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists) or Search for a Marriage or Family Therapist by clicking on “Search Canada” (https://www.therapistlocator.net/Default.aspx).
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a therapist
What’s most important in a therapist or counselor is a sense of connection, safety, and support. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it seem like the therapist truly cares about you and your problems?
- Do you feel as if the therapist understands you?
- Does the therapist accept you for who you are?
- Would you feel comfortable revealing personal information to this individual?
- Do you feel as if you can be honest and open with this therapist? That you don’t have to hide or pretend you’re someone that you’re not?
- Is the therapist a good listener? Does he or she listen without interrupting, criticizing, or judging? Pick up on your feelings and what you’re really saying?
- Make you feel heard?
Types of therapy and therapists
There are so many types of therapies and therapists; it might feel a little overwhelming to get started. Just remember that no one type of therapy is best; it all depends on your individual preferences and needs.
It is true that certain techniques are more useful than others in dealing with specific types of problems (phobias, for example). But in general, research about the “best” type of therapy always reaches the same conclusion:
- the philosophy behind the therapy is much less important than the relationship between you and your therapist.
If you feel comfortable and trusting in that relationship, the model of therapy, like your car, is just the vehicle that will help you move forward to a more fulfilling life. This will happen regardless of the circumstances that brought you to therapy.
Common types of therapy
Most therapists don’t limit themselves to one specific type of therapy; rather, they blend different styles in order to best fit the situation at hand. This approach gives the therapist many powerful tools. However, they often have a general orientation that guides them.
Individual therapy. Individual therapy explores negative thoughts and feelings, as well as the harmful or self-destructive behaviors that might accompany them. Individual therapy may delve into the underlying causes of current problems (such as unhealthy relationship patterns or a traumatic experience from your past), but the primary focus is on making positive changes in the present.
Family therapy. Family therapy involves treating more than one member of the family at the same time to help the family resolve conflicts and improve interaction. It is often based on the premise that families are a system. If one role in the family changes, all are affected and need to change their behaviors as well.
Group therapy. Group therapy is facilitated by a professional therapist, and involves a group of peers working on the same problem, such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse, for example. Group therapy can be a valuable place to practice social dynamics in a safe environment and find inspiration and ideas from peers who are struggling with the same issues.
Couples therapy (marriage counseling). Couples therapy involves the two people in a committed relationship. People go to couples therapy to learn how to work through their differences, communicate better and problem-solve challenges in the relationship.
Types of therapists and counselors
The following types of mental health professionals have advanced training in therapy and are certified by their respective boards. Many professional organizations provide online searches for qualified professionals. You may also want to double check with your state regulatory board to make sure the therapist’s license is up to date and there are no ethical violations listed.
However, keep in mind that lay counselors—members of the clergy, life coaches, etc.—may also be able to provide you with a supportive, listening ear. It’s not always the credentials that determine the quality of the therapy.
Common types of mental health professionals:
- Psychologist — Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and are licensed in clinical psychology.
- Social worker — Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) have a Master’s degree in social work (MSW) along with additional clinical training.
- Marriage and family therapist — Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) have a Master’s degree and clinical experience in marriage and family therapy.
- Psychiatrist — A psychiatrist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specialized in mental health. Because they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
What to expect in therapy or counseling
Every therapist is different, but there are usually some similarities in how therapy is structured. Normally, sessions will last about an hour, and take place around once a week. Although for more intensive therapy, they may be scheduled more often. Therapy is normally conducted in the therapist’s office, but therapists also work in hospitals and nursing homes, and in some cases will conduct home visits.
Expect a good fit between you and your therapist. Don’t settle for bad fit. You may need to see one or more therapists until you feel understood and accepted.
Therapy is a partnership. Both you and your therapist contribute to the healing process. You’re not expected to do the work of recovery all by yourself, but your therapist can’t do it for you either. Therapy should feel like a collaboration.
Therapy will not always feel pleasant. Painful memories, frustrations or feelings might surface. This is a normal part of therapy and your therapist will guide you through this process. Be sure to communicate with your therapist about how you are feeling.
Therapy should be a safe place. While at times you’ll feel challenged or face unpleasant feelings, you should always feel safe. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or you’re dreading your therapy sessions, talk to your therapist.
Your first therapy sessions
The first session or two of therapy is a time for mutual connection, and a time for the therapist to learn about you and your issues. The therapist may ask for a mental and physical health history.
It’s also a good idea to talk to the therapist about what you hope to achieve in therapy. Together, you can set goals and benchmarks that you can use to measure your progress along the way.
This is also an important time for you to evaluate your connection with your therapist. Do you feel like your therapist cares about your situation, and is invested in your recovery? Do you feel comfortable asking questions and sharing sensitive information? Remember, your feelings as well as your thoughts are important, so if you are feeling uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to consider another therapist.
How long does therapy last?
Everyone’s treatment is different. How long your therapy lasts depends on many factors. You may have complicated issues, or a relatively straightforward problem that you want to address. Some therapy treatment types are short term, while others may last longer. Practically, your insurance coverage might limit you.
However, discussing the length of therapy is important to bring up with your therapist at the beginning. This will give you an idea of goals to work towards and what you want to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to revisit this issue at any time as therapy progresses, since goals often are modified or changed during treatment.
Making the most of therapy and counseling
To make the most of therapy, you need to apply what you’re learning in your sessions to real life. Fifty minutes in therapy each week isn’t going to fix you; it’s how you use what you’ve learned in the rest of your time. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your sessions:
Make healthy lifestyle changes. There are many things you can do in your daily life to support your mood and improve your emotional health. Reach out to others for support. Get plenty of exercise and sleep. Eat well. Make time for relaxation and play. The list goes on…
Don’t expect the therapist to tell you what to do. You and your therapists are partners in your recovery. Your therapist can help guide you and make suggestions for treatment, but only you can make the changes you need to move forward.
Make a commitment to your treatment. Don’t skip sessions unless you absolutely have to. If your therapist gives you homework in between sessions, be sure to do it. If you find yourself skipping sessions or are reluctant to go, ask yourself why. Are you avoiding painful discussion? Did your last session touch a nerve? Talk about your reluctance with your therapist.
Share what you are feeling. You will get the most out of therapy if you are open and honest with your therapist about your feelings. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed, or something is too painful to talk about, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist. Slowly, you can work together to get at the issues.
Is therapy working?
You should be able to tell within a session or two whether you and your therapist are a good fit. But sometimes, you may like your therapist but feel that you aren’t making progress. It’s important to evaluate your progress to make sure you’re getting what you need from therapy.
A word of caution: There is no smooth, fast road to recovery. It’s a process that’s full of twists, turns, and the occasional backtrack. Sometimes, what originally seemed like a straightforward problem turns into a more complicated issue. Be patient and don’t get discouraged over temporary setbacks. It’s not easy to break old, entrenched patterns.
Remember that growth is difficult, and you won’t be a new person overnight. But you should notice positive changes in your life. Your overall mood might be improving, for example. You may feel more connected to family and friends. Or a crisis that might have overwhelmed you in the past doesn’t throw you as much this time.
Tips for evaluating your progress in therapy
- Is your life changing for the better? Look at different parts of your life: work, home, your social life.
- Are you meeting the goals you and your therapist have set?
- Is therapy challenging you? Is it stretching you beyond your comfort zone?
- Do you feel like you’re starting to understand yourself better?
- Do you feel more confident and empowered?
- Are your relationships improving?
Your therapist should work with you, reevaluating your goals and progress as necessary. However, remember that therapy isn’t a competition. You are not a failure if you don’t meet your goals in the number of sessions that you originally planned. Focus instead on overall progress and what you’ve learned along the way.
When to stop therapy or counseling
When to stop therapy depends on you and your individual situation. Ideally, you will stop therapy when you and your therapist have decided that you have met your goals. However, you may feel at some point that you have gotten what you need out of therapy, even if your therapist feels differently.
Leaving therapy can be difficult. Remember that the therapeutic relationship is a strong bond, and ending this relationship is a loss – even if treatment has been successful. Talk about this with your therapist. These feelings are normal. It’s not uncommon for people to go back briefly to a therapist from time to time as needs arise.
As long as you continue to progress in therapy, it’s an option
Some people continue to go to therapy on an ongoing basis. That’s okay, especially if you don’t have other people to turn to for support in your life. Ideally, your therapist will be able to help you develop outside sources of support, but that’s not always possible. If therapy meets an important need in your life and the expense is not an issue, continuing indefinitely is a legitimate choice.
Signs that you may need to change therapists
- You don’t feel comfortable talking about something.
- Your therapist is dismissive of your problems or concerns.
- Your therapist seems to have a personal agenda.
- Your therapist does more talking than listening.
- Your therapist tells you what to do and how to live your life.
Paying for therapy and counseling
In the U.S., for example, many insurance companies provide limited coverage for psychotherapy—often as few as 6-12 sessions. Read through your plan carefully to see what benefits you have. Some types of mental health professionals might not be covered. You may need a referral through your primary care physician.
Also keep in mind that some therapists do not accept insurance, only payment directly from the patient. Sometimes these therapists will accept sliding scale payments, where you pay what you can afford for each session. Don’t be afraid to ask what arrangements can be made if you feel that the therapist could be a good fit for you.
In other countries, insurance and eligibility requirements vary. See Resources & References below for links on finding therapy in your country.
Affordable therapy and counseling options
Take a look around your community for service agencies or organizations that may offer psychotherapy at discounted rates. Senior centers, family service agencies, and mental health clinics are good places to start. Many offer affordable options, including sliding payment scales.
Agencies that involve interns in training also can be an option for quality therapy. An intern may be a good choice for you if the intern is enthusiastic, empathetic, and has quality supervisory training. However, an intern’s time at the agency is limited, so when the training is finished, you either need to stop the therapy or find another therapist.
Another possible way to obtain affordable therapy is to try bartering with a therapist or mental health clinic. A few clinics and health centers across the U.S. already encourage bartering services, swapping health care for carpentry, plumbing, or hairdressing services, for example. If you have a useful skill or are willing to volunteer your time, it may be worth trying to strike a deal.
Why do relationships get into difficulties?
Having differences in a relationship is normal.
However, many things can create difficulties in your relationship, here are some examples:
- stress and pressure about anything including health, work, parents, children or money
- different goals and expectations
- different perspectives or values
- lack of time to spend together or lack of interest
- limited trust
- financial insecurity/difficulties
- raising children
- serious illness or disability
- sexual difficulties
- job loss or unemployment
- violence or abuse
- issues arising from a previous relationship.
It’s better to talk about the issues than ignore them.
Differences of opinion and interests can enrich a relationship.
People bring different perspectives, talents and strengths to a relationship. You might appreciate some of the things your partner has to offer – great cooking, their sense of humor, good sex, getting on well with your family and friends – but you might not like their taste in music, the time they spend on technology or the fact they get stressed easily. Some conflict in relationships is inevitable, but there are ways to handle it so it is not destructive to you individually or as a couple.
Relationships can become stronger if partners can talk about differences and stress as a normal part of their relationship. Conflict can often be resolved and serious matters dealt with through respectful communication and a bit of give and take.
What does conflict in a relationship indicate?
Frequent conflict and anger may indicate that all is not well, and change is needed to keep the relationship healthy.
The key questions are:
- how can you manage not to hurt each other or your relationship when you have a row? and
- how can you learn from the conflict?
Avoiding conflict, or agreeing not to talk about the issue that caused the conflict, might provide short-term peace. However, it’s better to sort out important relationships issues.
Conflict is a symptom – if you patch things up without finding out what’s at the bottom of your differences, you’ll probably find yourselves in conflict again.
Warning signs of a relationship breakdown
Noticing early warning signs of relationship breakdown can help a couple resolve conflicts. Early warning signs include:
- you don’t do things together as much as before
- you have recurring arguments about the same issues that are never resolved
- you feel dissatisfied and unhappy
- you have sex less often, or it isn’t what it used to be
- one partner spends increasing time on interests and activities outside the relationship
- there is a loss of warmth and friendliness in the relationship, one or both of you speak of no longer being in love
- you feel tired and less able to meet responsibilities at work and at home
- arguments about the children continue
- one of you has an addiction problem that is affecting the relationship.
If you see some of these signs in your relationship you will need to consider what you will do to address the problem if you want the relationship to improve or even survive.
Acknowledging and dealing with anger
Anger can be frightening due to its intensity and possible consequences.
Anger can be expressed by verbally attacking the person you are upset with; shouting and screaming; using physical force such as hitting, pushing or punching the other person; or using controlling behaviors.
People who express their anger without restraint often claim that their anger takes over, and that they can’t help their actions. It may feel as if anger is beyond your control, but in reality everyone can learn to control their response to anger.
Physical violence in intimate and family relationships is a serious criminal offence and is never acceptable as a response to conflict or provocation. If you feel unsafe, it is essential you get help. Get away if it is safe to do so, or call your local emergency services number for help.
Dealing with anger
If you find you are getting worked up and starting to argue, there are things you can do to prevent things getting out of hand:
- if you are angry, it’s usually better to say so, rather than pretend you are not. Admitting to feelings of anger helps to get it out into the open, so you can address the problem
- a verbal attack on your partner when you are angry is unlikely to help the situation
- it’s OK to ask for ‘time out’ and encourage your partner to do the same if either of you feels too angry or upset to talk about the problem. When you are calmer you can come back and try to sort things out
- often there is something underneath the anger. It could be sadness, hurt, disappointment, or a sense of being let down or taken for granted. The underlying feeling will usually be a clue to the real issue that you and your partner need to work through
- you might both have to back down a bit and make changes. There may be an angle on the situation that you haven’t considered. Compromising is not a sign of weakness, it’s part of the give and take needed in a relationship
- apologize when you are able to, though don’t make your partner wait as a punishment. Saying sorry doesn’t mean you are accepting all the responsibility
- remember that your partner did not ‘make you angry’. He or she may have said or done something you didn’t like, but you are angry – no-one forced you to feel that way. You can choose to learn how to react differently to things you don’t like and be responsible for your own behaviour
- ask yourself what you can learn from the conflict. This could lessen the chances of a similar conflict happening again.
How to fix a broken relationship with your girlfriend
A man need to understand how his girlfriend thinks. A man have to understand what is important to her. Your sole purpose for being in a relationship is to give to her. Women fall in love slower than men fall in love. Women hearts open a lot slower, because it is all about the whole emotional experience. Most women can’t involve themselves in an intimate relationship until their emotions are engaged, which is the exact opposite of men. A woman needs to trust a guy before she will open herself up to even the possibility of committing her emotions.
- Women are EMOTIONALLY based.
- Women THINK EMOTIONALLY.
- You need to acknowledge her HEART.
- You need to acknowledge how she FEELS or her FEELINGS.
For a woman, romance is the whole experience of the dating. It’s about the mysterious love story unfolding, just like in a book. In her mind, if you really did love her, you would be showing her that you loved her. If you really did love her, you would spend the time trying to Find out what is bothering her. Women want to be understood.
Relationship trouble: Tips for getting things back on track with your girlfriend
- Make time to talk and connect on a regular basis
- If your girlfriend says she feel things are not OK, listen to her
- You would want to know what’s really upsetting her.
- You would get to the root issue, and let her communicate so she feels like you completely understand her. Pay attention to what is not said, as well as to what is said.
- For example:
- What’s wrong? Tell me what’s bothering you? Tell me what’s really on your mind?
- I want to know what’s on your mind
- What’s bothering you?
- So tell me what’s really on your mind.
- Well, what else? Tell me more.
- And: Don’t leave anything out.
- You are pulling out everything that happened, because just by talking about it, it creates rapport. It is making her feel better just by saying:
- So if I understand you right, you were talking to your girlfriend Chloe, and this, this, and this happened, and she said that, and it made you feel this way. Repeat back some of what she said to you. It is your way of acknowledging her and letting her know that you understand her, because women want to be understood.
- For example:
- Take responsibility for past behaviors and make changes, where appropriate
- Use “I” statements like: “I feel hurt when you say that”
- Show interest in the other’s life; know what’s important to them
- Be clear, but realistic, about what you need and want from them
- Do something kind: the favor is often returned
Sharing a good friendship, enjoying one another’s company and having more positive moments than negative ones are signs of a good relationship. The tips above are about how to change the balance by maximizing the positive moments and minimizing the negative ones. It’s not fighting that damages a relationship, but how we fight.
Now you know how to understand your lady by talking about her feelings and getting everything off her chest that has been bothering her deep inside. When you finally get to the root cause of everything that’s bothering her, you will hear those magic words: I feel so much better. I’m so glad we talked.
Acknowledge everything they do, because you are the one who opened them up, and you worked hard at always building anticipation.
How to fix a broken relationship with your boyfriend
A real man pursues goes for what he wants and has positive expectations that he will achieve his goals. A real man will choose his purpose and his passion over a woman if faced with the choice. Masculine energy, after all, is about purpose, drive, mission, succeeding, accomplishing, breaking through barriers, achieving goals, etc.
A real man has enough going on in his life to keep him busy. That means he is, at least, passionate about one other thing besides his relationship. The relationship does not define him. He will give you your space and you must give him his. He is a confident, ambitious go-getter. He’s a real man!
A real man will penetrate his woman physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
- Don’t try to get your ex-boyfriend back. Don’t try to get your ex back right now, because if you’re constantly pursuing him you will lose all of your power. Don’t text him, don’t call him, don’t do anything… just yet. You need to show discipline and give him some space so he can take in everything. Even if he’s hitting you up, show a bit of self control before responding to his texts. Right now is not about convincing him to come back to you, it’s about him making the decision on his own to want to be with you again.
- Reflect on why the breakup happened. The first thing you need to do is take a long, hard look at what factors led up to the breakup. Consider whether these same difficulties are likely to cause more relationship problems if you try to get back together, or if you might be able to get past them. It’s important to think about what you might have done to cause the breakup. Blaming your ex for everything is not a great way to get him back!
- Think about why you want him back. Breakups are never easy, even when the relationship was not a good fit. For this reason, it’s crucial to think about your motives for wanting to get your boyfriend back. If you want to get back together because you are sad or lonely or don’t like being single, you should probably reconsider. Just because you miss your ex does not mean you should be with him. These feelings will go away eventually, although it may take some time. If you want to get back together because you genuinely care for your ex and you can see yourself having a future with him, then go ahead and try to get him back! If your boyfriend was physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive in any way, you should not try to get back together with him. It’s perfectly normal for you to miss him even if it was an unhealthy relationship, but it’s important to remind yourself that you can do better.
- Accept that it might not work out. When attempting to get an ex-boyfriend back, you need to realize that it may work out, but it may not. Even if you successfully get your ex back, there’s no telling that your relationship will end up lasting. Prepare yourself for this beforehand to avoid being blindsided by heartbreak a second time.
- Build your self-esteem. Take this opportunity to really invest in yourself and work on loving yourself. The better your self-esteem, the better prepared you will be to have a healthy, long-lasting relationship. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, see a mental health professional for help. You may be surprised what an impact treatment will have on your self-esteem. Remind yourself of your strengths and talents every day. Celebrate every accomplishment you make, no matter how small. If you have a hard time recognizing your own strengths, talk to your friends and loved ones. Ask them to share with you what they think your most positive traits are. Try to be thankful for all that you have. Meditation can help you reduce stress and live more soundly in the moment.
- Create an attractive new lifestyle. It’s time to focus on yourself and build the lifestyle you really want. Build your confidence back up, socialize, make new friends, pick up a cool new hobby, join a Meetup group, or take a trip. Do whatever you need to get yourself back out there. Altering your environment can change your perspective, and help you realize what really matters. Plus, surrounding yourself with people who continuously work to improve can go along way. Take this time to redefine YOU. If you go back to him with a disheveled life, then nothing will have changed or improved. He’s not going to want to stick around for that.
- Contact your ex when you’re in a healthy mindset. This final step is only after completing the first six steps above. By doing this, he will be reminded of what a powerful, sexy, and confident woman you are. Don’t jump in with over the top expressions of love. Instead, reach out on the lighter side and share a fond memory you shared together. Or tell him you’re craving your favorite takeout food. Bring him back to the positive times you had and let him reminisce about the great person you are.
If you do contact him and he doesn’t want to get back together, then it’s simply not the time for you two. Let him live in the regret that he didn’t get back together with you, while you go off and create an incredible life without him.
Signs that it may be time to move on
If you’re feeling that all isn’t rosy in your relationship, have a look for these red flag signs that it may be time to let it go:
- You’re not feeling right about your relationship
- It feels like you’re always the one making the effort
- Your partner is being disrespectful or is upsetting you
- You and your partner have frequent arguments.
Your partner uses the silent treatment and withholds kindness or contact
The key to a good relationship is being willing to talk to each other, which is exactly what’s not happening when your partner gives you the silent treatment.
It’s totally okay to need space to think things through after a disagreement, but a lengthy period of deliberate silence that is designed to ‘punish’ you is the best way to destroy your chances of moving forward.
If your partner is withholding contact, through not talking with you or touching you, it’s impossible to sort things out. Their behavior is designed to make you feel guilty, and gives them the power to decide the status of your relationship.
Minor disagreements turn into constant arguments
No relationship is a bed of roses. But some kinds of conflict don’t help you or your relationship to grow.
If a small disagreement turns into an argument that’s easily resolved afterwards, there’s probably no cause for alarm. But, if this is starting to happen a lot, or you feel unable or scared to disagree with your partner, then that’s a serious warning sign that the relationship may need to end.
If these fights ever become physical, that’s abuse, and you need to end the relationship as safely and quickly as you can.
Your partner doesn’t like you hanging with your friends or family
A lot of people see their partner as their friend, too. You can talk about anything with them and they know how to make you laugh, plus you’ve got a large helping of romance on top. What’s not to like?
If your partner is trying to be your only friend, your relationship is drifting into a toxic area. If they make you feel guilty about hanging out with other friends, or insist that they accompany you on all your friendly outings, they’re not being your friend or the kind of partner you need.
This kind of possessive behavior can cause you to become isolated and lose important friendships. If this is happening to you, it might be best to talk with your partner about allowing each other space. You can then decide the direction you want your relationship to take from there.
You feel worse about yourself since you started the relationship
Casual negative comments from your partner can affect you, because you value their opinion. Has your partner been saying or doing things that have gradually made you feel worse about yourself since starting the relationship?
Negativity can be direct, like saying you suck. Or it can be subtle, like making you feel that no one else would ever love you.
Whichever form this kind of negativity takes, remember that your partner doesn’t decide your worth as a human being.
You seem to be doing all the work to keep the relationship going
A healthy relationship involves equal effort and interest, as well as mutual support. If you feel like you’re making all the effort to plan fun dates and to talk about interesting stuff, your relationship sounds as if it’s sliding into stagnation.
Signs of an abusive relationship
It’s not always obvious that you’re in an abusive relationship. Learn some of the key signs to look for. It’s common for someone who is being abused to believe that it’s their own fault and that they somehow ‘deserve’ the abuse. It’s important to know that you’re never to blame for the way an abusive person treats you.
Key signs of an abusive relationship
An abusive relationship isn’t just limited to physical violence. It can include sexual, emotional and physical abuse, and may involve control of your finances. Here are some signs to look for:
- your partner tries to control your behavior
- your partner threatens to harm you, your pets or people you love
- you’re scared of your partner.
- They check on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with.
- They try to control where you go and who you see, and get angry if you don’t do what they say.
- They accuse you of being unfaithful or of flirting.
- They isolate you from family and friends, often by behaving rudely to them.
- They put you down, either publicly or privately, by attacking your intelligence, looks, mental health or capabilities.
- They constantly compare you unfavourably to others.
- They blame you for all the problems in your relationship, and for their violent outbursts.
- They say things like, ‘No one else will want you.’
- They yell or sulk, and deliberately break things that you value.
- They threaten to use violence against you, your family, friends or a pet.
Physical and sexual violence
- They push, shove, hit or grab you, or make you have sex or do things you don’t want to do.
- They harm you, your pets or your family members.
Things you might feel in an abusive relationship
‘My partner isn’t violent all the time – they love me’
Your violent partner may act loving towards you at other times and may truly feel sorry for their horrible behavior. So, it might be hard to stay angry and upset with them. However, there is quite a high chance that their violent behavior will continue. Abusers can be super-charming people, especially if they’re trying to make you or others see them in a good light.
‘Things will get better – they didn’t mean it’
After a violent episode, it’s common for both you and your abuser to try and downplay what happened with excuses, apologies or promises to change. Things might settle down for a bit, but it’s often only a matter of time before it happens again. Abusive behavior is very difficult to change, and usually requires professional help.
‘It’s so confusing – I’m sure it’s a one-off’
If you’re experiencing abuse, things can feel really confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might not be sure what to expect next. Abusers often try to influence your sense of what’s real, to make you feel confused or even that you’re going crazy. (This is known as ‘gas-lighting’.) Statistically, though, if someone behaves violently once, they’re very likely to do it again.
‘Maybe it’s my fault’
You may begin to think that you’re to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior. An abuser may excuse their behavior by saying something like, ‘It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t…’ The truth is that no matter what you do, another person’s abusive behavior is never your fault.
‘I’m scared of what will happen if I leave them’
It’s not unusual to feel afraid of leaving the person who’s abusing you. You might feel unsafe, or scared of what the person might do to you or themselves. You might also feel that you aren’t capable of making it on your own. It’s important to remember that there are people who can help you every step of the way.
What is emotional abuse?
There are a variety of types of behavior that could be classed as emotional abuse. These include:
- Intimidation and threats. This could be things like shouting, acting aggressively or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.
- Criticism. This could be things like name-calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Undermining. This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you’re being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel.
- Being made to feel guilty. This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.
- Economic abuse. This can be withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job. This could be done as a way of stopping you from feeling independent and that you’re able to make your own choices.
- Telling you what you can and can’t do. As the examples above make clear, emotional abuse is generally about control. Sometimes this is explicit. Does your partner tell you when and where you can go out, or even stop you from seeing certain people? Do they try to control how you dress or how you style your hair?
What are the signs of domestic violence?
You might be able to pick up that someone is experiencing domestic violence. Signs include:
- they have lost their confidence or are unusually quiet
- they seem afraid of their partner
- they have stopped seeing their friends or family
- their partner often criticizes them, humiliates them, orders them about or makes all the decisions
- they often talk about their partner’s jealousy or bad temper
- they say their partner pressures or forces them into sexual activity
- they have physical injuries, like bruises, broken bones, sprains, cuts
- the children seem afraid of the person or are very withdrawn or anxious
A relationship can be considered abusive if:
- a partner controls how the other spends money, what they wear or what they do
- a partner regularly accuses the other of flirting or being unfaithful
- a partner regularly humiliates the other in public
- a partner threatens, hurts or physically assaults the other
- a partner prevents the other from seeing family or friends
How to break up with someone
If you’re breaking up with someone, try to be considerate about how you end the relationship. Always think about how you would want to be treated in the same situation.
Try to end things in a way that respects the other person but be honest. Be clear and tell the other person why the relationship is over. Understand that the other person might be hurt and possibly angry about your decision.
Try to end the relationship in person if it’s possible, rather than by text or online.
What advice can you give me after a break-up?
It can be really upsetting if you find out that your ex has a new relationship. Try to avoid thinking about them being with someone else. Don’t contact or post about your ex and lash out at them because this won’t make you feel any better.
If you’re struggling with anger or jealousy when getting over a difficult break-up, it’s important to remember to stay safe. Talk to somebody about it and get help from a trusted friend or adult, like a parent or teacher.
Whatever you’re feeling now won’t last forever. It may take some time to get over and recognize there will always be good days and bad days.
If you ended the relationship it doesn’t necessarily make the break-up decision any easier.
If someone ended the relationship with you it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. Try not to take it personally because relationship break-ups happen all the time.
It’s better not to be in a relationship than to be in a bad one – remember, you don’t have to be in a relationship to feel happy.
Many people feel upset or angry during this time. Always make sure you’re safe in how you express your feelings.
Try not to feel embarrassed or to worry about how the situation will look to others. Now is the time to focus on yourself.
Try to see the positives in a break-up. You can learn more about yourself and what you want in future relationships.
Remember that with time and support you can pull through a relationship break-up and come out feeling stronger at the other end.
When to get some help
Break-ups can feel like the end of the world, but most people work through them in time and without any serious problems. Sometimes a break-up can lead to someone experiencing other problems such as depression. These feelings can affect your daily life and stop you from doing the things you enjoy. If it’s been longer than two weeks, it’s time to take action.
If you’re struggling to move on after a break-up, or if you feel unsafe in any way, it’s important to talk things through with someone you trust. This may be a friend or family member. If you’d prefer to talk to someone outside your family and friends, your family physician, a counselor, or someone at your local mental center can provide you with confidential support.