Relationships

How to Fix a Relationship That’s Falling Apart

Sometimes you can just sense that your relationship with your partner is already falling apart.

You feel as if the energy is off or tense, and maybe you’ve been arguing a lot without any resolution.

If you think you’re on the verge of a breakup right now, don’t lose hope just yet. Here’s how to fix a relationship that’s falling apart, as advised by experts:

Table of Contents

Mark E Sharp, Ph.D.

Mark E. Sharp

Clinical Psychologist, Aiki Relationships

Lean in

Generally, if a relationship is falling apart there is some negative stuff happening (conflict) or at least a good deal of negative feeling associated with being together. This often leads people to avoid each other or avoid talking about problematic things because of an attempt to avoid conflict.

Avoidance will not allow healing to happen and often leads to conflict in itself. Avoidance tends to create more emotional hurt which fans the intensity of all the negativity that already exists.

Prioritize understanding

This is a good place to take into account one of Stephen Covey’s old rules of successful people: seek first to understand, then to be understood.

When things are falling apart, the tendency is to up the intensity in trying to get your own point across which automatically means you are not paying attention to the other person’s point. When two people are doing that, it is almost impossible to have a conversation that is productive.

The solution is to slow down and make the conscious decision to try to understand your partner’s perspective. Only after you have gotten confirmation from them that they feel understood should you move forward with trying to get them to understand you. Only after you understand each other’s perspective should you move forward into trying to fix things. There is another thing to note here.

It is possible to understand someone without agreeing with them. Some people seem to think understanding means agreement so they almost actively avoid understanding. It is good to keep in mind that you can understand your partner’s perspective even if you disagree with it or it doesn’t fit for you.

Likewise, it is good to keep in mind that just because they understand you don’t mean they will agree with you – so don’t expect agreement.

Prioritize emotional connection

If you are in the process of fixing a relationship, there is almost certainly deterioration in the emotional connection. When addressing the problematic issues it is best to focus on the emotions each is experiencing and healing them first.

The pattern to deterioration is often a misunderstanding or difference that leads one or both partners to experience hurt and then the interaction around that exacerbates rather than heals the hurt.

The problem is that once the hurt is in place, it is usually very difficult to get through the misunderstanding or find a way to manage the difference. It was often the focus on that which increased the hurt and led to the relationship falling apart in the first place.

So, understanding each other’s emotional hurt in the relationship and then expressing the more positive feelings you really have for each other and your vision for how you want to feel and how you want your partner to heal is a good foundation for discussing the disagreement or difference without triggering more pain.

Requires basic health

It is probably worth noting that the steps outlined above are not easy and require a certain basic level of emotional health.

They require you to become vulnerable in a place where it doesn’t feel totally safe, so it requires confidence in your own ability to tolerate the feelings you fear in the relationship.

If there are steps people find they can’t do it is a good sign then need to do some work on shoring up their own self-confidence and emotional health.

Leslie Montanile

Leslie Montanile

Divorce Attorney

While we all know that it takes two to tango, it also takes two for a relationship to succeed as well as to fail. It is rarely the fault of one partner that a once healthy relationship has started falling apart.

Before calling it quits, you may find it beneficial to rethink your perspective to ensure you are making the right decision.

Voluntary work on yourself

When you are in a relationship that has fallen off, you need to look within yourself and be completely honest about your own behavior and how you have changed and, if that change has affected the way you treat your significant other.

Acknowledging to ourselves and the one that we love what has made our behavior change opens the door to growth within our relationships. Remember, when your behavior changes, your partner does not know that it is not about them.

Accept your partner for who they are and not who you want them to be

When you first “fell in love,” it was complete. You loved everything about your partner – unconditionally. As time passed and your relationship grew, perhaps you became more intolerant of certain behaviors that never bothered you before, which made you feel frustrated and discontent.

The truth is your partner did not change – you did, and you did not let them in on your new rules. This can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings that often ruin an otherwise great relationship. You need to be willing to accept your partner for who they are as they are ready to accept who you are, change and all.

Recreating the honeymoon phase and starting over

Realizing that our growth will impact our relationships, hopefully, for the positive, we need to acknowledge that our partner may not welcome our change. After all, most people resist change.

Change can be scary, and when our behavior within our relationship is different without explanation to our partner, the relationship sadly falls apart. You need to express how you are feeling with love. You can do that by dating your partner all over again.

Show your partner your feelings through long walks, over intimate dinners, handwritten notes, new activities that interest you.

Related: 3 Creative Date Night Ideas to Help You Reconnect With Your Spouse

Make a conscious decision to become a united team

The couples that have long-lasting, loving relationships are those where they have made a conscious decision to be true partners in life and teammates in their relationship.

Life will always have challenges – when you are part of a team, you know that your teammate always has your back and will always be there to lift you up. Practice makes perfect.

Dr. Margaret Paul

Margaret Paul

Psychologist | Author | Relationship Expert | Co-creator, Inner Bonding

Learn how to value yourself and take responsibility for your own feelings

The major reason that relationships fall apart is ’self-abandonment,’ and one of the major ways that people abandon themselves in relationships is to make the other person responsible for their feelings of self-worth and safety.

The way to fix a relationship that is falling apart is for each person to learn how to value themselves and take responsibility for their own feelings.

When they are abandoning themselves, either by judging themselves, ignoring their feelings, turning to addictions to numb their feelings, or blaming the other person for their feelings, then they come to their partner feeling abandoned and trying to get love.

When they learn to love themselves, then they can come to their partner to share their love. It’s the sharing of love that creates a loving relationship.

Jared M. Grant, Psy.D.

Jared Grant

Licensed Clinical Psychologist | President, Mental Shifts

The most important elements of fixing a relationship that’s falling apart are two-fold: 1) The desire to fix it, and 2) The belief that you can.

Have the desire to fix it and believe you can

I strongly believe our brains are powerful things. If you tell yourself, “Oh, this will never work,” or “Things are too far gone,” you will be right. Conversely, if you tell yourself, “I think we can get back on track,” or “I know we can fix this,” you put yourself in a position to get there. That’s the first and most important step in solving any problem.

When it comes to couples therapy, according to Dr. John Gottman’s research, a couple that walks through my office door has waited, on average, 6 years after the problem they are seeking help for emerged. Six years of fighting, struggling, and possibly even surrendering to whatever this problem may be. It is typical to hear, “You are the last thing we are going to try.” Already the couple has one foot out the door and the belief that they may be “unfixable.” My first job is to instill hope. Without hope, you’ve already thrown in the towel.

Reconnect with your partner

The third thing I try to get couples to do is to reconnect. So often when there’s a problem we seek a huge revelation to solve it. Revelations are great when they happen, but really the secret is in the small, simple everyday moments.

What you’re fighting about is really just a distraction from feeling hurt, overlooked, unimportant, unloved. What both partners really want is to feel connected, safe, and secure.

Fighting accomplishes none of those goals and often leaves both parties feeling more disconnected, more unsafe and unstable, and more insecure.

Instead, focus on connecting in small ways several times. When your partner tries to engage you in something interesting that happened to them today, turn towards your partner. Give them some attention. Say, “Oh, tell me about that.”

When we try to share something with our partner, that’s a bid for connection. And when our partners make a bid, we have 3 choices always. We can turn towards, away, or against. Turning away is dismissive and often leaves someone feeling overlooked. Turning against typically feels volatile. One partner verbally shuts down the other. Successful couples turn towards 60% of the time.

If you’re trying to fix your relationship from falling apart, start with these 3 things. 1) A desire to truly fix it, 2) A belief that you can, and 3) Noticing when your partner offers a bid for connection and turn towards that bid.

If it sounds too simple, then you’re doing it correctly. At the root of it all, you and your partner just want to connect and feel important.

Madeleine Mason Roantree

Madeleine Mason Roantree

Dating Coach | Director of Relationship Psychology Services, The Vida Consultancy

Acknowledge that something needs to be fixed

The first step to fixing a relationship that is falling apart is for both parties to acknowledge that something needs to be fixed in the relationship. This starts with conversations about why one or both feel something is awry.

The best way to have these conversations is to talk from the perspective of one’s own needs that are not being met. This enables the other person to feel less defensive and come up with solutions. Instead of saying ‘you never listen to me’, you say ‘I feel as if I never get heard, and that upsets me’.

It’s important that both get to have their say in what is bothering them. This can be difficult if you want to interject with a defense, but try and hear each other out, set aside timer if need be so you each get the same amount of time to speak uninterrupted.

Avoid ‘another argument’ by creating some psychological distance from the issues

You do this by imagining that the issues that you have just shared are coming from some friends. Think about what you might tell them if your issues were theirs, and write this down for you both to discuss.

A note on relationship problems. Each relationship will have reoccurring issues and you will never find a solution to these. You may have differing views on how to clean, spend money, or raise children, so different that they always cause arguments. If you can recognize which reoccurring issue is yours, work out a strategy on how to manage them.

Tap into that loving feeling

I would encourage each person to write a note to the other, letting them know what it is about them they really like, what made them feel attracted to them in the first place, and how they knew that they wanted to be in a relationship.

I would recommend that each morning for 10 days they share with each other what they are grateful for about their partner.

Trevor Dahle

Trevor Dahle

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Clinical Director, Zion Hills Academy

Gain clarity about the desire and intent for the relationship

There are some basic questions to start out with: Is one leaning out more than the other? Or are both equally fed up? How strongly do they both want to fix the relationship? This step is very important because, without it, neither person knows where they are trying to go.

It is very important that each person is totally honest with themselves and the other person. If one or both person decides the relationship needs to end, then efforts to fix the relationship will be fruitless.

In this case, measures should be taken to exit the relationship as smoothly as possible. On the other hand, if both people determine they want to work on improving the relationship, having this knowledge alone is a great start.

Determine each contribute to the relationship breakdown

Honesty is once again crucial, along with some humility. If you think you’re doing nothing wrong in your relationship, my friend, please think again. Everyone makes mistakes in relationships, and that’s ok!

Life is a journey. How do we know what changes to make? Just ask. There are no stupid questions. Ask your partner for feedback, and then accept it. You may start to feel defensive, but do your best to stay calm.

At this point in the process, it is very important for both people to feel safe sharing their thoughts and feelings because the fear of backlash is poison. So do what you can to keep your emotions in check and encourage the other person to be open.

Once you have some ideas about needed changes, just do it. While words are very important, they are still cheap. That’s why step two is to quietly go about making changes.

Action is what really turns relationships around and grows them into something that brings joy. Action is what shows we are serious about our words.

We’ve all been hurt by empty promises. So don’t spend much time talking about how much you’ll change, just do it. Do these things, and your relationship is bound to improve.

Dr. Patricia Celan

Patricia Celan

Psychiatry Resident, Dalhousie University

Be open and vulnerable

If you feel your relationship is hanging by a thread, sit down with your partner to express your fears and your devotion. Many people get cold and defensive to protect themselves when they feel a breakup is looming, but taking a dismissive and rejecting role won’t help anyone.

Instead, be open and vulnerable, tell your partner that you are committed to making it work, and ask if your partner is also willing and able to find the motivation to make the relationship work.

Depending on the cause of the relationship problems, a vulnerable heart-to-heart during optimized timing (when you are both rested, well-fed, and not distracted or stressed by other matters) can be enough to sort through misunderstandings and set yourselves on the right track before the relationship falls apart for good.

Therapy might help

Most of the time, though, couples therapy needs to be part of the equation for a relationship standing at the edge.

Long-term relationships can get entrenched in bad habits that neither person intended, people may take each other for granted over time, and sometimes people simply come from a background where they never learned constructive communication skills.

Couples therapy can help you identify problems in your dynamic and help you learn how to communicate more respectfully so that you can focus on enjoying each other’s company rather than ongoing hurtful destructiveness.

Whether you are able to sort through your relationship problems alone, or whether you need a couples therapist to guide you, in either case you can also add more positivity to your relationship to keep it going.

Maintain a balance of interaction

Famous relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman speaks about the “Magic Relationship Ratio”, in which couples need a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in order to be happy together.

If you are going through a hard time, put in the effort to do more fun activities together, to travel together, or to actively do sweet gestures for your partner, all to provide a buffer for any negativity and to bring a 5:1 balance to your relationship.

Tom Marino

Tom Marino

Certified Life Coach and Founder, Monarch Life Coaching, LLC

Work on your communication

Make sure it’s a good time to speak. Before even beginning a conversation that you feel may get heated or is a difficult conversation, make sure to ask the other person if this is a good time to speak.

It is important in any relationship to make sure that when you are bringing up a tough topic, you are ready to speak about it and the other person is also ready to speak.

When someone is in a bad mood or having a tough day, these issues will only escalate and add fuel to the fire. Be sure to ask if it’s a good time. It may seem awkward at first, but it is important to ask the question.

Establish boundaries

It is important in all relationships to have healthy boundaries. You should make sure you have time for you, your partner has time for them and that you have your time together. When you have weak boundaries and your partner has strong ones, that is when conflict arises.

It is very important to remain independent in your relationship. You want to make sure you always leave time for your self-care and personal growth. The more in touch with who you are as a person, the more love you have for yourself, the more you will be able to love your partner. Create the boundaries…but do not put up walls.

Use language that is positive with each other

Language and how we speak to each other is essential in establishing good communication in your relationship. Using positive language will take you that much further. Use statements that emphasize what you can do as a couple vs what you can’t do.

When you argue or disagree it is easy to say that “I can’t stand when you do ‘x’” or “I don’t like when you do ‘y’ ” These statements can cause more inflammatory responses from your partner. It is important to shift your language to “I appreciate when you do ‘A’ and it would be more helpful if you could do ‘B’. ”

Notice there is no use of the word ‘but’ or ‘however’. Be careful to use these words in a conversation as it will lead down the negative highway. Be sure to speak in ways that drive solutions to your issues not words that destroy or tear the other person down.

Understand that the challenges in your relationship are part of your personal growth

Growing is part of relationship development: We must recognize that when a relationship is headed for splitsville, there are reasons on both sides. You may have begun to grow at the same time and that can cause conflict.

In relationships, it is important to recognize that your partner is changing or you have changed. Your perspective is different and hence you don’t see your relationship the same way. Don’t argue about it, recognize this, and express gratitude for the relationship that allowed you to grow.

Honor that this person is in your life for a reason and that your relationship means something. Don’t split up in anger, acknowledge that your disagreements are part of you growing. You are changing.

If you recognize that both of you are changing then the decisions are to change together to make your relationship stronger or decide maturely to move on and go your separate ways if the changes you have made no longer work for the relationship. In the end, follow your gut.

Laura Glenney, MSc, RP, RMFT

Laura Glenney

Registered Psychotherapist | Marriage and Family Therapist, Journey Well

Rough spots in a relationship are inevitable. We argue, we disagree, we hurt each other. When the hurts outweigh the positives for partners, it can feel like the relationship has come unmoored and is falling apart.

In that space, we are often overwhelmed and uncertain, not knowing how we can possibly get things back on track and make our way back to the person we fell in love with.

While “fixing” the relationship is not going to be a step-by-step, linear process, there are many steps that partners can take to change the situation.

Acknowledge that there are issues that are bigger than the problem at hand

When we can accept that it is a foundational relational issue and not about the dishes left in the sink or the laundry on the floor, we can start to broaden our perspective of what the challenges are.

Stop blaming each other

A close second step is to move back from the position of blame and look at what we have done to contribute to the state of the relationship, both positively and negatively. This step is about learning to take responsibility for our behavior and owning our reactions to things.

Improve communication

We have to have those hard conversations, but they don’t just happen. We need to develop the skills and the language to engage productively. There are many ways to improve how we talk to our partner and can include:

  • Establishing fair fighting rules so that both partners are on the same page about how we are going to engage.
  • Using I statements (“I feel ___ when ____. In the future I need ____”), which helps partners take responsibility for their needs, own the emotions, and not sit in blame.
  • Be clear, almost to the point of being silly so that there are no misunderstandings.
  • Be curious. Don’t make assumptions and if you feel your partner “should”, ask more questions – help me understand.

Other ideas to support skill-building can be found in John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. These steps are the simple steps for making the change needed to “fix” a relationship.

To truly make lasting change, the partners will need to engage in meaningful and authentic conversation that supports them in repairing their connection to each other. These conversations need to identify attachment fears and needs and disrupt the emotional reaction that occurs as a result of those fears and needs.

Creating the emotional safety between partners is important and takes time, but it allows us to experience our partner in a different, more loving way.

Nikki Loscalzo, Ed. M.

Nikki Loscalzo

RLT Certified Therapeutic Coach, Savvy Strategies RLT Therapeutic Coaching

When your relationship is falling apart it can seem hopeless, and like nothing you do can fix the problems that have built up between you.

But many relationships, even ones that may feel like they are beyond repair, can be rebuilt into strong, happy relationships if you invest your energy into rebuilding authentic, intimate connection. If you want to fix your relationship here is what you can do to get it back.

Be honest

For many couples, even those who frequently argue, the actual issues between them are never openly and honestly discussed. Holding onto expectations, resentments, and anger poisons relationships from the inside out.

You need to let your partner know if there are things in the relationship that disappoint or frustrate you.

You need to make your expectations of your partner and the relationship explicit so that they can understand what it is you want and then decide if that is something that they are able or willing to do for you and for the relationship.

Be kind

When people in struggling relationships finally share their honest frustrations and resentments, too often it comes out in a blast of anger and accusation. This mode essentially guarantees either a defensive or emotionally overwhelmed reaction. Either way, the person won’t be in a mode to constructively respond to their partner’s perspective.

Make sure that you are in a centered, emotionally calm place when you express your feelings, wants, and needs.

Make sure that you do it from a place of love with a goal of getting your relationship back on track, not a place of blame. Express yourself with loving firmness so that you can get your point across in a way that your partner can hear the difficult truth that you are sharing.

Learn to apologize

Take responsibility for the things in the relationship that you know are not contributing to an intimate, authentic connection. For apologies to be effective, they need to focus on what you did that you are sorry for and also include an offer to repair or to describe how things will be different going forward.

Don’t undermine the apology by mentioning what the other person did that you feel justifies part of your behavior or by using the word “but.” Don’t ask or expect your partner to do or say anything in response to the apology. Don’t offer the non-apology of “I’m sorry if you felt..”

Make sure that your intention with the apology is to rebuild the relationship, not to ease your own guilt at the expense of your partner’s feelings.

Cultivate fun with your partner

Rediscover joy and excitement together. Seek out new experiences and fun adventures. Try new activities that you are excited about. Visit a new place, even if it’s right in your home town.

Shake up your routine so that you can build new memories together. Find opportunities to laugh together. Inject some excitement into your sex life by taking an online course together that teaches new techniques for pleasure and try them out.

Get help if you need it

Most relationships have periods of difficulty or certain issues that are just too loaded to navigate without help.

Unfortunately, a lot of couples try counseling and when it doesn’t improve their relationship they decide either that the relationship is hopeless or that couples counseling doesn’t work. But there are some relationship coaches and counselors and some approaches to couples work that are more effective for certain relationships and certain issues than others.

If you work with someone and it doesn’t help find someone else who works with a different approach.

Jessica Schroeder

Jessica Schroeder

Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner and Clinical Director, JS Therapy Group, LLC

Send clear and direct messages about your own emotions

All arguments come from a loss of emotional accessibility, emotional responsiveness, and emotional engagement in the relationship.

Couples fight about finances, parenting, sex, and more. But this is not what arguments are really about. The arguments are actually about not feeling important enough to be considered, not appreciated enough to be thanked and not lovable enough to be loved.

But couples do not talk about the latter. Most couples give examples of how they don’t feel the latter and do not send clear and direct messages about the pain they feel. Couples need to send clear and direct messages about the pain they feel.

Be able to predict the moves you make in conflict

All couples have a mostly predictable pattern of interaction when they argue. One person usually yells, gets critical or judges. The other person usually walks away or avoids.

Examine your own moves and what your partner does that starts your moves. Then be able to predict when this pattern of interactions will happen and stop it. These patterns only make relationship distress worse.

When couples can catch the pattern and stop it, they can then replace the negative pattern with a positive pattern of interaction instead.

Ask for what you need to feel loved, valued, and wanted

Couples need to be able to ask for comfort. Too often, I work with couples who end up trying to manage their painful emotions on their own. This only leads to disaster.

When we try to manage our own painful emotions, this can lead to infidelity, alcohol or drug abuse, and other destructive behaviors that just make the relationship worse. Instead, couples need to be able to ask for comfort when they feel hurt, sad, or alone.

Ask for a hug, to be held, to be told you matter. Let your partner comfort you in the pain. All of these things are a good step toward fixing a broken relationship.

Jacob Kountz

jacob kountz

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Kern Wellness Counseling

Whether it comes to financial, sex, infidelity, or other reasons as to why relationships take their toll, it’s hard to say whether or not there’s a quick fix.

Obviously, good things take time—and deliberate action. However, there are good questions to ask yourself and each other to begin this healing/understanding process off on the right foot.

Identify immediate needs

Often, I find myself relying on this simple, yet game-changing, fix because of its expedited nature.

First, a great question to ask yourself is, “What is it that I am in need of right now to begin my own healing process?” And if healing isn’t the right term for the moment, perhaps replacing that with the word “understanding” could resonate deeper.

Next, share your answer with your partner because they are not mind-readers—and never will be.

Thirdly, ask your partner what it is they need right now for their own healing/understanding process to begin.

Lastly, and most importantly, work together to figure out what the relationship between each of you needs in order to begin developing a stronger foundation of support.

Keep the dialogue both open-ended, and ongoing

This type of conversation is not worth only having once because it’s practical to check in weekly with one another.

Depending on the needs of the relationship, these ongoing actions help keep one another updated to at least be on the same level. But, there’s something else I’d like to add to this conversation that could be helpful for those who decide to stick things out.

Believe it or not, therapists are known for not giving direct advice; however, I’d like to share with you two trends I’ve noticed in relationships that were on the brink of separation, and yet, they pulled it together.

Keep the communication going—and I mean verbal.

You’ll want to make sure to have small check-ins daily because it really adds up by the end of the week. This looks like having morning conversations before the day begins, sending text messages in the afternoon, or anything else that involves some level of communicative cooperation between both of you.

Keep the intimacy

Second, intimacy and physical touch are other cornerstone areas to continue developing for relationships that are going through the struggle. Most often, couples dance around the tough conversation of sex, handholding, and other forms of touch that may have been givens at the beginning of the relationship.

Many want to know their person is there for them and is willing to seize the day hand in hand, literally. This can dim over time and is deserving of further attention.

There’s something about that level of physical closeness that has the potential to put life stressors at ease. And when you have that type of intimacy with your better half, it can generate safety, warmth, and trust for the long haul.

Jana Edwards, LCSW

Jana Edwards

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Author, Why Are You Driving Me Crazy? How the Dramas of Marriage Can Change You for Good

Look at the aspect of your partner that you think you can’t live with anymore

Consider how it was the very same aspect of her/him that actually attracted you in the first place, and think about the ways that you do value that part of her/him. In what ways does it help you?

Stop focusing on your partner’s faults in the relationship and look at your own

Turn that finger of blame into a finger of responsibility that is pointing at you. What are you doing that could be making the relationship worse or making your partner feel really bad? How do you have the power to make the relationship better?

Make sure that you are doing everything you can to be a safe partner

Telling the truth about your feelings, being interested in the other person’s feelings, not triangulating (going outside the relationship to a third party to talk about your heartfelt self), treating your partner with love and respect.

Nicole Arzt, MS

Nicole Arzt

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Mental Health Content Expert, Invigor Medical

Identify and express your boundaries

What are you willing to compromise on in a relationship? Similarly, what’s completely off-limits and non-negotiable? You need to know your boundaries and be willing to share them with the people in your life. Nobody is a mind-reader!

Prioritize being happy over being right

In times of conflict, people often want to “win.” They want to be right. But what do you actually win if you are right? Justice? A participation trophy? Nope. Being happy means putting the relationship above your need to prove a point.

Practice empathy

It’s so easy to feel caught up in what you want and feel. By taking the time to consider the other person’s position, you naturally soften some of the pain associated with the tension.

Get professional help

Professional therapy can help restore and revitalize relationships. I’ve helped many couples and families improve their communication, strengthen their emotional attachment, and increase respect for one another. Sometimes, people just need an unbiased point of view.

Gabrielle Usatynski, MA, LPC

Gabrielle Usatynski

Licensed Professional Counselor, Power Couples Counseling, PLLC

Relationships fall apart when couples treat each other in ways that are inherently unfair, unjust, insensitive, and non-collaborative.

There are secure and insecure models of relating. An insecure model is threatening and unsustainable. It includes behaviors like stonewalling, criticism, defensiveness, and fighting all the time with no repair. Over time, these behaviors will take a massive toll on your brain and immune system.

If you are a couple who engages in these kinds of destructive behaviors, understand that both you and your partner will pay dearly for it.

Relationships are pay-to-play. Communicating through fear and threat will never work because it prioritizes the needs of the self over those of the relationship. You can behave this way, but watch out! It will lead to the demise of the two of you.

Sit down and talk about why you are even together in the first place

And it can’t be about having kids, loving each other, or being attracted to one another because let’s face it: those things come and go.

So why are you together? Is it to treat each other harshly, ignore each other’s pain, make each other feel unaccepted, unheard, and unloved? Or is it to support each other in surviving and thriving both individually and together?

Every couple, just like every organization, society, or system of any kind, needs its shared motto, its song, its vision. Without this, people are simply too opportunistic and self-centered.

As a couple, you can agree to a different kind of relationship, one based on safety and security. A secure model of relating is founded on the principle of true mutuality, which means that everything that a couple does need to be good for both partners.

Partners who are secure with one another understand that they are in each other’s care. They treat each other according to principles of fairness, justice, and sensitivity for both people, total collaboration, and total cooperation.

They know how to negotiate win-win solutions with each other so that neither of them builds resentment toward the other. They do not move forward on any decision of importance unless they have a “yes” from both people.

For instance, it’s not okay for one person to decide that it’s fine for them to engage in flirting with other people if their partner finds it threatening or upsetting.

Couples who prioritize the safety and security of their relationship understand that their job is to relieve each other’s distress quickly without making an issue of who started the argument. They protect each other in public and in private from all destructive influences, whether those influences arise from within themselves, within their partner, or from the outside world.

These couples understand each other deeply–more deeply perhaps than each partner understands themselves. They know how to calm, soothe, and excite each other. They know what makes the other person feel truly loved and valued and they do those things for each other–every day.

What are your agreements about being a couple? Why are you together? Couples with a shared purpose do better in the long run.

Julia Alperovich, LMFT

Julia Alperovich

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Fixing a relationship is complicated. The most important requirement is that all parties involved in the relationship have to genuinely want to fix the relationship and be willing to do their part of the work.

Another thing to consider is whether the relationship is fixable – in other words, what broke it in the first place? If the break in the relationship had to do with long-term or repeated abuse of some sort, the relationship may not be worthy of being fixed. Unless, of course, the abuse is going to cease completely.

Once these factors are resolved, the fixing process can begin.

Take accountability of your role in the relationship

The first step to the fixing process is going to involve accountability on the part of all participants in the relationship. Each person has to be able to take accountability for how they contribute to the unhealthy nature of their relationship. This requires self-awareness, humility, and honesty – and each of these things is difficult in its own right.

Once there is accountability, each person is going to have to do the work of being mindful of their part and staying focused on self-improvement. This may sound contradictory to the ultimate goal of relationship improvement, but it is the only way.

For a relationship to be healthy, each person has to be healthy themselves and not get sidetracked or focused on trying to make the other healthy. This leads to codependency, control issues, power struggles, and entitlement.

The better each person is at communicating their own needs in a direct and loving way, maintaining clear boundaries and implementing methods of self-care regardless of what the other person is doing, the healthier the relationship will be.

Since this can seem foreign initially, this process takes time and practice. It is important to keep in mind that it is about progress, not perfection. Although this is a simplified explanation, this is, in a nutshell, how a relationship is fixed.

Related: 10 Signs of a Good and Healthy Relationship

Melissa Orlov

Melissa Orlov

Marriage Consultant | Founder, ADHD Marriage

One reason relationships fall apart is that one or both partners has ADHD and doesn’t know about it. The relationship suffers from very predictable patterns that the ADHD symptoms encourage – these patterns are created by both the presence of the symptoms and the responses to those symptoms.

The result, for almost 60% of couples impacted by ADHD, is a relationship that is falling apart. Sadly, 80-90% of adults with ADHD don’t know they have it, and many couples therapists are not trained to recognize when ADHD might be an issue.

Partners should learn the effects of ADHD on their marriage

Typical problems in ADHD-impacted relationships include chronic anger and criticism; one partner who ‘takes over’ because the other one is very inconsistent with following through on promises; ongoing battles over chores and responsibilities; open defiance or retreat rather than working in partnership to solve issues; and one or both partners feeling lonely in the relationship.

Luckily these relationships can be dramatically improved. First, both partners need to learn about the effect ADHD has on relationships, and the partner with suspected ADHD should get an evaluation. They can then: correctly interpret ADHD symptoms; manage the ADHD effectively; create responses to ADHD that are healthy, and build up communication strategies to reconnect.

If you have a child with ADHD, chronic distraction, or surprising inconsistency in your relationship, then seek that evaluation to see if one of you might have ADHD.

Getting that diagnosis is actually great news because it provides insight and specific strategies that can be the beginning of an amazing journey to improve your life and find the love you thought you had lost.

Related: How to Fix a Broken Marriage

Adi Jaffe, Ph.D.

Adi Jaffe

CEO and Founder, IGNTD

By the time a relationship is in the “falling apart” stage, the dysfunction has been long-standing and often deep.

Differences in strong opinion, arguments about big and little things, and friction between partners around everything from a family relationship, life-goal expectations, or even the stereotypical sex, money, and kids. To save such a relationship requires serious work.

Both should be dedicated and motivated to fix the relationship

I always tell couples that the first thing that is required is the dedication and the clear motivation by both partners to commit to the process. When I work with couples I equate their current situation to a house full of piles of dirt (I use a different word typically) – it’s dirty, it’s everywhere and it’s making life unbearable.

Couples find themselves trying to shout at each other from different ends of the room, unable to cross because of all the filth. It doesn’t work. They find themselves constantly fighting. Every conversation triggers an old wound or memory, and nothing ever gets resolved.

The only way out is to pick up a broom and a dustpan and get to cleaning. One by one, the piles of dirt have to be picked up and thrown out. It takes time, it’s uncomfortable (does anyone truly like cleaning?) and it’s messy and typically requires a supportive and non-judgemental third party. But if you go through – room by room – you can find yourself back living in a relationship you deeply appreciate and enjoy.

Amy Hartle

Amy Hartle

Relationship Expert | Founder, Two Drifters

All long-term relationships will be beset by problems. But what do you do when these problems become more than you can manage? How do you react when you hit the point that your relationship is falling apart?

Before doing anything else, step back and take stock

Your attitude and commitment toward your relationship will set the tone for the next actions you take. It might take some serious soul-searching, but it’s worth diving deep to discover your true feelings about the relationship. Is it worth saving? Is it healthy and fulfilling?

This type of self-discovery allows you to discern your attitude and will make all the difference towards saving your relationship if that’s what you decide is what you want.

Ultimately, it can be really beneficial to take stock of a relationship even when things are going all wrong. For married couples or those in long-term relationships, it can be a reminder of the connection you and your partner once had; of the history that you’ve built together. Were there times that this relationship brought out the best in you? In such cases, a relationship is nearly always worth saving.

Even after this soul-searching, an individual may not think that a relationship can be saved. But it absolutely can.

Accept that this is likely to demand a whole lot from you and your partner

Relationships on the brink of falling apart are not a simple fix (but the most worthwhile things in life seldom are easy). Preparing yourself for the challenges and effort ahead of you is an important step in the healing process.

Remember to have patience each step of the way and most importantly, remember that you and your partner are in this together.

When you’ve decided to fix your relationship together, it brings about a renewal of sorts; a new, fresh start in your relationship. This in itself can be really healing.

Seek out the help of a licensed counselor

Couples counseling is immensely valuable—for couples at all stages of a relationship. But when things have reached a breaking point, the assistance of a 3rd party can make all the difference.

A therapist can help you and your partner identify your harmful patterns (and break them!). They can also offer practical guidance on ways to draw closer and to communicate better. All of these things are oh-so-important.

Sonya Schwartz

Sonya Schwartz

Managing Editor, Her Norm

Try new things

If your relationship has lost the spark, better try to experience new things that can help bring the joy back into your life. The new experiences could be anything like regular boating.

If it’s convenient for you, do boating every day to spend time together. Discuss the matters while pulling the boat to the end, and you will get a solution to fix a problem that is hurting your relationship.

Move out

Sometimes things get worse even after many tries and the reason can be the same environment where you both are sick and tired of trying things. Couples can fix the relationship by moving out together. Ask your partners what is their favorite place and move there for some time.

The move will refresh your mind and soul, and things will become more clear to each of you, and both can resolve the problems considerably.

Offer support

No matter how tall and strong we stand, we all need support at some point in life. Your partner may look fine, but deep down, he can be broken and need the help to make things better.

If you see your relationship fading away, try to support your partners instead of fighting. The support will heal the problems and will reap the benefits when both are strong.

Chris Pleines

Chris Pleines

Dating Expert, DatingRelationshipsAdvice.com

Ascertain if it’s falling apart

Our ability to ascertain if our relationship is on the verge of breaking down seems to lessen the more we celebrate anniversaries together. Somehow, we’re no longer strangers to the sudden time spent apart, to less intimacy, and all that.

You already understand your dynamics, which is why sometimes you may or may not be able to see that there’s a problem. So before anything else, gather enough details to make sure if your relationship is indeed falling apart or you’re only facing a slight bump in the road.

If it’s the former, be strong and get ready to communicate to know the roots of the issue at hand. If it’s the latter, still talk but take this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship further.

Know why it’s falling apart

It’s common sense: you can’t mend something when you don’t know what needs fixing. If your relationship is on the rocks, its best to approach the elephant in the room head-on.

Don’t try to assume or second-guess what seems to be the problem; be direct and ask your partner to tell you what’s bothering them. Knowing the complete details as to why your relationship is falling apart will significantly help you map out your next steps.

Communicate and compromise

A relationship is a partnership; it won’t smoothly sail forward if the two parties involved aren’t doing their equal best to row the boat. To make sure you’re still on the same page, it’s best if you consistently communicate. After all, communication is king.

And by communicate, we mean actively and calmly taking part in a give-and-take of concerns, worries, and plans. Like any partnership, you’ll have to bring something to the table. After airing your issues out, plan your next steps forward. Together, compromise to make your relationship work.

Sarah Mayfield

Sarah Mayfield

Founder, Romantific

Do not use silence as a manipulative tool – be vulnerable

Silence is not the right approach when it comes to relationships falling apart. Some people stay silent and try to manipulate their partner cunningly. However, in reality, they only widen the gap.

In critical times, partners have to be extremely vulnerable and transparent about their feelings. Moreover, they should actively listen to each other’s pain points to reach a mutual decision by following a collaborative approach to conflict resolution strategies.

Repeat back while active listening

Often partners misunderstand each others’ perspectives. So, repeating is an essential part of active listening. Listening alone is not enough; you both should be on the same page.

Make sure to repeat what you understood from their saying. It is the only way to eliminate ambiguities entirely and make mutually beneficial decisions.

Samantha Moss

Samantha Moss

Editor & Content Ambassador, Romantific

Every relationship has its ups and downs. And if you are in a good one, you would want to do anything just to fix it whenever it is falling apart. It is hard to guess how many breakups happen in any given year, but roughly 40% of American marriages end in divorce per 2017 data.

So before it becomes too late, start to make things better and reconnect. Believe me because based on my experience, it takes more than sleepless nights and anxiety to mend a broken heart.

Here are two ways to fix a relationship that is falling apart:

Talk about your thoughts and feelings

Never assume that your partner would know exactly what you are thinking nor the extent of your emotions at a given time. Remember that communication is always the key, so learn to talk about it freely so that each of you would be able to adjust and understand each other’s sentiments.

Learn to forgive

This is the most crucial part of fixing your relationship, especially when it is about a grave issue that’s somewhat unforgivable. If you really want to get far, learn to forgive, forget the past and start all over again. Give each other the chance to prove that it is all worth it.

Barry Vickery, MBA

Barry Vickery

General Manager, Qredible

When in love, you need to take care and pay attention to all that is essential to keep the connection going.

Arguments within any relationship are reasonable and sometimes even healthy! However, there are moments when even the strongest of partnerships start to fall apart – a feeling of helplessness and detriment sets in.

Related: How Often Do Couples Argue or Fight in a Healthy Relationship

Sometimes, this comes as a result of a long chain of disappointments in the relationship and expectations that led to discontent with the way things have been. If you are in a situation where you think this is the beginning of the end, then do not fear. There are ways to evaluate, work-on, and buoy any emotional weights that may be dragging your relationship to the depths of despair.

Communicate honestly with your partner

Communication is vital, and honesty is essential. Communication is a useful tool to banish insecurities and misinterpretations. The easiest way out for most people is to go for the silent treatment. It works because it is convenient. Though, in the process, irreparable damage is caused and often compromising the long-term peace and happiness in the relationship.

Hearing unwanted truths can be painful and heart-wrenching but laying it all out on the table is also the only way to mend broken bonds between two people. By accepting those vulnerable emotions and objectively viewing what has caused hurt and cracks, you can then only truly move forward.

Go back to the old days and start talking about little things that would make each other laugh. Build that togetherness, so it becomes the norm of your life as it once was before.

Take responsibility for your mistakes

It is often challenging to own up to making mistakes – regardless of how consequential or insignificant they may seem. However, acknowledging your part in any problems, or your role in the demise of any relationship is a crucial way in which you can go about repairing any hurt and moving forward.

Try to avoid feelings of stubbornness and defensiveness during these discussions – and you’ll find the whole conversation more liberating, more productive, and more purifying.

Strive not to concentrate too much on winning every fight or having your way at every crucial decision. Learn from past mistakes and give up on that winning mentality. There is no “me” or “you” in a relationship. The magic word is “us”.

Related: Why Do We Blame Others for Our Failures, Mistakes, and Problems?

Respect your differences

Finding someone so perfectly matched to you is a remarkable and sometimes unlikely feat. Regardless of how ideally matched you may feel or have felt; the reality is that you are still two very different unique people.

A fundamental error in most relationships is forgetting that we need to embrace our significant other for who they are and avoid impressing our own personality traits on them, or trying to mold them into the person we think they should be. Try and focus on your commonalities.

What attracted you to your other half in the first place? Are those characteristics still in place? If you feel like it was all a pretense with nothing to do with the way they are now, then you can opt for other measures.

Remember, being in love means encouraging and supporting – so find a way to compromise and negotiate around your differences. You will discover a happier version of yourself and create a more respectful partnership.

Forgive and forget, keep the good memories

When your relationship is on the brink of falling apart, it is very easy to forget all the best moments that your partner brought into your life.

Forgiveness is a prerequisite in any flourishing relationship – irrespective of how badly someone has hurt you. When you enter any relationship, you do so with trust – on the understanding that if you give someone your heart, they will take care of it.

Humans are all fallible, and we do make mistakes. It takes an immeasurable amount of strength to take resort to the truth. If you genuinely feel that someone’s actions are forgivable, then make that asserted effort to forgive, heal, and move forward.

Being stubborn and unforgiving will get you nowhere, and things will spiral out of control very quickly. Look to the future and enjoy the relationship you have created for yourselves.

Related: How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally

Seek new things and act respectably

Mending a relationship by trying new things is a sure way to bring the sparks back into your life. Take up a new hobby, make time for each other, try to spend that time together – such as cooking or cycling. Be adventurous!

Listen to each other and figure out a way to move forward respectably. Though that new hobby may not be for you, at least give it a go! You will not only reap the reward of your brave efforts but discover new things about yourselves that you never knew existed. It is very easy to get dragged into your busy schedules and fail to commit some time to the cause. Persevere, keep trying, and never give up.

Take small steps moving forward with dedication, understanding, and love in your relationship. With the right path of action, you will weather the storm in no time and get you back on life’s loving path.

Katie Dames

Katie Dames

Relationship Expert, Feely Feelings

Consider the reason

While not all relationships are destined to be long term, there are some ways to fix one that may be falling apart. First, it must be established why the relationship is failing.

It makes sense to begin with open and honest dialogue as to what is causing the failure and determine if this relationship is worthy of fixing.

For some people, it may be best to do this with a therapist. You’ll both need to understand how you contribute to the health as well as the unhealth of the relationship.

Remember that forgiveness means that you won’t bring up every fault or past wrongdoings that should have been put to rest.

Listen up

Listening to your partner is crucial, and if something you’ve done is bothersome, own it, and acknowledge that it causes pain or discomfort to the person you supposedly care for.

It’s possible that you both need to move away from being right and see the importance of happiness and gratitude for each other.

Communicating more effectively may manifest as nonverbal communication. Gestures are an ideal way of expressing caring and loving feelings, but this is not to replace talking to each other.

Stephania Cruz

Stephania Cruz

Relationship Expert, Dating Pilot

Acknowledge the truth

To fix a relationship that is falling apart, the couple must first acknowledge that their relationship is falling apart and address the issues that are deteriorating the relationship. To address the issues, both parties have to feel comfortable opening up and sharing what they feel, what bothers them, what they want, etc.

The couple must set some ground rules when addressing issues, such as listening empathetically, not talking over each other, not getting defensive, not being critical, etc. These ground rules will create an environment where they both will feel safe and comfortable to share how they feel.

It is important for couples to be empathetic with each other

This means trying their hardest to see where the other is coming from and why they feel a certain way. It is not until a couple sees things from each other’s perspective, that they will be able to come to an agreement or resolve the issues that are keeping them apart.

They still may not agree with each other 100% but at least they will be able to understand and be more accepting of each other’s feelings, which also helps both parties feel more understood and valued.

Kyler Nixon

Kyler Nixon

Founder, Love Your First Year

Learn how to apologize

When conflict becomes common in a relationship, saying “I’m sorry” isn’t usually enough. In a conflict, “sorry” feels like a bandaid on a gaping wound.

Instead, it’s important to understand how your partner needs to receive your apology. There are 5 “apology languages” created by Dr. Gary Chapman, and these are a great place to start: expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.

When we learn how to apologize, we can begin to resolve conflicts instead of simply patching them up.

Break the cycle

It takes one of you to take a stand and break the cycle of conflict in your relationship. Whether that’s serving your partner, apologizing, or simply having a tough conversation, step up and take control of the cycle.

Get on the same page

Unmet expectations are the quickest way to frustration in a relationship. Whether you realize it or not, you have certain things you expect from your partner and they have things they expect from you. If your relationship is falling apart, it’s likely due to unmet expectations.

Instead of harboring anger and frustration, simply ask the question “what do you expect here?” Expressing expectations and communicating our needs and wants leads to a healthy relationship.

Lana Otoya

Lana Otoya

Dating Coach, Millenialships

Take a trip down memory lane

The reason we fall so head over heels with someone at the beginning of a relationship is that our brains are being hit with a dopamine rush.

You can easily bring back those strong emotions by reminiscing about the past. Look at old photos together or visit a vacation spot that you took at the beginning of your relationship.

Doing this can remind the two of you how good things were, which is great motivation to patch things up and get back on track.

Use your hormones to your advantage

When you have that head over heels feeling of new love, your brain is releasing dopamine and oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormones.

When you’re feeling down in the dumps with your partner, doing things to bring those hormones back can really help bring the feelings of love, physically back into your body. You can do this by taking time to kiss, hug, and have sex. Physical touch and affection are a great way to remind your brain that you’re in love.

Accept your partner for who they are

One of the biggest ways that couples get into a rut is the never-ending “talks”. We need to “talk” about this or “talk” about that. It gets very exhausting and you can start to feel like the other person is trying to change you.

Instead of all the talking, start accepting the other person for who they are. If they leave their clothes on the bedroom floor, just accept it or figure out a way to cope instead of telling them not to do it. Figure out a list of all the things you can accept about your partner, and save the “talking” for the things you really can’t stand.

If you can pick your battles, you can find common ground without feeling like your (or your partner’s) personality is being forever changed.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

Editor, Heem Publication

Look for cycles of negativity and try to break them

In 1992, Dr. Gottman, Kim Buehlman, and Lynn Katz conducted a study interviewing 52 heterosexual married couples. From that study, they were able to successfully predict with over 94% accuracy whether or not a couple would separate or stay together.

One thing they noticed is that there were four specific behaviors that dominated the couples that ended up separating: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Let’s briefly define what these four behaviors mean:

  • Criticism is when you express disapproval over your partner over a perceived fault or mistake. It isn’t advice or voicing a concern. It’s an attack on a person’s character.
  • Defensiveness is often a response to criticism. It deflects blame and often places it on the partner. Defensiveness also manifests in the form of playing the victim.
  • Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce and it’s more than just criticism. It’s claiming moral superiority over your partner. It’s an overall disposition that you are better than they are and you despise them for it.
  • Stonewalling is often a response to contempt. This is when you shut down and completely disengage from the relationship to avoid any and all conflict.

Now here’s the thing. Relationships aren’t perfect. If you see any of these four behaviors in your relationship with a significant other, don’t worry. All that means is that you have something to work on.

But the moment you notice that your interactions with your partner are dominated by them, you should really start examining what’s going on between the two of you.

Forgive one another. This is a powerful tool that can help you move forward because when we stop using past hurt or actions to attack one another, we can finally deal with what’s actually going on in the present.

And lastly, communicate. Without healthy communication there is no understanding. Without understanding, there is no empathy. Without empathy, love withers, and dies.

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