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Almost half of American marriages end in divorce by the 20-year mark, with more than 20 percent of first marriages ending within five years, according to the American Psychological Association. Whether it’s a marriage, friendship, family or business relationship, once a relationship is broken, fixing it is a big challenge. You might even wonder if the broken relationship is worth fixing. If the answer is yes, it will take time, commitment and improved communication on both sides.
Causes of Break
Before you start fixing your relationship, you must figure out why it broke. All the causes of breakage, whether marital or nonmarital, are variations on the same theme, according to Sukhjiwan Singh, author of “Marriage and the Love Myth: From Turbulence to Marital Bliss.” It’s failing to get what you were expecting in that relationship. The three main reasons for this disappointment are stress – such as financial burdens, demanding careers or interference from outside relationships, such as family or exes – abuse or fundamental incompatibility, she said. If you’re trying to decide whether to salvage your marriage, Singh recommends what she calls the 80 percent rule. You both make a list of the things that are most important to you, whether those are religion, physical characteristics, education or whatever. If at least 80 percent match, you have a good chance of making it, she said.
Talk it Out
Communication is essential for fixing a broken relationship. But the more important the relationship is to you, the more likely your emotions will get in the way of clearly communicating your points. Set aside ample time to talk about your areas of conflict and come prepared both to speak your truth and listen to your partner’s. “If the topic is going to be emotionally charged, disarm yourself of emotions,” said Singh. Try to stick to facts. Singh recommends writing out the points you want to make ahead of time in a way that’s free of emotion and blame. Give the other person a chance to absorb what you have to say. If emotions run high, take a cooling off period and resume the talk another time. And resist the urge to be right all the time. As relationship expert Dr. Phil posted on his website, ask yourself if winning an argument is worth destroying your marriage.
State Your Mission
Just as businesses use mission statements to stay on track, a marriage or even a friendship can do the same. First each person should create her or his own mission statement, Singh said. Then you merge them together and prioritize. If you agree to certain goals and values – both together and for things each individual wants to attain – when the relationship gets into trouble your mission statement can steer you back onto course. Your mission statement can include goals such as buying a house, whether you want children and how you plan to raise them, philosophy of life, educational and financial goals and religious beliefs.
Let The Past Lie
Once you commit to fixing your broken relationship, you need to let the past alone. Bringing up all the old arguments and sorrows makes disturbing emotions surface. Instead, focus on the positive.
Some relationships can’t or shouldn’t be fixed. If a partner, friend or family member abuses you, cutting ties might be necessary. You don’t have to face it all alone. If you feel scared or overwhelmed by the pain of your relationship, seek professional help from a therapist or join a support group.
More on Sukh Singh’s work here
If you are looking to deepen your relationships and learn the basics of authentic communication (with yourself and others) take a look at this online course – Transformative Communication – an easy and life-enhancing approach for better relationships.