A committed, loving relationship is one of life’s greatest joys—and accomplishments. Loving relationships can be the foundation of a meaningful life, and our anchor amid life’s difficulties and uncertainties. Yet about 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, and breakups are even more frequent among unmarried couples.
What are we doing wrong?
The truth is that relationships don’t just take care of themselves—they require commitment, self-awareness, unselfishness, and willingness to change and grow. We have to learn to shift from “me” to “we” as the central focus of our lives. Committed relationships can survive ups and downs, but some patterns and behaviors can create more permanent damage. From my years of counseling couples and knowledge of the research, we have identified four damaging patterns that raise red flags about the state of any relationship or marriage. If you recognize your relationship here, think about how to change course. (If the situation is more serious, you may need to seek couples counseling from a professional.)
Past hurt, lack of communication and pride have been identified as causes of brokenness in relationships
Everyone comes into relationships with a past. This past can bring with it unresolved issues that can affect the health of your current relationships.
It's natural when we move on to a new love relationship to compare.
Whether you are comparing to your past love experiences or your parents and friends relationships, we all do it. Even if we wish we didn't...
This can be a good thing at the beginning of a relationship, where we notice all the wonderful positive qualities our new partner has, for example how special and right for us they are. After a while though, we can get triggered by something our partner says or does, which can cause us to over-react.
We may fear history repeating itself
We may feel like we have been here before and know the score
We may get angry, bitter and start doubting the relationship
We may want to run
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
This is a big one. Numerous studies have identified communication (or a lack thereof) as one of the top reasons for couples therapy, as well as one of the top reasons for break-up and divorce (1)(2).
Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington, a foremost expert on couples’ studies, concluded after over twenty years of research that the single, best predictor of divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in the relationship.
Contempt, the opposite of respect, is often expressed via negative judgment, criticism, or sarcasm regarding the worth of an individual. In communication studies, this is known as being “tough on the person, soft on the issue”. Contemptuous communication works like poison - it destroys the health and well-being of a romantic relationship.
PRIDE AND EGO
The truth about many of us is that we are too egocentric; we carry ourselves with so much pride that we trample on our spouses emotions.
Your wife may ask you to help her to bathe your children, due to the fact she is under tremendous stress and pressure, but instead of showing your love and care, you retaliate and begin to preach the duties of a woman, and how its none of your business to do such things, because it is not a man’s job and doing it will hurt your ego.
We mostly allow our Ego and Pride to get in the way of just saying a simple “sorry” or “please forgive me” to your spouse, and as a result broken down the communication gap in your marriage. Ego and Pride are major causes of Marriage and relationship failures nowadays.
Other causes of broken relationships include:
1. Selfishness, Narcissism, and Unbalanced Ties
Selfishness is focusing on your own needs and not thinking about the other person when you make important decisions or in day-to-day interactions
2. Not Making the Relationship a Priority
Not making your relationship a priority wears it down over time. Our education system doesn’t teach us that loving relationships take work and daily commitment. It’s easy for the relationship to take a back seat when kids come along. If you don’t make time for sexual intimacy, desire goes down
3. Angry Outbursts and Rage
Arguments that get resolved, and controlled expressions of anger, are normal parts of a healthy relationship. But enraged screaming at a partner can do damage both to them and the relationship
Trust is the soil in which healthy relationships are grounded and the foundation for their growth. Breaking trust is like putting a big crack in that soil. The relationship may still survive but it will forever have a broken part
WAYS TO FIX A BROKEN RELATIONSHIP
1. FORGIVE PAST HURTS
The power of Forgiveness should never be under-estimated. Personally I don’t think that we truly realize how powerful it can be, until we've done it. When we harbor resentment against someone, we are hurting ourselves, as we are the container in which the resentment is being held. By taking action we free ourselves. So forgiveness is a gift that you can give yourself, it's not for your ex or parents.
Forgiveness enables you to move forward and stop being a prisoner of the past.
Seek first to understand, then be understood. Couples therapist Dr. Robert Solley says that ‘The listener has to hold back their own emotional reactions and interpretations, and really try to get the essence of what the speaker is putting out.’
* Face your partner and turn your body toward them
* Make and keep eye contact
* Uncross your arms and nod when appropriate
* Mute the TV and your cell phone
* Summarize your partner’s words to check that you understood them
* Ask questions to clarify their meaning
It takes two to tango and when you’re in a relationship, it’s a partnership. You can’t have it your way all of the time and neither can your partner. You have to find a common ground that works for both of you.
4. EXPRESS YOURSELF.
Are you able to communicate your feelings in a way that makes your partner respond the way that you want them to? If you aren’t getting the response that you’d like, try a different tactic. Try saying ‘I have something to tell you that’s important to me. Is it a good time to talk?’ The reply from your partner will let you know how receptive your partner is likely to be.
5. SOFTEN YOUR HEART.
Turning away from your partner when things go bad is easy to do; what’s harder is to turn toward them. Responding with kindness is always better than responding with cruelty.
Empathy is key to being able to relate to the other person’s perspective. If your partner is angry, think about a time that you were really angry. How would you want someone to treat you if you felt that way? Start by telling your partner that you can understand how they feel and then that you want to help them to feel less angry.
6. ASSUME THE BEST.
Unless your relationship is beyond fixing due to physical abuse or addiction, assume that your partner has good intentions, even if they say something hurtful. Instead of assuming that they intended to hurt you, assume that they need to express painful feelings.
7. EMBRACE CHANGE.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. It’s a cliché, but when things are broken in your relationship, keeping everything the same won’t fix it.
Change can be scary, so prepare yourself emotionally for this transition by recalling a time that you had to learn something new in the past. Remember that you came out of that experience a wiser and better person.
8. BE PERSISTENT.
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up! If you’ve resolved to make it work, keep trying. Seek the help of a professional if it doesn’t seem that you can fix the broken relationship on your own.
As only half of your relationship, you are not the only person responsible for its’ health. In spite of your best efforts, your partner may need to change their bad relationship habits to help strengthen your bond. If you’ve done your part by working to fix what was broken but they aren’t willing to, you may be resigned to call it quits.
By Amelia Sophie & Marcos Mercado