Expert Tips for Fixing and Rebuilding Broken Relationships
Updated: Feb 10
Navigating the ups and downs of a relationship can be challenging and confusing for many couples. Relationship problems, such as communication breakdowns and infidelity, can make it hard to know where to turn for help. My goal with this article is to provide help and guidance for moving forward.
As a retired relationship psychotherapist, I've helped many couples work through their issues. In this article, I'll provide insights and resources to aid in understanding and resolving relationship problems. I also offer a downloadable Relationship Repair Programme, that can be found at the end of this article.
We'll look at common relationship issues, when and how to fix them, and when it's best to seek professional help or end the relationship. By understanding relationship problems, we can improve our partnerships.
What are the main reasons why relationships fail?
There are many reasons why relationships may fail and the specific reasons can vary greatly depending on the individuals involved and the nature of the relationship. However, some common reasons why relationships fail include:
Lack of communication:
Effective communication is essential for building trust, understanding, and intimacy in a relationship. When partners fail to communicate effectively, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise, leading to feelings of resentment and disconnection.
Withdrawal and Avoidance:
These are two different manifestations of the problem wherein a partner is unwilling to get in or stay in a discussion that is too threatening.
Withdrawal can be as obvious as getting up and leaving the room or as subtle as 'turning off' or 'shutting down' during an argument.
The withdrawer often tends to get quiet during an argument, look away, or agree quickly to a partner's suggestion just to end the conversation, with no real intention of following through what they appear to have conceded or agreed to.
Avoidance reflects the same reluctance to get into certain discussions, with more emphasis on the attempt to not let the conversation happen in the first place. A person prone to avoidance would prefer that the topic not come up and, if it does, may manifest the signs of withdrawal just described.
In a typical relationship, one partner is the ‘pursuer’ and the other is the ‘withdrawer‘. Studies show that it is usually the man who wants to avoid these discussions and is more likely to be in the withdrawing role. However, sometimes the roles reverse. But, for the sake of this discussion, we will assume that the male partner in a heterosexual relationship is the one who withdraws.
So why does he withdraw? Because he does not feel emotionally ‘safe‘ enough to stay in the argument. Sometimes he may even be afraid that if he stays in the discussion or argument that he might turn violent, so he retreats. When the husband/partner withdraws, the wife/partner feels shut out and believes that they do not care about the relationship. In other words, lack of talking equals lack of caring. But that is often a negative interpretation about the withdrawer.
He/she, on the other hand, may believe that his partner gets upset too much of the time, nagging and picking fights. This is also a negative interpretation because most ‘pursuers‘ really want to stay connected and resolve the issue they do not want to talk about. Each of these risk factors - escalation, invalidation and minimisation, negative interpretations and assumptions, and withdrawal or avoidance – can build barriers in a relationship, leading ultimately to loneliness and isolation.
The research shows that couples that want a good long-term relationship need to eliminate these risk factors from their union, or else the negative factors will overwhelm the positive aspects of the union. It is never too late to put your relationship back on track.
Lack of trust:
Trust is an essential component of any healthy relationship, and a lack of trust can cause significant problems. Trust refers to the belief that one's partner is reliable, honest, and will not intentionally hurt or deceive them. When trust is broken, it can be difficult to regain and can cause feelings of betrayal, anger, and hurt.
Some common reasons for a lack of trust in a relationship include past infidelities, lies or deceit, and broken promises. Additionally, if one partner consistently fails to follow through on their commitments or is not transparent about their actions, this can also lead to a lack of trust. When a lack of trust persists it can erode the foundation of a relationship and make it difficult for the couple to move forward.
Lack of commitment:
Relationships require effort and dedication from both partners. When one or both partners lack the commitment to work through challenges and invest in the relationship, the relationship is likely to fail. Communication is one of the most important elements of a healthy and successful relationship. It's essential for partners to be able to communicate effectively in order to understand each other's needs, feelings, and perspectives. Good communication can help to build trust, intimacy and understanding between partners.
When people communicate effectively, they are able to:
Express their thoughts and feelings clearly
Understand the thoughts and feelings of others
Resolve conflicts in a constructive and healthy way
Work together to make decisions and plan for the future
On the other hand, poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and conflicts. When communication breaks down, partners may begin to feel resentful, alienated, or disconnected from one another.
Effective communication involves:
Listening actively and attentively.
Expressing yourself in a clear and honest manner.
Being open to hearing what your partner has to say.
Being willing to compromise.
Being able to express needs and wants in a non-threatening way.
Being respectful of each other’s point of view.
It's important to note that effective communication is a two-way street, it requires active effort and engagement from both parties. It's also important to practice good communication skills, it's not something that will always come naturally, but is something that can be learned with practice.
Finally, it's also important to be aware that communication can be influenced by personal beliefs, past experiences, and cultural background, being sensitive to these factors can help to maintain positive communication with your partner.
Lack of compatibility:
Compatibility in a relationship refers to the ability of two people to have a successful and satisfying relationship together. Lack of compatibility occurs when two people have fundamentally different values, goals, or ways of approaching life, making it difficult for them to connect and understand each other.
Some examples of lack of compatibility may include:
Different communication styles, which can make it difficult for a couple to effectively express their thoughts and feelings to one another.
Different levels of commitment, one partner might be ready to move in together or get married while the other isn't on the same page.
Different lifestyle choices such as one partner being a night owl while the other being an early bird, or one being a homebody and the other being a socialite
Different views on finances, child-rearing, religion, and other important life issues can also cause compatibility issues in a relationship.
When a couple lacks compatibility, it can lead to increased conflict, dissatisfaction, and eventually to a breakdown in the relationship. In some cases, it might be possible for the couple to work through the issues and find ways to compromise. But in other cases, the couple may come to the conclusion that they are not well-suited to each other, and it may be best to end the relationship.
Unresolved past issues or trauma:
Past issues or trauma can have a significant impact on a relationship. Trauma, in particular, can cause individuals to develop certain coping mechanisms that may make it difficult for them to trust others, to be emotionally vulnerable, to be intimate, or to form healthy relationships.
Some examples of how past issues or trauma might impact a relationship include:
Difficulty in trust: People who have experienced trauma may have difficulty trusting others. They may be hesitant to let others in emotionally, and may have a hard time trusting that their partner will not hurt them.
Emotional regulation: Trauma can affect a person's emotional regulation, leading to outbursts, mood swings or difficulties in managing emotions. This can make it hard for a partner to understand or predict a person's behavior and create tension.
Intimacy: Trauma can also affect an individual's ability to be intimate in a relationship. A person who has experienced trauma may have difficulty with physical touch or may have triggers that make it hard for them to be close to their partner.
Communication: Trauma can also affect an individual's communication style, they might be not able to express themselves, or they might have difficulty with assertiveness, making it hard to express their needs and wants.
It's important to note that everyone's experiences with trauma and its effects are unique, and the way it affects one's relationship can be different from one person to another. It's important for individuals to understand and work through their past issues and trauma, maybe with the help of a therapist, to improve their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.
Excessive jealousy in relationships:
Excessive jealousy in a relationship can be a major problem and can lead to feelings of insecurity, mistrust, and resentment. If you're experiencing excessive jealousy in your relationship, there are a few things that may be helpful to do:
Communicate openly with your partner: Express your feelings of jealousy to your partner and try to understand why they are happening. Ask your partner to be understanding and patient while you work through your feelings.
Look at the root of your jealousy: Try to identify the underlying causes of your jealousy. It could be related to past experiences, lack of self-esteem, or insecurity. Once you have a better understanding of why you feel jealous, you can work on addressing the underlying issues.
Work on building trust: Excessive jealousy can stem from a lack of trust in the relationship.
Work on building trust by being transparent and honest with your partner and by taking responsibility for your own actions.
Practice self-care: Take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the support you need. Take time for yourself to do things you enjoy, practice self-reflection and make sure you are setting boundaries that makes you feel safe.
Seek professional help: Consider talking to a therapist or counsellor about your feelings of jealousy. They can help you work through your emotions and develop coping mechanisms. If the jealousy is also related to any past traumas or unresolved issues, a therapist can help you process that as well.
Try to practice empathy: Try to understand where your partner is coming from and what they are going through. Imagine how you would feel in their shoes and approach the situation with empathy.
It's worth noting that jealousy is a common feeling that most people experience in relationships, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. But when it becomes excessive and starts to negatively impact the relationship, it's important to address it. With time, patience and hard work it's possible to overcome excessive jealousy and build a healthier and happier relationship.
An affair, whether physical or emotional, can cause major damage to a relationship and trust is lost, this can be very difficult to recover from.
Is it possible to re kindle a relationship after an affair?
It is possible to rekindle a relationship after an affair but it will likely take a lot of work from both parties to heal the hurt and rebuild trust. Here are a few steps that may be helpful in the process:
Be honest and transparent: The person who had the affair should be open and honest about what happened and be willing to answer any questions the other person may have. The person who was betrayed should also be honest about their feelings and what they need in order to move forward.
Take responsibility: Both parties should take responsibility for their actions, and recognize the role they played in the affair. The person who had the affair should apologize sincerely and take steps to make amends.
Seek professional help: It may be helpful for both parties to seek the help of a therapist or counsellor who can guide them through the process of healing and rebuilding the relationship.
Build trust gradually: Trust is a vital component of any relationship and rebuilding it will take time and effort. It will require both parties to be open, honest, and transparent with each other, and to take actions that demonstrate their commitment to the relationship.
Be patient: Healing and rebuilding a relationship after an affair takes time, and both parties should be patient with themselves and each other. It is important to be supportive and understanding as each other navigates their feelings and emotions. It’s important to understand that rebuilding a relationship after an affair is a difficult and emotional process. It requires a lot of hard work, patience, and the willingness to be open and vulnerable. And not every relationship will be saved after an affair, but with the right steps and willingness to change, it can be a possibility.
It’s also important to note that both parties need to be willing to make the changes needed for the relationship to be healthy. If the person who had the affair is not willing to take the steps necessary to rebuild trust, or the person who was betrayed is not willing to forgive, then it may not be possible to rekindle the relationship.
Constant arguing and fighting:
Constant arguing and fighting in relationships can be caused by a number of factors. Some common causes include:
Lack of communication: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved issues, which can then lead to arguments and fights.
Different values and expectations: When two people have different values or expectations for the relationship, it can lead to conflicts and disagreements.
Power imbalances: When one partner feels that they have more power in the relationship than the other, it can lead to arguments.
Unresolved past issues: Trauma, unresolved emotions from past relationships, unresolved individual personal issues, can affect the current relationship and lead to arguments.
Stressors: External stressors such as financial problems, work-related stress, or health issues can put a strain on the relationship and lead to argument.
Lack of trust or intimacy: If a relationship is lacking trust or intimacy, it can lead to feelings of insecurity, jealousy and can lead to conflicts.
It's important to keep in mind that arguments and fights in a relationship are not always a bad thing, as long as they are handled in a healthy and constructive way. The goal should be to understand and respect each other's perspectives, to try and find a solution, rather than to win the argument. It's also crucial to understand that sometimes the fighting is a symptom of a bigger problem within the relationship that needs to be addressed.
Lack of intimacy and emotional connection: