This article is for those who are serious about change in their relationships.
Relationships, whether romantic or otherwise all seem exciting at first but if we are honest, the excitement can wear off and leave us disappointed, discouraged and depressed.
The person we were crazy about has now become “crazy.” It’s here that things can quickly go sideways if no effort to rebuild and manage the relationship is exercised. How did we get here and what can we do to get back on track? The thing is, we already know how to behave in any relationship to make it work. We did it at the beginning, right? So why not return to the things that made it work then, and cultivate a healthy environment for love to flourish in?
That environment is like a garden filled with beautiful flowers and sumptuous fruit for us to enjoy. But if that garden is left unattended we’ll surely find ourselves in a drought surrounded by unsightly weeds. Since we have to live in that garden, we should be pruning and caring for it in order to feed on its fruit.
It’s when the garden dries up that we become hungry, naked, and starvation and vulnerability set in. We don’t want that, do we? Let’s get to work then! Making “love” last a lifetime is guaranteed once we nurture the gardens in our lives.
The Journey Begins
In the beginning, most people seem organized and mature but as enough time passes and familiarity steps in, another side of ourselves can suddenly show its ugly head. Our imperfections, hang-ups, and quirks become ever present and unbearable.
Let us examine a typical journey of a relationship from the beginning to the point of rejection and pending disbandment. Hopefully, we can rebuild even at this point. After all, long-lasting happiness, peace, and harmony are what we prefer and desire. It is also cheaper for everyone in the long run.
The good news is that the solution to healing our relationships lies within the same reasons they fail. We simply do the things we did at first. “Easier said than done,” I hear you say. Have faith, friend. We are capable of transforming our situations and our future with a few good intelligent decisions.
Origins: Dating, Courtship, Marriage
Boy meets girl and a wave of emotions floods their being. Their worlds have become one and now nothing is impossible. They bring excitement, happiness, and joy to the relationship. Their perspective of life is positive and the future looks bright.
Every day is new and exciting as they anticipate the joy of holding hands, talking, learning about each other and just being together. There is no desire to control anyone or situation, only a willingness to surrender to the other.
They listen to each other and have become inseparable. All that was dull and routine is new and refreshing. No event is attended alone as every opportunity to be together is time well spent. Every moment paves an unselfish path of how they might please each other. There’s a building up of the other with compliments flowing from sincere admiration and respect.
There is always that bond of unity, evident from talking for hours on the phone, going to lunch, walking in the park, stealing a kiss here and there, hugging… the list goes on. Ok. Let’s see what we can observe here.
What Is in a Healthy Relationship? It’s Characteristics
Let’s extract the keywords in bold from above and keep them in mind:
- are happy before they came together – a good sign to look for
- listen to each other
- take every opportunity to be together
- are unselfish
- please each other
- build up each other
- have sincere admiration and respect for each other
- talk for hours – communication
- go to lunch – date
- walk in the park
- kiss & hug
We just got started and we have already listed the solution to a healthy relationship. Right in that list is the key to making love last a lifetime… Never stop dating. In other words, never stop doing any of those things above!
A Healthy Relationship Has a Positive Effect on Life
Whether young or old, there is an air of youthful energy overhanging this new relationship and it’s invigorating. The great measure of enthusiasm in everything they do is evident.
Remember how creative we became during this time? The letters, poems, sweet words we spoke while our hearts fluttered? Or how we paid much attention to how we dressed before going out?
A healthy relationship affects the outlook of our entire lives. This is why so many seek to love and be loved. It’s the fuel that drives our future, ambition and our destiny. We desire a fitting companion with whom to share our lives.
Now let’s get back to our boy and girl bit and fast forward.
They have come to know the other fairly well (so they think), so they get married and live happily ever after… Well that’s the idea, right? However, this is hardly the reality for most.
The Beginning of the “End” of the Relationship
Let’s say they are happily married for the first two years after which complacency sets in and the garden gets out of control. Let’s borrow the economic term “the law of diminishing returns.” There’s an overload of thorns and thistles; the good, the bad and the ugly and not enough intimacy and maturity to process it.
Life is throwing everything at them but they are not maturing fast enough to keep up and deal with situations. They have not properly prepared for this and soon enough, they are playing the blame game. This results in frustration, followed by the silent treatment and communication breakdown.
Added to these, lack of trust, selfishness, and complacency are the three biggest reasons for the breakdown of any relationship. A few examples of this are:
One or both have stopped doing all or some of the things that fueled the relationship in the beginning
- No plans for dealing with life as change takes them by surprise
- No personal growth or development – immaturity
- One has gone ahead academically, professionally, spiritually or otherwise
- No interest in each other’s passions or worldview anymore
- Being busy with work is an excuse for the lack of spending quality time together
- Little attention to health or physical appearance – overweight, deteriorating health
- Not satisfying each other in various ways causing the other to seek or welcome attention from other sources (this should be # 1)
Again, let’s extract the bold keywords from the paragraphs above that are responsible for the breakdown process. Keep them in mind:
- not enough intimacy and maturity
- the blame game
- silent treatment and communication break-down
How Good Relationships Go Bad
Be honest from the beginning:
When we first meet someone, we tend to use the opportunity to try to remake ourselves in the midst of the new relationship. We’re carefully releasing a bit of the person we desire to become and hoping that we can maintain this façade… this time around.
If that word is too strong for you, let’s change it to something easier to digest like “well-meaning behavior.” After all, we are trying to learn from past mistakes as we go along, right? Here’s a new person who is now getting to know us. They are unaware of our shortcomings… so why not rise to the occasion, ignore the past, and just pray it all works out…
Wrong approach! It is better to be honest about our shortcomings.
The challenge with this mindset is though it seems well-meaning, this is not the time to suddenly become mature. Maturity is a process, not an event. That’s what growing up is about. The time to be working on ourselves is prior to any commitment to a long-term relationship of any kind. This is not to say that we can’t change for the better at any time. But we must be fairly complete in ourselves before we take that step to become a part of someone else’s future.
If we’re still growing in certain areas, let the other know. This is very important.
Because, as soon as someone or a situation triggers a usual familiar response from our real self, we may feel disappointed about being exposed or misunderstood and begin to lash out in frustration. Every other insecure area and bad habit now wants to battle for 1st place. Now, since we may already be feeling vulnerable, the slide is downhill from here.
If personal situations and skeletons were temporarily placed on the back burner and were never discussed; they resurface at some point and introduce new challenges that were not prepared for.
Feeling Angry and Betrayed in a Relationship
We may feel betrayed and angry after a breakdown in a relationship of any kind because:
- Most expect the relationship/friendship to last “forever” because the road to intimacy and trust was long
- Expectations were not met; whether intentionally or inadvertently
- Our personal business, secrets, and things we wish we hadn’t shared or done, may now be out there
- We have wasted time and there is no return on investment for our sacrifices
- We are angry because going forward will be harder trust-wise
- We are upset with ourselves because we have regrets
- We let our guard down
- There will be serious and painful adjustments should there be a separation
- Life is short, less time to get it together
- Getting rid of baggage is a process we don’t have the time for
- There was a deception
- We or they acted immaturely
- Children are involved and now…
The list can go on and on, so you get the idea of the seriousness here. Can we afford to lose all of our investment?
How to Fix a Broken Relationship When All Seems Lost
Wow! How can a relationship be repaired and heal after all this? I believe it can be if we just stop being selfish and work on changing ourselves first. We humans can be extremely difficult, but only because we refuse to own our wrongs and submit to one another. A friend once said these words:
Anytime a husband and wife engage in conflict that causes them to be unable to submit to each other, they are both wrong. Never ‘win’ an argument and still be the loser.
Okay. So we became lazy and stopped doing the things that contribute to good relations. Now what?
Let’s compare our recovery process to the human body. When left unattended, it can get out of hand. Carrying around the extra baggage, especially in the mid-section can cause all kinds of problems health-wise. Sometimes we treat those close to us like we treat our body. Yet even in this state, we do love ourselves. See the hope here?
When we want to get healthy we work on our bodies. We discard only the things which prevent it from thriving. We have to live with ourselves so we make it work.
There is hope in this complexity. If we can transform our bodies by going to the gym, we can redefine and renew our relationships through hard work, discipline and by reinvesting in them. I know it sounds simplistic, but that’s it! Why complicate it with unnecessary speculations and obstacles. “Change your thoughts change your life” works, doesn’t it? With this mindset, there is still hope and the potential for change, all is not lost.
The problem is that we are hard as nails and believe there is no room for forgiveness at this stage. We are selfish, upset, hurt and in our minds, we have had enough. Challenge yourself to step out of yourself, own up to your share in the breakdown and ask for forgiveness. Why regret it down the road when the power is within your grasp to change NOW. Especially when there’s no infidelity.
Let’s do the following from today and see the return on investment (ROI) in our relationships. All parties must agree to this, (especially in the romantic relationship). However, if you have to do it on your own for a while, there is still much to gain in the end. You may have to be the one to make the initial sacrifice. Conquer pride, storms come and go but life goes on.
Relatives bicker and moan, but they agree again at some point – because they are family. Why can’t the marriage relationship (greater than genetic family in the marriage context) have the same courtesy – especially since you made vows before God that you are obligated to keep? Isn’t the same God whom you made vows before, able to sustain. Should He pack up and disappear too when trials come?
Steps to Rebuild a Broken Friendship
- Pray together – this works and brings meaning to the relationship immediately
- Swallow your pride, life is too short
- Forgive immediately without casting any blame
- Begin to build each other up with praise/compliments and encouragement
- Agree to agree with each other as much as possible
- Respect each other’s opinion as much as your own
- Put each other first in all things before yourselves
- Do things you know will please the other – make a list
- Hold hands, date, dance, walk, exercise
- Be patient a little longer
Be creative and make your own list. By following the above list as much as possible, whatever the outcome, you would have given it your all.
God is there to help you through. His example of love is based on sacrifice; of which there can be no demonstration of love in its proper context. Start today to rebuild and refresh your relationship. It’s not impossible once you are alive.
Read about what love is here.
Do it now!