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6 things to do when your relationship hits rock bottom

She packed her bags and was contemplating to leave. She’d had enough of him, of their marriage. She took one last glance at the picture that hung on their bedroom wall. It was a picture of them taken during their wedding over five years ago. They both looked very happy, very much in love.

What happened to them? How did they end up this way? She threw herself on the bed, tears streaming down her face. As a couple, she knew that they’d been through enough. Their marriage was literally in tatters. But for some reason, she could not let him go. Somehow, she wanted to make things work with him, no matter what.

Can you relate to the above situation? If so, you’re not alone. Romantic relationships, in general, aren’t easy. And love, well, it is a complicated emotion. Initially, your heart beats faster. Your palms get sweaty, you become weak in your knees, and you feel warm and fuzzy. Over time, love sweeps you off your feet and manages to become a central aspect of your very existence. You start craving for companionship and ardently pursue romantic relationships. But here’s the thing: although the spark of love may be enough to ignite a romantic relationship, it is not enough to keep its flames alive in the long run.

Several relationships fizzle out as quickly as they begin. When infatuation fades away (which it invariably does), disillusionment sets in. You see each other for who you are without being blinded by love. When you’re compatible, all is well; when you’re not, disappointment mounts, egos clash, making relationships unbearable. Sometimes even compatible couples could become too complacent in their relationship. They could feel bored, start taking their partner for granted or even become unfaithful by indulging in new amorous experiences. Or, relationships could get affected by external factors such as interference of family members or a financial crunch. Some might fret because they are unable to bear a child, whereas others might have to deal with the onset of a terminal illness or a disability.

Every relationship in its lifecycle is dotted with problems which test couples and the bond they share. But, no matter what the circumstance, there are always ways to resolve conflicts and stay strong. How a couple responds to and handles the challenges often decides the fate of a relationship. In this article, Soulveda explores how one can keep love alive even in the face of adversities.

Every relationship is unique. Every couple-dynamic is different. Yet, no relationship is perfect.


Vent negative emotions

When a relationship gets rocky, negative emotions are likely to dominate. One experiences a sense of fear, insecurity, sadness, and anger within, thereby clouding judgements and rendering people incapable to think rationally. As psychologist and influencer Dr Todd Hall, writes in his blog on negative emotions, “When we experience negative emotions in response to a situation or catch them from others, we tend to pass them on to others, contributing to a downward negative spiral.”

To break free from this cycle, Dr Hall suggests a few tips. First, identify the inflection points—a list of circumstances that usually trigger negative emotions. Once we identify them, we can plan how to respond to them in advance. Secondly, start empathising with ourselves. For more, we understand why we feel negative and get to the root cause of these emotions, the better we can be in control.

Evaluate the current relationship

Every relationship is unique. Every couple-dynamic is different. Yet, no relationship is perfect. And, there is no universal formula to decide whether one should invest time and energy on the broken relationship or let go. Evaluating the problem areas of a current relationship is thus a very necessary, personal and an introspective process. Ideally, it should be done with a clear head. One could start by asking whether the relationship is adding to or undermining our happiness and wellbeing.

In his book Boomerang Kids, psychologist Carl Pickhardt gives a few pointers on how to evaluate our current relationship. According to him, the process involves asking ourselves a few questions pertaining to the relationship, such as: Was I able to be myself in the relationship? Did I have a personal space? Did I feel free to speak up about what matters? Did I feel listened to while expressing a concern? Were my partner and I honest and truthful in the relationship? How were conflicts and disagreements resolved? Did my partner and I share obligations and responsibilities when together? How committed is my partner when it comes to salvaging the relationship?

Listen, empathise

Often, in relationships, we tend to vilify our partner and consider ourselves the victim. But in all possibility, it could very well be both ways. Only, we often remain blind to our own faults and our partner’s sufferings. One way to become more attuned to our partners’ problems is by developing empathy. It gives us the ability to see things from our partner’s perspective and walk in their shoes without judging them; empathy broadens our mind and helps us develop compassion.

Carin Goldstein, a clinical psychologist, and a licensed marriage and family therapist from Los Angeles says: “Empathy is truly the heart of the relationship. Without it, the relationship will struggle to survive.” That’s because, as Goldstein explains, empathy requires us to be compassionate. And, the more we are compassionate, the more we develop a strong bond with our partner.

Especially, when a relationship is suffering, one needs to practice give and take. But it doesn’t mean that we bend over backward either.


Have an honest heart-to-heart conversation

Any relationship is built on the foundation of trust. Unfortunately, trust is fragile. Something as simple as a white lie can jeopardise trust and relationships. Honesty is hence paramount in relationships, more so, while salvaging one. Chances are, the more one has honest heart-to-heart conversations, the more they will understand each other better and even find solutions to current problems.

Writes Darlene Lancer, a certified marriage and family therapist, in her blog To Trust or Mistrust, honesty does not simply mean not lying. Keeping secrets, withholding information and withholding feelings—negative ones especially—are forms of dishonesty as well. And since deceptions invariably have a way of coming to light, they end up affecting the relationship. As she puts it, “It requires courage to be vulnerable and authentic.” But, developing the courage, to be honest in relationships can be well worth it.

Dare to face the truth

During the initial days of dating, the partner almost always seems flawless. But over time, their quirks can become annoying. So, one tries to change the partner either through coercion or manipulation. However, despite consistent efforts, partners seldom change. Only, the relationship turns sour—one develops disrespect towards the partner (and vice versa), and inadvertently ends up creating an emotional distance.

However, should one wish to salvage the relationship, there’s only one option: accept the partner for who they are with all their quirks and flaws. Clinical psychiatrist Dr Rick Hanson talks about the power of acceptance in one of his podcasts. According to him, acceptance is not succumbing to the other person’s flaws, it is not giving in or surrendering. Instead, acceptance is an empowering process which allows us to face what’s true. And, by learning to see things for what they are, we become better at dealing with problematic situations. However, if one continues to expect that the partner will someday change, the more they’re setting themselves up for disappointments.

Make some concessions

Many of us dread the idea of suddenly becoming single after being in a relationship for a while. Out of this fear, we often tend to do anything and everything to save the relationship. Of course, compromise is the grease which helps run a relationship wheel smoothly. Especially, when a relationship is suffering, one needs to practice give and take. But it doesn’t mean that we bend over backward either. If we give up our identity, morals, values, and beliefs in the name of compromise, the relationship is bound to go south in the long run. So negotiate and make some concessions but don’t compromise.

As Dr Danielle Dowling advises in her blog How much should you compromise to fix relationship problems? “The only change they need to make (that any of us need to make) is to be more authentically ourselves [sic]. Now that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to make another compromise. But it does mean that you should never abandon yourself to please another.”

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