Three Ways to Help Troubled Relationships


Couples conflictRelationships aren’t easy. Once you get past the honeymoon stage and regular life sets in, it can take a lot of work!!


What can you do when your relationship is in trouble?


In a previous article, I talked about rediscovering love and connection and invited you to consider ways you might find that connection again. In this article, I’m going to talk about some more ideas about recreating connection.

Being Friends

Being good friends in a committed relationship is really important and yet it’s something that can be forgotten when troubles arise.  Take a moment to ponder: what do you like about this person that you’re with? What makes him or her someone you respect or admire? What do you enjoy doing together?


At this point you may be thinking, “I’m so mad at her/him I don’t even like him/her! And besides, what does this have to do with making my relationship better?”


There’s a psychologist in Seattle, John Gottman, whose studied couples and things that help them stay together happily.  One of his ideas has been that couples that have a deep friendship are more likely to be able to handle the inevitable problems that occur.  Really liking and knowing someone, being fond of them and knowing their quirks, goals and aspirations can make a difference.


Again you may be saying, “So what? Get to the point!”


Taking time to nurture your friendship can go a long way in smoothing out the rough patches. Suppose you were going to let your partner know his or her friendship was important to you, what might you do? What would be some ways you could enjoy being together?


I’m not suggesting that this means ignore all problems and be happy. I am saying that spending some time focusing on why you like this person and doing things together that you both enjoy can give you both the reprieve and the energy to tackle troubles when they do arise.


Trying to make things better

Another idea that Gottman talks about that some couples may find helpful is the idea of a repair attempt. When you have a disagreement, what do you do to try and make things better? What do you notice your partner doing? How can each of you acknowledge the efforts the other person is making?


It’s interesting that Gottman’s found it doesn’t matter whether these repair attempts actually resolve every problem. What’s more important is that both people are able to see the other attempting to make things better and responds accordingly.

Influencing one another

A third idea of Gottman’s that may be helpful is accepting influence.  When you’re able to accept influence and are able to influence your partner, it can make a real difference in your relationship.  What do you, or can you do to make decisions together? In what ways do you acknowledge and support one another’s feelings and opinions? How do you show your respect for your partner’s feelings and wishes when something is important to him or her and isn’t to you?


Remembering why you like the person you’re with, what you respect about her, accepting and supporting him, and honestly trying to make repair attempts and accept them when they’re made to you can go a long ways in helping a troubled relationship get better.


What are you doing that’s helping? I’d love to hear your comments!


Go to this link for information about a couple’s counselling retreat.