May 062011
can our relationship be fixed

Do you feel alone in your relationship? (image by Janni flickr)

Here are five signs you should stop wondering if you can fix your relationship, and start taking action in one direction or another.

One reader says,

“I now feel we have maybe out grown each other and that too much hurt makes it impossible to repair things,” says N. on my article called Is My Marriage Over? “We’ve had counseling but could not afford to keep it up. Do you think that some time apart for us both to reflect on things could help? He says he loves me with all his heart but I have to change for things to work. I just feel so lost, I don’t know what to do. I do not know if we’re both hanging on for the wrong reasons (ie: our daughter) or if this relationship has just become a habit. I would be grateful for any advice.”

If you’re in the same boat, you may find Relationship Rescue: A Seven-Step Strategy for Reconnecting with Your Partner helpful.

I can’t offer you the same advice as a book or marriage counselor can, but I can give you something to think about…

Signs It’s Too Late to Fix Your Relationship

There’s no one right answer – and certainly no easy answers. But, there are a few signs that can help you decide if it’s time to throw in the towel…

One partner refuses to take responsibility

N’s husband said that he loves her, but she has to change for them to repair their relationship. That’s a load of hoo-ey! While I don’t know his perspective, I do know that an unhealthy marriage is rarely one person’s fault. He’s just as responsible for the state of their marriage as she is. So, one possible sign that a relationship can’t be repaired is that one partner doesn’t own up at all. I’m not saying N’s relationship is beyond repair, I’m just giving her something to think about.

Both partners can’t or won’t talk about their arguments

“We spend more time arguing than not, and any special moment is clouded by an argument,” says N. “We go for days not talking after an argument.” The healthiest way to repair your marriage is to talk! You can’t rebuild and reconnect if you don’t talk about it. You can ignore and repress your thoughts and emotions, but you won’t be repairing anything. You’ll be making things worse.

If your spouse lies to you, read How to Recover From Broken Promises in a Relationship.

One or both partners can’t forgive or forget

N. mentioned that she has a hard time forgetting the nasty things her husband says to her in the heat of the battle. He had a rough childhood, and he’s bringing it into their marriage. And, she can’t just gloss over his words and actions, or pretend they never happened.

If you can’t forgive or forget, but know you don’t want to repair your relationship, read You’re Scared to Be Alone, But Know You Need to End Your Relationship.

But there aren’t any “for sure” signs it’s too late!

I don’t think there’s any formula or absolute signs that it’s too late to repair your relationship. Every marriage — no matter how healthy or happy — has stuff that needs to be worked on. Don’t look at these few signs and decide that your relationship is beyond saving. Instead, focus on what you really want out of your life. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our short-term comfort for long-term gain…and it’s almost always worth it!

In My Ex Wants to Reconcile – Should We Start Over?, Sydney Thomas describes several ways to know if your relationship can be saved.

Tips for fixing your relationship:

  • Find free sources of counseling, such as though churches or nonprofit organizations.
  • Ask counselors if they know of free marriage resources.
  • Be honest about your inability to pay for marriage help, but your need for it. Some counselors and organizations will waive their fees for people who can’t afford it.
  • Read books about healthy marriages – together.

Sometimes, you know in your gut that your relationship is beyond repair, but you can’t accept it. I’ve been there – I’ve stayed in awful relationships because it seemed easier than leaving.

Also, I wrote How to Be Happy Without Your Husband’s Love or Money for a reader who is scared to leave a 30 year old marriage. She has no way to support herself, no job, no friends. If you’re in the same boat, you’re not alone — but you CAN survive on your own!

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  34 Responses to “Is It Too Late to Fix Your Relationship? It Depends…”

  1. Thanks for your comments, Marie! I really appreciate your insights.

  2. Your post does a disservice to those who are experiencing emotional and verbal abuse. Individuals experiencing this type of abuse are far too often blamed and made to feel that they are crazy. Far too many problems in relationships are in fact one person’s fault–Just look at the statistics for abuse. I would like to recommend a book: “Why does he do that?” by Lundy Bancroft. It was a lifesaver for me, and it just might be for someone else too.

    I feel badly for John and that he is suffering so much. John if you are still alive, the book might be helpful for you too. No one should have to suffer emotionally when they are already suffering so much physically.

  3. Dear John,

    I started writing you back in this comments section, and then realized I had too much to say!

    Here’s my answer for you:

    I know you didn’t say you were diagnosed with cancer, but I wanted to make the article helpful to others as well as you.

    I hope it helps, and welcome your thoughts.


  4. Hi there Laurie, I don’t know what to do anymore these days. I met who I thought was the nicest woman around a few years ago. A few months back she moved in to take care of me as I have a terminal illness. She says I treat her very badly but I don’t believe that I am that sort of person. Every observer that is outside of the relationship loves me for the person I am. A lot of the time when we disagree on something she will just scream at me and I feel like whatever I have to say is invalidated. She says I don’t help out enough with day to day things. I have offered several times to help out but every time I do this, my partner knocks me back so I don’t keep asking. We fight over what I consider to be many trivial issues. I have never said to her that I am perfect and I am more than happy to apologise if and when I am wrong to try and make things right. All I wanted to do was die with some dignity and spend whatever time I have left doing fun things with the woman I love. I don’t know how long I have left to live with the illness, but it wears me out physically and I find myself not coping on that level when I am so stressed out. It also feels that I am in a situation where I am the one who has to do all the work on the relationship and change the person I am so that she is pleased with me. I don’t feel that this is being reciprocated. I end up spending a lot of time in bed as I stay awake at night worrying about how I am going to fail her the next day. I try to rekindle the romance that we used to have together. I’ve offered to take her and the children on a family holiday, even a cruise to a tropical island like hawaii or fiji. It seriously breaks my heart to know this may never come to pass, it was one of my dreams fos us to do this together before I didn’t have the physical strength any longer. She still won’t come with me though. :(