Is it time to walk away, or start working harder on your relationship? Here are five ways to know if it’s too late to fix a relationship that is wobbly or broken.
I’m not usually a big proponent of quick fixes, but Snap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls by Dr. Lana Staheli and Pepper Schwartz is a fascinating alternative to hours of talking about relationship problems. It’s an alternative approach to the common relationship advice that every issue has to be talked about at length, and that partners need to understand each other’s every motivation and thought process. Instead, these tips get right to the daily difficulties that cause the fights, addressing unhelpful behaviors and giving solutions to move past them.
Here’s what 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 How to Fix a Broken Relationship. “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.”
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!
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 13 Ways to Get Money to Leave Your Husband 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!
I welcome your thoughts on how to know if it’s too late to fix your relationship. I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you figure out what to do next.