Reader Question: When Is It Too Late to Save a Relationship?

Hi LoveLearnings,

This is one of the best sites I’ve found on the internet about dating and relationships! Thank you. I need your help I think my relationship is falling apart and a breakup is imminent. Will I try to save it or just move on for good? Is it too late? I appreciate a response. thanks!

– dazed&confused

Hello dazed&confused,

Thank you! We do try to help out whenever we can. Anyway I am often asked by desperate, depressed, discouraged people if it is too late to save a relationship on the rocks. People feel like giving up after years of frustration, or they wonder why they make so much effort when it seems their spouse or partner doesn’t try at all.

“How much of this can I take?” they ask. “Should I keep trying to save my relationship even though nothing I do seems to make any difference?”

The answer to the “Is it too late?” question is that it is almost never too late to make a positive change in your relationship. And the good news is that you can make positive changes even acting alone, even if your partner or spouse is not doing anything.

You Have To Want It

But it’s important to understand that it won’t be easy. You have to want it. There is no magic bullet or wonder drug to fix things, particularly in a relationship that has been damaged and neglected for many years.

And, although you can make positive changes pretty quickly, even acting on your own, there are no guarantees of success. But you can certainly make things better soon, and that will give you a much better chance of saving the whole relationship in time.

What can you do right now, today, on your own? I can hear the doubt in your voice already. Let me tell you – the first, and most important thing you can change at once is your own attitude towards the relationship.

Attitude Adjustment A Must

You’ll need to take some time to think and write down ideas about your part in the dysfunction in your relationship. That isn’t easy – we are all pretty good at blaming other people for all our troubles, but when it comes to taking responsibility about our own faults, we don’t do nearly as well. That’s human nature.

The truth is, it takes two people to have a relationship, and both of them are in some way responsible for its health and success.

I’m not asking you to bear the full responsibility for your relationship’s problems, or even to take the blame for most of the difficulties. But I am asking you to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings and any patterns of behaviour like nagging or fighting or jealousy that might harm the relationship.

So you’ll need to find some private time to do some thinking and writing. Even five or ten minutes a day will be enough. Sit down and write your ideas on scraps of paper – list the positive and negative qualities you have and the contributions you make to the relationship. Also list any of your negative traits you feel may be causing problems.

Humility Vs Humiliation

It’s important at this stage to be humble, but to understand the difference between humility and humiliation. One is healthy and the other is unhealthy. Humility means accepting and acknowledging that you aren’t perfect. Humiliation means wallowing in your imperfections and exaggerating them until you are completely miserable. It’s good to be humble, but the object here isn’t to humiliate yourself.

Don’t write anything about your spouse or partner. This is not about criticizing them, or making yourself angrier or sadder about what they are doing. This is about finding constructive ways that you can contribute to rehabilitating your relationship. So keep a positive mindset.

Be sure to list positive ways you contribute to the relationship as well as your drawbacks. This will help you keep a balanced view of yourself.

Spend a few minutes a day writing down your ideas. Do this for about a week, and you should have some concrete things you want to work on by then. If your drawbacks include anger or a short temper, for example, then take some steps to check or divert your anger.

Leave the room for a few minutes to cool down rather than snap back a retort. Whatever you find about yourself to work on, be positive about it and start working on it.

If you tend to nag your spouse, learn to recognize that behaviour and change it. If you are lazy and don’t do your share of chores around the house, start doing some of them.

You may not be able to do these things perfectly, but any efforts you make will help. Don’t rub your partner’s nose in it, though. You may be tempted, during an argument, to shout out – “Look how I’ve changed, and you haven’t changed at all!” But remember, you aren’t changing your habits to score cheap points against your partner. You are doing this hard work in hopes of improving and saving your relationship.

The most important thing you can change is your own attitude. Resolve to be positive whenever you can. Look for the many aspects of your relationship that you are grateful for – make a list of them every day if necessary.

Even if your partner doesn’t seem to notice your efforts, even if they don’t change their own behavior or attitude, you will begin developing a more positive habit of mind, and that alone will change the way you perceive your relationship.

That Communication Thing Again

 Clear communication is helpful, too. Be sure you tell your partner or spouse that you value your relationship with them and that you want to improve it. Don’t get hung up on their reaction, which may not be as enthusiastic as you wish. Just let them know you intend to work hard to improve things, and then drop the subject.

Continuing to tell them could eventually come across as nagging or shaming them, because you might seem to be implying that they should be doing more.

If you can change your own attitude and develop more positive habits in your thinking, you will already have done a lot to get your relationship back on the road to recovery. Remember that you have limited control and power over your spouse’s actions and thoughts. Focus on what you can change, which is yourself.

Having done all this, you will be ready to take more positive steps, like working with your partner to improve things. You might suggest some sessions with a professional therapist or counselor, someone who will act as an impartial referee in your discussions.

But again, even if your spouse refuses to go, you can go by yourself and learn some helpful strategies and techniques that will let you continue to work to improve your relationship.

So the answer to this question is that it is almost never “too late” to improve your relationship and to take positive steps toward saving it. But it’s important to realize what you can and cannot do from the start.


About Jessica Raymond

Jessica Raymond, BSc, RCC, is LoveLearnings senior editor. As a relationship counselor, Jessica has helped hundreds of men and women achieve their relationship dreams. Whether it’s finding your one true love or simply charming someone on a date, Jessica's got your back! In her articles, she reveals little-known, psychological tips that will make even the coldest person chase you around like a little puppy.
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