There are more than 7,000 known spoken languages on earth, and the lamest sentence in all of them is: “If you love something, let it go.”
That’s especially true when it comes to reconnecting with a person you love, from whom you feel you’ve grown apart. Decide to just “let it go” and you can probably kiss that love affair goodbye for good. But put in some due diligence and you’ve got a shot at not just recementing your bond, but also rekindling your love.
We asked marriage and family therapist Winifred M. Reilly, author of It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse—and How You Can, Too, to walk us through how to pull things together when they seem to be coming apart.
1. Swallow your pride
To paraphrase the waffle ads, “Leggo your ego.” Yes, admitting there’s trouble in your relationship can be tough and can make you feel vulnerable—but don’t look at it as a personal failure. It takes a strong person to take that first step, so give yourself credit for realizing there might be an issue.
2. Accept that it might be one-sided…at first
Just because you’ve decided to commit to reviving your relationship doesn’t mean your partner will be on the same page—at least right away. But your efforts will still have an effect, says Reilly. “When one partner changes how they operate, the marriage inevitably changes. Being more hopeful and motivated makes you a committed spouse, not a doormat.” It’s not fair, Reilly adds, “but which is worse—being the first to stand up for a healthier relationship, or having that relationship go down the drain?”
3. Broach issues one at a time
No matter what your disagreements are about—less-inflammatory subjects like how to spend your free time, or hotter topics, like how to spend your money—“approach each subject separately, without attack or blame,” Reilly advises. “Own your part and what you want to do.” Should tempers flare, keep an even keel. “Say things like: ‘We’re about to get into our miserable circular fight. Let’s talk when we’ve cooled off.’” During the time-out, take a third-person perspective on your part in the dilemma. “You might realize you’re picking her every word apart and ignoring her message,” says Reilly. Check out more tips on how to resolve any argument like a gentleman.
4. Review and reset
“Look at how many hours a week you gaze into your phone instead of your partner’s eyes,” says Reilly. It’s OK if you miss a score update from ESPN. When you come home, spend uninterrupted time to reconnect. “Set boundaries about no phones during dinner, while with your kids, or in the bedroom.” And speaking of bed…
5. Dial down the porn
Too much fantasy can stifle your real life, says Reilly. “Look at your porn use. If it’s getting in the way of real, in-the-flesh intimacy, see what happens if you cut back or give it up entirely.” Here are five ways porn can affect your relationship.
6. Stop comparing
“Everyone’s marriage looks like paradise,” Reilly says, especially when idyllic pics of happy couples are plastered on everybody’s Facebook pages. “But what they don’t show is that, right after those pictures were taken, they had a screaming match about how to fold a T-shirt and didn’t speak for two days. So remember, you’re not the only one whose marriage isn’t a glorious walk in the park.” Be hopeful, but realistic. “A good marriage isn’t one with no difficulties,” says Reilly, “it’s one where people know how to reconnect when things go south.” Few things that are broken can’t be fixed. Start the repairs now, and your marriage could be better than ever.