Relationships die in one of two ways.
They usually get damaged from either a slow eroding, undermining process or from one huge issue that erupts and leaves havoc in its wake.
Only occasionally are they a total disaster from the word go. Whichever you are faced with, deciding whether to call it quits and move on, or whether it is possible to heal that relationship, is a question you will need to consider.
There can be a lot to lose, but equally a lot to gain too. Mostly we move on, for fear it just won’t work out, yet it can and will if you go about it in the healthy way. But do we understand how that process might be approached to make it successful?
There are three stages to healing any damaged relationship, after you have made the initial decision to do so.
The first is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is primarliy based on letting go of anger. So first of all recognise how much anger you have built up inside yourself and start to release it. Is that anger doing you or your relationship any good, is it changing anything?
Letting go of any anger concerned or connected with the act that caused to damage in the first place. This also requires self-reflection for your own part in whatever took place. No one is the completely innocent victim when it comes to two or more people in conflict and, more often than not, there will be a series of events or a gradual development of a pattern of behavior that lead to the breakdown, however that is expressed. From experience, affairs, and other forms of cheating or vacating the relationship never just happen. They usually signal that someone is no longer invested in their main relationship. What has led to this? Nothing ever happens in isolation and playing the innocent victim will not help you to heal. Take responsibility for your part in the relationship issue which needs healing and allow this to empower you. Empowerment is always better than victimhood in any shape or form. Only in cases of violence or Narcissism PD would I say always leave as quickly as you can.
The second stage of healing is gratitude.
This is entirely contingent on completing the forgiveness. It can only occur when you have looked at yourself fully enough to have recognized the deep gift of personal development and learning, or awakening, that come from struggles in relationships. Once you recognize that the gift is greater than the cost, which it always is, then you have become fully empowered in your own life. This stage ensures you will not re-create this same scenario in your life again. You are owning your own story and your own personal growth and development through your life. You become more yourself by changing, the better version of yourself, and will grow into an ultimate goal of the already wonderful you. Gratitude for what you have learned from life is how to make everything into a positive, no matter how uncomfortable that might feel. It can take time to get to this stage but get there if you can. It is ultimately very liberating for you.
Thirdly it is rebuilding trust.
The third and final stage however is the one where many relationship founder. Trust is so easily felled and takes so long to grow and develop fully in the first place.It should be treasured like the precious and fragile gift. Yet it is the most important of all our relationship foundations, starting from birth. As a new-born infant we need to trust our caregivers, usually our parents, that our need will be met and our bonds that we can form with them are stable and reliable. From that basis a baby can grow into a stable and healthy emotionally fully developed adult. Without that solid foundation of trust in the early years there is a strong chance that the adult will have problems with anxiety disorders, social alienation, depression, even possibly bi-polar, PTSD and other mental health issues will manifest as the child gets older.
IF you have a good ‘adult dynamic’ in your relationship with your partner you will also know that trust will make or break that relationship. It is the most important foundation stone of any well-constructed relationship and includes honesty and openness. If we cannot trust the person who has hurt us in a relationship conflict has also learned from that upset, then it is most likely they will hurt us again. We then become responsible for our own unhappiness by allowing it to continue without learning the lessons from it. It is only when we can see that people are deeply reflective and working to change themselves and their behaviors that we can begin to trust their motives, which may be a crucial factor to you deciding whether or not to continue the relationship.
In my own past, when things have gone wrong, I’ve wanted to heal those earlier relationships but the other party was not able or in one case at all willing to put any self-exploration into the process, so all failed.
I am clear that I will not put effort into a relationship if it is not reciprocated as an equal endeavor, and nor should anyone. It must be mutual committment and effort, shared work in progress, but I am not a quitter at love. In each case I always wanted the relationship to last, and only walked away when I realized there was nothing more I could do. In both cases it was entirely the best and right thing to do. I learned much from those early relationship breakdowns and am deeply grateful for what was good in them too, so I have no bitterness, just gratitude for what I learned. And then I moved on.
My second husband, and soulmate of 24 years, and I have had to face many challenges in our time together. We could have split up a few times, but we knew we had something special that should not go to waste and neither of us were getting any younger.
We have both worked on ourselves and on how we express our emotions and manage our relationship. We’ve learned more deeply to listen to and allow each other to be who they were whilst never allowing our self-expression to damage, or impose on, the other. We use the three stages above all the time, though we have it down to such affine art now that it is barely noticeable.
Is it more important to win a fight and risk losing the whole thing?
Having the determination to see this relationship through whatever stormy waters life throws at us is the best decision I ever made, and I know he feels the same way. It is worth the humility and self-awareness and stepping aside that is needed to maintain what we have together. Being with him is more important than winning an argument, so it’s just not necessary to fight. He is the same too. Instead we put all that energy into enabling each other, supporting each other, loving each other. It makes for a very happy life.