How to Fix a Broken Relationship with Your Partner
It’s been a few years now, but I got my wife a mandolin (not the instrument, but the kitchen device used for slicing) for her birthday one year. We decided to test it out. Me being the cautious husband decided I should use it first to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. I was slicing some potatoes and the guard that protects my hand kept giving me issues. So I decided to not use the guard. Yep! Bad decision. I sliced my thumb on the extremely sharp blade. I stopped the bleeding and examined the injury. As I looked at it I thought (probably nothing to do with pride by the way) it’s ok. No big deal. My wife (the LPN) on the other hand said I think you need a couple of stitches. Instead, I applied some ointment and a bandage to protect it.
Stop the Bleeding
When dealing with an injury the first thing that I was taught in Boy Scouts was to stop the bleeding. Depending on the severity of the wound and the potential for loss of blood determined how to proceed. I believe relationships are very similar. You have to stop the bleeding within the relationship. That often means finding ways to stop the hurtful words, the eye-rolls, and the disregard for the other person’s perspective. The most effective way to stop the bleeding in your relationship is to stop talking and begin to listen to what the other person is truly saying. We often get in our own way by not listening to what the other person is saying because we are preparing our rebuttal. This prevents us from being able to stop hurting one another. I know it’s easier said than done. I myself have times where I am more focused on what I have to say than listening to my wife (or kids for that matter). Regardless, we almost always keep hurting each other until one of us stops and listens to what the other is saying. At that moment, magic begins to happen because then we are both (yes that’s right I said both) able to express our needs and desires and be heard.
Clean the Wound
So, you have stopped and started listening to one another and are wondering what’s next. Continuing with the wound analogy, after the bleeding has stopped you can then clean the wound. In your relationship, once you have stopped the bleeding (basically not listening to one another) you are able to hear what the other person is saying. Then, you can summarize what you heard, ask follow up questions to get a better understanding of their point of view and gain a deeper knowledge of what is going on with them. This helps the other person feel heard and validates their feelings. I have found that the more one person feels heard and validated the more they will try to hear the other person.
Next, you must apply ointment to the wound. This helps your body speed up the recovery. Your relationship needs something that helps speed up the recovery process as well. I often use a hand-holding exercise with couples I work with that help them reconnect. I have also found it very helpful to have something that you both agree on that reminds both of you what is important. For my wife and I, we have to remind each other that we are on the same team. Truthfully it felt fake and insincere in the beginning, but we found the more we did it the faster our wounds healed. It was like a magic ointment that brought us back together.
After the ointment is applied, you need to protect the wound from further injuries by putting a bandage on it. Your relationship needs to have a bandage that helps protect it from injuries as well. Maybe the bandage your relationship needs is to spend more time with the other person or to talk to them (because they desire adult conversations) or a commitment to be more intimate with one another. Either way, you can begin making small changes in your relationship. Often these small changes add up and create big changes within the relationship. I mean, let’s be honest if your partner is needing something from you, doing anything is more than what you are probably currently doing. Right? Lastly, have something that let both of you know that you are on the same team and are committed to each other and the relationship. My wife and I always hug it out at the end of a disagreement. This lets both of us know that the end of the disagreement has occurred and that we are resetting the relationship so our day is not completely ruined (experience taught us this lesson).
Bringing it all Together
I still have a scar on my thumb from where that mandolin cut me. It is a permanent scar/ reminder that there was an injury. For a while, it often bothered me. I say this because there are times in relationships where it will incur an injury that will often bother you and frankly leave a permanent scar. For me, the scar on my thumb has become a reminder of so much more than to use a stinking guard on the mandolin. It is a reminder that injuries can scar and be careful about my contributions to the people around me that I love and care for.
Sometimes injuries require more help than can be accomplished in the comfort of our home. When this happens we go seek professional help in the form of a doctor, urgent care, or ER. If I would have gone and got stitches like my wife suggested I may not have as big of a scar as I do. Sometimes your relationship may need more help as well or to minimize the scar. Seeking couples counseling can help.