Your relationship has reached a point where it is no longer working for either of you.
But you do still love and care about each other, so you don’t want things to end.
Instead, you want to start over in your relationship and make things better this time around.
How do you do it?
Here are some essential tips to follow that can make your “new” relationship happier and healthier than what has come so far.
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1. Take some time apart.
This is not a case of being on “a break” and seeing how single life feels to you.
It’s about allowing the relationship to decompress from the heightened emotional state it is probably in right now.
Spending time apart from each other with little or no communication will give any ill-feeling you might be holding onto the opportunity to ease.
It might not disappear entirely, but it will lessen to the point where you can think more rationally about it.
You can gather your thoughts, think about what you want your relationship to be like, and mentally prepare yourself for the fresh start.
You can identify the particular patterns that dominate your relationship and how those patterns might be broken or changed for the better.
Time away from one another will also allow you to miss them, which gives a positive starting position from which to move forwards.
This period may only need to be a couple of days, or a week at most.
2. Discuss the way you each feel.
When you are both ready, it’s time to sit down and have a conversation about your feelings, your frustrations, and your hurt.
This will not be an easy chat to have, but it is important for both parties to feel able to get things off their chest.
But how you go about it matters – a LOT!
Firstly, try to use “I” statements as much as possible. Talk about how you feel and what you think, rather than what they do and how they make you feel.
“I feel disrespected by the lack of consideration when you stay out late after work without asking if that’s okay with me.”
This sounds a whole lot better than:
“You are so disrespectful when you go out drinking with your work friends without even bothering to ask whether I’m okay with that!”
“I” statements will make your partner less defensive and more accepting of the points you are making.
Secondly, to help each of you see the other’s statements from their perspective, try to frame the whole conversation as one you are having with a friend.
This friend is talking about their partner, not you. This should help you hear things more clearly and allow you to think about what advice you might give to a friend who had these grievances with their partner.
When having this chat, try not to go on and on for ages. Limit yourself to, say, 10 points each and take it in turns to speak.
It might even help if you refrain from responding to their points straight away. This allows the conversation to move forwards rather than getting bogged down on a particularly contentious point.
Write your points down on a piece of paper and then hand them to each other at the end. This will allow you both to give more consideration to what the other has said.
It might even be beneficial to have another day or two apart so that you can process things properly.
3. Find a way to communicate going forward.
The difficult chat from the previous point isn’t the last time you can air your grievances.
In fact, a healthy relationship is one in which both parties feel able to express their feelings about something the other has done.
What you need to work out together is the best way to communicate.
Maybe you have an “open mic” hour at a set time each week, which, in a similar fashion to the chat above, allows each of you to speak without interruption to let the other know how you have been feeling and if there were times when they upset you in the past week.
An alternative approach might be to write each other letters that contain these same thoughts and feelings.
Reading something will, for many people, feel less emotionally charged than a conversation.
Letters can be read apart from one another and time can be given for you both to really think about what the other has written and for feelings to cool off.
This allows issues to be aired with less risk of a heated confrontation.
You can then have a short discussion about your letters afterwards if you wish to.
4. Consider couples counselling.
It’s great that you want to not only start a new chapter in your relationship, but a whole new book.
But it’s a challenging journey to face just the two of you.
There will be obstacles to your success and you will need to find ways to overcome those obstacles.
This is where a third party can really help, especially when they have the training and expertise required to guide you toward the right solutions for a given issue.
If you are really going to start over in your relationship, it pays to invest in some couples counselling.
5. Mentally commit to letting the past live in the past.
Things that have been said and done in the relationship so far aren’t always easy to forget or forgive.
But one thing you can do is to resist the urge to bring them back up again now.
It’s draining to go around in circles over the same things for month after month or year after year.
You’ve had your big chat and you have hopefully found a way to air current grievances with each other. The past can be left in the past.
This way, you both start over with clean slates. You know that you will not be judged or punished for something you did previously.
You know that what matters now is how you act and how you treat each other going forwards.
Sure, you may still be working through the emotions surrounding those past events on the inside, but you are not giving them new energy by returning to them in conversation.
If it helps, each time you feel tempted to raise a thorny issue from your relationship’s past, imagine yourself holding a can of fuel over a small fire – if you decide to pour it out, you know things will get more heated or even explode.
6. Work on what matters most to your partner.
By now, you should have a better understanding of the biggest issues your partner has with you and your relationship.
These tell you what they value most and what you need to work on first.
All relationships have challenges because two people will inevitably rub up against each other at times.
But, if you can get the big stuff right, the little things won’t affect you both so much.
If there are particular things you do that you now know upset your partner, try your hardest not to do them – assuming, that is, they are reasonable changes to make.
Similarly, if there are things your partner wishes you did do, try to do them – again, if they are reasonable requests.
You may be wondering why you should change for your partner; that they should accept you as you are.
But there is positive change and then there is negative change. Positive change tends to be good for the both of you. Negative change tends only to be good for them.
Becoming more open-minded and willing to listen to views that oppose your own is a positive change.
Cutting a particular friend out of your life because your partner doesn’t much like them is a negative change (unless you, too, see that this friend has a negative influence on you).
7. Speak and think well about your partner.
Your thoughts have as much of an influence on your feelings as your feelings have on your thoughts.
So when you think poorly about your partner, you give power to your negative feelings for them.
And if all you do is complain about them to your friends or family, you will struggle to feel positively toward them.
Luckily, this works the other way too.
If you can focus on the good points your partner has, you will encourage more positive feelings toward them.
And if you only say kind and nice things about them to others, you fuel your love and care for them.
It’s all about where your relationship “set point” is and being able to shift it to a more positive position by focusing on the good points about your partner and your relationship.
8. Learn how to compromise.
Two people will never agree on everything, and when there is disagreement, it’s not possible for both to get their way.
Which is why the art of compromise is so essential in a relationship.
Knowing when to let your partner have their way, when to meet in the middle, and when to stand firm for what you want is a great skill to learn.
The key is deciding how much something really matters to you, whilst maintaining some sort of balance.
In other words, even if you are happy to let them have their way on lots of little things, it might be worth holding firm at least a small proportion of the time.
If you always cave in to their wishes on the little things, they won’t feel like they need to budge when it comes to the things that you actually care about.
If and when you both feel unwilling to agree to the other’s wishes, it’s vital that you find some middle ground so that you can both feel at least a little bit satisfied.
9. Notice each other.
Has your relationship up until this point descended into cohabitation rather than an actual relationship?
You might live together, but are your interactions meaningful?
Do you see and acknowledge them when they enter the room, and vice versa?
Do you greet each other’s arrival home?
Do you smile at each other?
If you are both at home, but doing separate things, do you stop what you are doing just to go and see them and ask how they are?
All of these things are seemingly minor, but they reflect the value you place on each other.
Noticing each other means showing, in some small way, that you care. Regular reinforcement of that message strengthens the bond you share.
10. Invest in each other’s dreams.
In your relationship so far, have you really felt like you had a good grasp of their life outside of you as a couple?
Do you know what their dreams are?
Have you actively helped them reach those dreams?
Are you their cheerleader?
When either of you are engaged in pursuing your dreams, it is typically a very positive part of your life.
You feel enthusiastic about whatever it is you are working toward.
So, by allowing each other to share in those pursuits – even if it’s only as a provider of support or advice – you share in the positive emotions that go with them.
You don’t have to have the same dreams. You just have to be an active participant in propelling each other toward them.
11. Create shared goals and dreams.
Following on closely from the previous point, when you start over in your relationship, make sure you join forces and have a goal or dream that you share together.
This can be a big source of motivation for you both and it can make your journey together feel more real.
You are no longer just two people walking next to each other; you are forging your own joint path just for the two of you.
It can be a very intimate thing because no one else needs to be involved. It is your dream and you can be a source of support and advice for each other.
Shared goals and dreams also help you to identify where you would both like the relationship to go in the long term.
Do you want a family?
Where would you ideally live?
What sort of lifestyle would you like to lead?
Could a business venture be a part of your future?
When you have something you can both agree on and work toward, you start acting more as a team and less as two individuals.
12. Go on actual dates.
When you first met each other and fell in love, you almost certainly went on dates, right?
And even when they stopped being “dates,” you probably did lots of activities together.
Over the course of a relationship, these things might have become few and far between.
You don’t spend as much quality time together as you used to, even though you may be living together.
You may both have your own hobbies that you do with friends, or you may just go for drinks and dinner with groups more than you do just the two of you.
But date nights are a really helpful part of maintaining – and in this case reinvigorating – your relationship.
So to start afresh, go on dates… and lots of them.
13. Show more affection.
A kiss, a hug, a gentle arm on the shoulder of your partner as they do the washing up…
…these things matter.
We humans are tactile creatures and physical touch is essential to bond with our partners.
If you haven’t been particularly open with displays of affection up until now, make it something that you work on together.
You don’t need to schedule X number of touches a day or anything; just learn to identify the times when something of a physical nature might be appropriate.
These little things work wonders for easing any tensions that might exist between the two of you. They communicate your thoughts and feelings just as clearly and as powerfully as any words.
If you need some in-depth advice on this, read our guide: How To Be More Affectionate To Your Partner: 6 No Nonsense Tips!
Still not sure how to start over in your relationship? This is a tricky situation, and one that can easily be made worse with the wrong approach. But Relationship Hero can guide the way and help you achieve the best outcome. Through regular sessions with a dedicated relationship expert (by yourself and/or as a couple), you’ll learn precisely how to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship—one that can last a lifetime. Learn more about Relationship Hero and get the kind of tactical relationship advice and ongoing support you need.
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