6 Steps to Help Couples Overcome Relationship Stumbles
It’s easy for couples to fall in love. Staying in love is the tough part, according to clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Randi Gunther, Ph.D.
In her new book When Love Stumbles: How to Rediscover Love, Trust & Fulfillment in Your Relationship, Gunther shares a six-step healing plan to help couples overcome eight of the most common “stumbles” or problematic patterns in their relationships.
She devotes a chapter to how couples can surmount each stumbling block. Inside, we cover the eight common relationship stumbles most couples grapple with, as well as the six steps to help overcome them.
Briefly, here are the eight relationship stumbles:
- From fulfillment to disillusionment: “You don’t seem to care the way you used to.”
- From excitement to boredom: “What happened to our spark?”
- From constructive challenges to destructive conflicts: “Why does every disagreement become an argument?”
- From sacrificing for your partner to self-preservation: “I can’t always put you first anymore.”
- From being a team to operating solo: “We used to do everything together. Now I handle most of my challenges without you.”
- From feeling unconditionally loved to being on trial: “Before, you loved me without question. Now I have to fight to prove my worth.”
- From focusing on the relationship to pursuing outside interests: “I know I’m gone a lot, but I need more stimulation.”
- From common goals to different dreams: “We just don’t want the same things anymore.”
Her process can help couples start having important conversations about overcoming these stumbling blocks in their relationships. Gunther suggests exploring these ideas first on your own and then talking it over with your partner. The key is to be honest and listen closely and openly to your partner. Don’t judge yourself or them. Also, if during the conversation, one partner gets too emotional, take a break.
1. “Go back to the beginning of your relationship.”
Remember the moments when you first fell in love, and share these memories with your partner.
2. “Evaluate your current relationship.”
Talk to each other honestly about your feelings about the state of your relationship. Gunther suggests discussing both the negative and the positive. She also lists many questions to help you better understand your own feelings and communicate with your partner. Some of these include:
- “When I act in a negative or hurtful manner toward you, what am I truly feeling that I am not sharing?”
- “What are the positive things I still feel about you?”
- “In what ways have I changed that have turned you away?”
- “What do I most resent about our relationship?”
- “What do I most miss about the relationship we used to have?”
- “What do I still look forward to or enjoy doing with you?”
- “What do you do or say that hurts me the most?”
- “How hopeful am I that we can change?”
3. “When did you begin to drift?”
Usually, relationship problems start off slow and then build momentum because they go unresolved. Gunther writes: “In this step, you’ll learn how recalling those smaller disconnects that went unattended will help you heal and prevent new stumbles from forming.” Several questions to consider:
- “Do you remember a time or event that made you feel as if you and your partner were drifting apart?”
- “What stopped you from resolving what was going on at the time?”
4. “What prevented your recovery at the time this stumble occurred?”
Gunther says that it’s very likely that whatever prevented you from resolving your past problems is currently playing a role. “Paying attention to what made you ignore them before may help you identify them now,” she writes. Here are some examples Gunther gives in the book:
- “I was afraid to be vulnerable with you because I expected you to hurt me again.”
- “I didn’t want you to get angrier, so I just accepted what was going on and hoped it would get better.”
- “I thought talking about it would just make it worse.”
5. “What do you need from each other to reawaken your love?”
Talk to each other about what each of you needs. Some examples of what other couples have shared:
- “I want you to forgive me for the things I’ve said and done that have hurt you.”
- “I want you to encourage me in the places I am frightened, and respect my choices when I need to find my own way.”
- “I want us to respect our differences and strive to include them in our lives.”
6. “What will you do differently to safeguard your relationship if it stumbles in the future?”
Gunther suggests couples make “relationship vows based upon your new knowledge of each other’s wants, vulnerabilities and capabilities.” Some examples of promises Gunther’s clients have made:
- “If one of us feels dissatisfied with the relationship, we’ll tell each other what we need to make it better, and together we will make a plan for change.”
- “We’ll make certain that we save prime-time energy for each other no matter what else is going on in our lives.”
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Tartakovsky, M. (2019). 6 Steps to Help Couples Overcome Relationship Stumbles. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/6-steps-to-help-couples-overcome-relationship-stumbles/