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Salvage your relationship…maybe

Having spent more time than usual with my family and several friends over the holidays, I’ve heard a lot about relationship woes. Every relationship goes through hard times, but if you’ve already mentally planned out the packing necessary to send back the items your lover has left at your place during the course of your relationship, it may be times to call it quits. However, if you are still clinging to hope, despite the fact that your relationship barely survived the holidays, you may want to consider the following advice from Terrance Real, of the Relational Life Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Real believes that most men and women think that romantic relationships have to be spontaneous in order to be successful, “You’ve got to duke it out with your partner and help them rise to the occasion.”

Real also thinks that there are new rules for relationships in the 21st century; there are all new standards that didn’t apply to our parents’ relationships and many people are ill-equipped to follow these new rules. He is also a big believer in the fact that people select mates that they think will provide in ways that their parents could not. When our partner doesn’t provide in the manner we think they should we are miserable. Often, Real states, this results in the following strategies in order to deal with our unhappiness:

  • Being right
  • Controlling their partner
  • Unbridled self-expression
  • Retaliation
  • Withdrawing

Mr. Real offers the following suggestions for how to deal with the unhappiness we may be experiencing in a relationship, instead of just exploding on our partner;

  • Go after what you want. But before you open your mouth, ask yourself: “What do I really want right now?”
  • Complain constructively. Don’t complain to your partner about what he isn’t giving you. You must shift the negative into a positive. “Every complaint is really a wish,” says Real. “Better to cut out the complaint and get right to the wish.’I’m mad at the way you talk to me’ translates into ‘I would really like it if you could talk to me this way.'”
  • Listen and respond generously. “Neither men nor women feel listened to,” Real finds. Men commonly feel unappreciated. “They want someone to listen, pat them on the head for how hard they’re working, and tell them what a good job they’re doing.”
  • Empower one another. Anger, says Real, regularly stems from helplessness. “If you’re walking around angry, it’s often because you’re trying to control some thing and it’s not cooperating. The way to be less angry is to let go of your control.”
  • Cherish what you have. “Keep your eyes on the prize,” says Real. “Remember the person you’re speaking to is someone you love. If you can’t remember that because you are too angry and hurt at the moment, at least remember you have to live with them.”

I found Reals’ advice to particularly helpful; however, I’ll throw in a couple of bits of advice from my own experience. After the first fight in a relationship, it gets easier and easier to argue — people also become less inhibited in what they say to their partner during these arguments. This can result in one partner or both partners becoming extremely hurtful during the course of an argument, including resorting to name-calling and attacking the other person’s character. Exploding on someone is a choice; if you value your relationship don’t resort to these tactics, it will cause your partner to feel devalued and may significantly negatively impact their self-esteem.

In addition, I put a lot of stock in the old cliché “chose your battles wisely.” The next time you are preparing for a 20 minute blow-out about a raised toilet seat, unmade bed or burnt toast, ask yourself if it’s worth the trouble. If you chose to argue about every petty little happening, when you really have an important thing to discuss, your partner may not take the issue seriously. He/she may think you are “crying wolf” again, bringing up an issue which is just another one of your silly complaints. If your partner thinks the issue isn’t anymore important to you then a raised toilet seat, it’s unlikely that he/she will want to take it seriously enough to have a productive argument.

Salvage your relationship…maybe

Jennifer Bechdel

Jennifer Bechdel, MBA is a freelance and technical writer, as well as a marketing consultant. She focuses on workplace issues, stress, and unemployment topics.

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APA Reference
Bechdel, J. (2018). Salvage your relationship…maybe. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Jan 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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