What to Do When Your Relationship is Not Working Out

couple kissing in field

“Relationship” is defined as ‘the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.’ It could be a work-related relationship or sibling-to-sibling, parent-to-child, friends, etc. But this article will focus on the pinnacle of relationships – the romantic relationship. This brief tutorial should aid you in repairing or dissolving your current or future romantic relationship. Note, however, that most of the advice given here can be applied to any type of relationship.

The first step to “fixing” anything is to determine the cause. What is not working in your relationship? At the very base level, if one or both of you are not happy, then one or both of you have needs that are not being met. Isolate those needs and focus on them. Are they realistic? Is it your partner’s responsibility to fulfill those needs, or is it possible that you can fulfill those needs yourself? Many individuals lean on others to give them what they need, and yet forget that they can empower themselves to reach their goals and live the lives they always dreamed of. Is the other person truly a hindrance to these goals?

After introspection, you may find that this perceived obstacle is only a disguise to prevent you from facing challenges or your own flaws. Fear of failure is a powerful obstacle in anyone’s path, and often the one that they have most difficulty facing. It is a common practice to blame others for one’s own weaknesses or failures to achieve or be happy. You can be happy now. Don’t postpone your happiness because of some perceived obstacle created outside yourself. Once you’ve identified why you are unhappy, you can begin to attempt to make positive changes.

It is not within your power to change others. If you remember anything, remember this. It is one of the greatest truisms of life and will be a great guiding post for you in any relationship. The moment you begin to believe that you can transform someone, you are in a losing battle. You can affect, motivate, influence, etc., but you cannot change truly change the nature of another person. The reason lies in one’s DNA, past experiences, memories, physiology, etc. Each person is a cosmic soup, a complex mix of ingredients. And remember that free will exists. It is ultimately up to each person to decide who he will be life. You have that right. So does your partner. And in fact, because of all these ingrained influences, biological and social, it is a challenge for any person to initiate real changes in his/her habitual behavior.

Habits stick to each person like glue. And breaking the bond that adheres you or your partner to these habits comes with a price. The other side of every behavior is often one that is celebrated. For example, the quiet husband who avoids conflict can be frustrating in one situation, when he wants to skip the romantic getaway with his wife because the in-laws want to come visit. This same trait is welcomed when he agrees to spend his annual bonus on ballroom dancing lessons for the two of them rather than a season pass to the local football stadium. Be careful what you ask for. Even if it were possible to completely change the nature of a person (and it’s not), would you really want to lose all the wonderful aspects of that same trait?

Too many times an individual gets caught up in what is wrong with the other person—and has failed to self-examine. Each person has an integral part to play in the dynamics of a relationship. Both partners must be honest and open about real change to repair damage and move forward toward love and joy.

So stop thinking about what can you change in the other person. Try to see both sides of that person you love. If that thing they do is absolutely intolerable and has no reverse, positive effect in other situations, perhaps that behavior is reason for conversation. But if not, start thinking about what you can do differently.

Once you’ve looked at your relationship with honesty, it’s time to ask yourself: Do I love this person enough to take the good with the bad? Will this person likely be able to do the same with me? Will I be satisfied with small alterations in our behavior toward one another, or does this relationship need radical change?

If radical change is needed, you are most likely with the wrong person. It’s time to end the relationship. Do so in a respectful way and wish them well. If a marriage, it can become complicated, especially if you have children or co-own property, but calmly letting go is the first step. Behave toward them as you would like them to behave toward you, and the relationship should end amicably. Should your partner behave badly or begin a verbal assault, your calm, brief and dignified responses and quick removal from his/her presence is the best approach. Nothing can be gained by re-hashing the past. End the relationship, separate yourself and move on.

If small changes can be made to rebuild your relationship, then your next step is having a conversation. Ask your partner for a convenient time for you both to sit down in a quiet place without distractions, and talk. Lay the cards on the table and be honest. Tell your partner that you are having serious reservations about continuing the relationship, and that you realize it takes both of you to make things better. Try to keep emotions out of this initial and brief request. This is not the time to state the reasons why you are unhappy. Simply request a meeting. You both need to be agreeable to this time/place to decide the best course of action. Suggest a future date for the meeting so both you and he/she have time to think and prepare. A spur-of-the-moment meeting that may affect the future of your relationship is unwise. Once the meeting is agreed upon, each person should spend some time alone for more introspection.

Go into the conversation with one goal: To express love and come to an agreement. If you go into the conversation with the intent to “win,” you will surely walk into a battleground, and you will both LOSE. Do not make this a bumpy trip down memory lane—reliving all the old wounds and arguments and perceived injuries. Be prepared to forgive past mistakes, as you would wish to be forgiven. Someone very wise once asked the question, “Do you want to be right . . . or happy?” Walk into this meeting with the urgent desire that you both be HAPPY. Visualize your happiest moments with your partner and know they can once again be possible. Face forward and see the joyous future that is possible.

Make this conversation about finding a solution, an agreed upon path that you will both take together. Express the love you still feel for your partner. Express how much you want to rekindle the closeness and mutual respect you once had for each other. It is absolutely vital that you acknowledge your own part in the current state of your relationship and your absolute commitment to whatever remedy you both agree upon.

There is a treasure-trove of relationship tools to be found at libraries and local colleges. Taking a course on Interpersonal/Oral Communications would be very beneficial. It will aid you at home and in the workplace, profoundly improving every relationship you have. Of course you may also consider enlisting the help from a relationship/marriage counselor. But the primary tools of communication are paramount when facing the stormy and emotion-ridden waters that love affairs are made of.

Perfection doesn’t exist. And if it did, people would be bored to death. Set realistic expectations of yourself and your partner. Disagreements are natural, and without them you would learn nothing of yourself or of your partner. Developing good listening and communication skills will ease you through these inevitable conflicts.

Once you’ve both had an opportunity to speak and have both agreed to make small, positive changes in your behavior and/or lifestyle, and you’ve both agreed that the other’s happiness is of great value and intrinsic to your own happiness, you’re on your way to a successful relationship.

Carrie Ryman

Carrie Ryman is a writer and poet. She has written reviews for the online literary magazine, Sotto Voce and has submitted fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to various other publications, including the Helium Network. She enjoys all forms of writing and is currently at work on her first novel. She is married and lives in Wisconsin. Carrie is a featured poet at Inspiration for the Spirit—her poems appear here.


Copyright © 2011 Carrie Ryman • All rights reserved.