Yes, there are a lot of relationship killers to avoid, but doing just this one thing can revive your relationship.
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There are plenty of relationship killers out there, and speaking as a woman who has been divorced before, I feel like I have some insight on what brings the death of a relationship. But more importantly, let’s talk about how to revive one before it’s too late.
I believe the most significant thing we can do to heal our relationships is change what we’re focused on.
Think about a Camera
Even the one on your phone probably has this feature. You can choose what you want it to focus on — the foreground or the background.
For example, in this first picture, Toy Dwight and Toy Michael are clearly visible, while the background is blurry:
In the second photo, Toy Dwight and Toy Michael have been blurred out but the background is sharply focused:
It’s the same photo, except you’re changing which part is blurred. You’re changing the focus.
What Changed in Your Relationship?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in the beginning of your relationship, things were pretty damn great — or else, why would you have gotten into the relationship?
If things are less-than-great now, what has changed? You could argue the usual stuff such as having kids, housework, work, financial struggles, and all that. Those are valid answers. Of course all of those factors would affect a relationship.
But why does the change have to be bad?
Building a family, sharing a home, and having a partner to shoulder your responsibilities are all things that should make your connection stronger. Otherwise, I don’t see the point getting into a relationship and just resigning yourself to its slow degradation.
Maybe those things didn’t change your relationship as much as they changed the way you see (or don’t see) your partner. Somewhere along the way, you got distracted from the things you love about your person and you hyper-focused on the things that bother you.
Remember What It Used to Feel Like?
Now, listen, I’m as guilty as anyone else with allowing this to happen. And I would never judge anyone for leaving a relationship that isn’t working anymore (you did read the part about my divorce, right?).
But I have hope — and experience — with a relationship getting even better with time instead of deteriorating. I’d like to share my thoughts, because maybe you can get the same results.
Start by looking back on all the reasons you fell in love in the first place and focus on all the things they do that add value to your life. Daydream about the way it was in the beginning — not to compare it to how you may feel now and make it feel worse by comparison, but to rekindle those early emotions.
Remember the good morning texts? (You can still send those!)
Remember how you used to get coffee for each other or buy each other gifts for no reason? Do you ever think about what it was like to lie in bed and just talk? To cuddle on the couch? To sip on drinks and listen to music together? To not check your phone at dinner because the person you most wanted to hear from was already sitting across from you?
Can you conjure up the way your heart fluttered when his hand brushed yours? When’s the last time you tried holding hands, anyway?
The Trap We All Fall into Sometimes…
No relationship — whether it’s with your spouse or your child or your boss or your sibling or your friend or whoever — can thrive if all you ever do is harp on the things they do wrong, refusing to pay attention to how much they’re doing right.
Unfortunately, it’s an easy trap to fall into.
There was one day when I told my 8-year-old to clean up the wrappers he left on the counter, to vacuum the crumbs he left in his room, to stop arguing with his little brother, to stop harassing his older brother, to hang up his coat, to turn down his YouTube video, to pick up the the toys he left on the stairs, to stop running in the house, to lower his volume when he was inside, to stop leaving the tops off of his markers, etc etc etc
I got in bed that night completely exhausted and frustrated with him, thinking to myself that he was so out of control that day and what was up with that? And then holy fuck, I felt slapped in the face as I actually recounted the day. Yes, all of those things were true, and it was totally valid for me to make most of those requests of him. But do you know what else happened that day?
He played blocks with his little brother and taught him a new song that helped him with his speech therapy. He expressed himself artistically and drew fantastic pictures. He used his imagination and entertained himself. He chose a healthy snack. He ate all of his dinner and put his plate in the sink without me asking him to do it. He put away his toys as soon as I told him to without arguing with me.
He did as many, if not more, “good” things that day as he did “bad” — and how many of those good things did I acknowledge? Probably not a damn one. Maybe two, at best.
I spent all day harping on the negative, frustrating both of us. But worse than that, I didn’t balance it out with paying attention or addressing the positive.
The Power of Appreciation
How would you feel if you couldn’t make one wrong move without someone pointing it out? How would you feel if you your existence was treated like a giant inconvenience to someone else? If the things you did right… if the very fact that you’re trying… was never acknowledged?
Maybe you know exactly how that feels. Maybe that’s what has been happening in your relationship.
You do the laundry and no one says thank you for it, but the moment the shirt they need for school/work is dirty, you hear all about it. You cook a meal and you get complaints from the kids and silence from your spouse. You maintain your patience all day, doing crafts and cleaning spills and reading books and playing with blocks, but the moment you feel burnt out and snap at the kids, your partner is there side-eyeing you and judging you.
Well, the bad news is I can’t teach you how to change your partner’s (or anyone else’s) behavior. Turns out you can’t really control other people. I mean, sure, you could break their spirit and/or manipulate them, but I’m not gonna encourage it.
The good news is you can learn to control your own behavior and you can positively influence other people. You can inspire them to appreciate you more.
I happen to be a woman in a relationship with a man, so for the sake of convenience, I will refer to the following examples based off of my personal experience (ie referring to your partner as “him”). The information, however, is in no way based on gender. To be very clear — I am in no way implying that it’s a woman’s job to martyr herself or dote on her husband because he’s the “head of the household” or any of that other 1950’s heteronormative bullshit.
This Is Your Power
Chances are, you are doing to your partner the same thing you feel like he is doing to you. You are commenting on the things you don’t like, the things you want him to do differently, and you’re never verbalizing the things he’s getting right. You’re venting to your friends, scribbling in your journal, making passive aggressive comments, and replaying in your mind all the things that bother you.
But the good stuff still exists, too. You’re just blurring it out.
Taking each other for granted is one of the biggest relationship killers out there. You might honestly think it’s one-sided, that you’re doing your part and he’s not holding up his end of the bargain, but I promise you there’s more to it than that.
That’s not meant to shame you or blame you. I’m sure you are doing a lot right and I’m sure you’re probably not feeling enough appreciation. I’m pointing out your role in it, though, because that’s where your power is. As long as you continue to put all your focus on the bad and shift all the blame on him, nothing will change. BUT your ability to change your own thoughts and your own behavior is how you benefit both of you.
Am I Telling You to Just Settle?
Someone might argue that I’m just telling you to settle. You got into this relationship and now you’re stuck with it even if the other person doesn’t treat you well, blah blah blah.
So now I have to ask, is it really settling to choose a perspective that brings you relief, that reignites hope, that is based on love? I mean, did you actually get into a relationship with a monster? Or did you commit to someone with a lot of wonderful qualities who maybe got stuck in a rut with you?
Because here’s the thing. If you choose to focus on the good and you’re coming from a genuine place, then you’re going to be happier, period. Even if nothing else changes, just by focusing on better things, you will feel better.
It’s kinda like you’re going around complaining about how bad oranges taste, but the truth is, you’ve been too lazy to peel it first, so of course it tastes nasty to you.
The bonus part to choosing to focus on the good within your partner is that if you’re consistent with it, eventually you’re going to influence and inspire that person to be the better version of himself, too.
And if that doesn’t happen, then if nothing else, you get to leave the relationship knowing you really put the right energy into it. You won’t have to worry that you’re making the wrong decision by leaving it. Plus, you’ll be in a much better place to accept the love you deserve from someone else, because you won’t be stuck in bitterness or resentment or turmoil about moving on.
The Importance of Being Genuine
So… what if it’s his “job” to take out the trash and you do every other chore in the house? Tell him thank you anyway — and mean it; don’t be patronizing.
If you’re so agitated that you can’t honestly say it to him yet, don’t worry about verbalizing it. (I’ve been there!) The most important thing is to warm yourself up to feeling genuine gratitude. Think about how you don’t have to deal with leaky bags or walking outside in the cold or touching smelly garbage, and even if it’s just for 20 seconds, feel that sense of relief and thankfulness.
The alternative is to resent him and start arguments with him or talk shit about him behind his back — but has that changed his behavior or improved your situation thus far?
What if genuinely thanking him for the things he does (like the trash or going to work or playing with the kids or making you laugh or watching a movie you chose or getting your car cleaned out) eventually sparks something in him? What if it inspires him to return the compliments, to see how much you’re doing, to maybe even do more things to help you?
Most likely, right now you’re both just focused on your own contributions and not even seeing how much the other person is actually doing. (One of the major relationship killers!) But you can change that — it only takes one person to get the ball rolling.
It’s Pretty Simple, But It’s Powerful
There was one day a few weeks ago that my husband randomly told me thank you for doing the laundry. He said it was really nice that he could come home and throw his clothes in the hamper and always magically have fresh clothes to wear the next day.
It was such a simple thing, but it has stayed with me for such a long time.
Honestly, I feel like we have a pretty even load. ( I know that’s not the case for everyone out there.) He works full-time away from the house and I work part-time from home, so I do most of the child care and stuff around the house, and it seems fair to me. (He also does a deep clean of the house at least once a week, so I’ve gotta it pretty good, I won’t lie.)
But still. The fact that he took the time to say that really made me feel appreciated, and it made me think about all the things he does that I’ve probably taken for granted over time.
All that said, for it to be most effective, I’ll reiterate that you have to do it from a genuine place of love, and not because you’re looking for reciprocation. Otherwise you run the risk of disappointment if he doesn’t immediately respond the way you want. It might take a little time to really see a shift, and you don’t want to discourage yourself from continuing.
It’s totally okay for you to want him to return the affection — I mean, duh! Of course you do! — but it’s the wrong attitude to do it only because you want him to do it for you. Shower your love on him because you care about him, not because you’re looking to get wet.
Wow. That sounded way more sexual than I intended.
If You Want More Love, Give More Love
You know the saying it’s better to give than to receive? For me, it’s definitely true. At Christmas, I’m actually more excited about watching other people open the gifts that I got them than I am about opening my own gifts. (Though I’m sure I would be bummed if I gave gifts and didn’t receive any — it’s a natural reaction.)
Likewise, while it feels really nice to be loved by someone, it also feels really good to love someone. And that’s the part you have more control over.
So think about what it was like when you first met your significant other. Do you remember those butterflies? The eagerness to spend time together? See how many memories you can conjure. Savor that feeling. Act on that feeling.
Take a good look at what your life together is like now. Surely you can find something that makes you feel grateful. Surely you can find one thing that reignites that affection within you.
Change what you’re focused on and the whole picture changes.
A little side note:
While these are my own words and my own interpretations, I am heavily influenced by Abraham Hicks and Seth/Jane Roberts, and I always highly recommend their materials. You can see a list of books by clicking here. If you want further information, feel free to reach out.
This post was about relationship killers. Be sure to check out my other posts about relationships as well as ones about self love!
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