The reasons for marriages to crumble and break are as diverse as the human psyche itself. Maybe the fire went out, one of the partners stopped trying, trust was broken, or an affair stepped into the void of an already shaky relationship. So – how do you fix that broken marriage and ultimately save your relationship?
Generally, when people react to old wounds and apply learned protective mechanisms, the bond you first had when you got married deteriorates. Diagnosing, becoming aware of, and communicating those wounds is really the first step to healing your relationship.
- Start with reading this guide to the 3 Essential Steps You Can Take (Right Now) to Improve Your Relationship. This will set you on the right path.
- Become Aware of Your Core Wounds: In addition to taking the 3 steps, you need to go even deeper and become aware of your core wounds and the protective strategies you take when you feel hurt. These strategies frequently get in the way of intimacy. The more you are aware of what hurts and why, the more you have choices in those trigger moments in your relationship.
- Communicate Your Wounds to Your Partner (and Learn Theirs): For a relationship to improve, you need to learn more about what upsets your partner and why. Share vulnerably about your own hurts too. This video teaches how:
Until we learn what type of wounds we are activating in each other, it’s very hard to empathize or shift our reactions. And we cannot learn in the middle of a heated fight because the learning part of our brain is shut down. Therefore, it’s essential to have these conversations when you are in the calmest, most connected state possible.
How to Fix a Relationship after Trust is Broken
While all of the steps above also apply to fixing a relationship after trust has been broken, there are some additional steps you need to take to regain your partner’s trust.
Let’s take the example of a relationship where you have promised to stop smoking. You know how much it bothers and disgusts your partner, but you find it really hard to stop. At the same time you don’t want to disappoint them or break your promise. So you keep smoking.
But you also start to hide it from your partner. You do it exclusively when they are away or you are traveling. Or you smoke when you know you are able to take a shower before you see them, and you hope they won’t smell it.
Then, one day, they find a current receipt for cigarettes in the car. They feel hurt and betrayed as a result of the lie. Fears might pop up about you lying to them about other things. They take it very personally and feel like they can’t trust you, or don’t know you as well as they thought.
How do you fix that trust – and your relationship – after it has been violated like that? Here are your steps:
- Listen to the Hurt – Patiently: The process of reinstating trust takes time. The hurt party will need to tell you how they feel about it – more than once.
When you listen, really try to understand what made them feel bad about it. Maybe they are worried about your health and don’t want to lose you. Or they are always paranoid, suspect people are doing things behind their back – and now it has come true.
Try not to go down a rabbit hole of explaining. Instead reassure: “I hear you, I hear how much it scares you, and of course I don’t want to get sick and leave you either.” (Most people will want to add to this, “but it’s really hard to quick smoking”.) Avoid the temptation to stand up for yourself. You often end up getting more empathy if they come up with it instead of you saying it.
- Don’t Push for Forgiveness: If you get pushy around forgiveness, your partner may acquiesce. They say they forgive you – when they really haven’t been able to move through their feelings fully.
Instead of pushing for forgiveness, check in regularly (in a relaxed and non-anxious way). The feelings will come through in waves. You want to help them offload those emotions as they come through. If they say they are not ready yet to talk, let them know you are there for them when they are ready.
- In the Future, Avoid Making Promises You Can’t Keep – In the end, it’s always best to be honest. You can let your partner feel their disappointment, rather than keeping them on the hook, thinking that you are on the verge of changing.
You can still try to quit smoking if you feel so inspired. But see if you can stick with it and go at least six months without smoking before announcing you’ve quit.
How a Relationship Coach Can Help
To navigate the many devastating implications of broken trust it’s often a good idea to see a professional relationship coach. If you feel there is still hope for you and your partner, a coach can give you additional tools to fix your broken marriage or relationship.
Another fast-track option is to take an immersive workshop. Here, you learn the building blocks of emotional health in a relationship and practice them with your fellow classmates. The Somatica® Core Training is an in-depth training with a safe container in which to practice intimacy and connection, learn, grow, and become part of a supportive community.