There are many reasons you might want to stay in a relationship that’s on the rocks. Perhaps you have children, or there are complex financial issues, or you’re just unwilling or afraid to be alone. Whatever your reasons, if your relationship isn’t giving you what you need anymore, but you can’t leave it, there is still hope.
As a wise man once said, you have three choices in this kind of unpleasant situation – change it, accept it, or leave it.
So if you can’t leave it, then focus on the other two.
How do you accept a deteriorating relationship? It is possible to accept many things, and we human beings learn throughout our lives how to live with plenty of unpleasant realities. I, for example, have reluctantly accepted that in order to read a book, I must now wear glasses, because my arms just aren’t long enough to hold it out where my old eyes can focus! Time passes, we grow old, our bodies deteriorate. People we care about grow old, too, and die. We accept death and taxes as well as we can. [Related: Understanding When Divorce is Really the Best Option]
In order to remain in a difficult relationship and learn to accept it, it is vital to focus on yourself. By this I mean taking care of yourself. If you aren’t physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy, it’s much harder to get through a tough situation.
Make sure you take care of yourself by eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Give yourself the gift of some sort of meditation every day. And don’t get hung up on that word meditation – I don’t mean wrenching your poor knees into a full lotus position and sitting with your eyes closed feeling ridiculous for fifteen minutes. By meditation I mean a quiet period of even just a few minutes per day where you can sit or walk and think your own thoughts. Taking a daily walk is one of the easiest and best ways to meditate. Breathe deeply and clear your head. If you can’t clear your mind of all the crazy thoughts buzzing around, pay attention to everything around you on your walk instead.
The feeling of being trapped is crippling, so be sure to remind yourself every day that even though you’ve chosen to stay in a difficult or unhappy relationship, this situation isn’t going to last forever. Things will change. They may not change on your schedule, but they will change – that’s just the nature of the universe.
Writing down a list every day of things you’re grateful for can help you appreciate the good things you’ve got in your life. Just take a minute or two each morning to scribble down what you’re grateful for. That helps set the tone for your day, and can help you have a happier time.
Remember, your relationship isn’t the sum total of your life. Get out and do some things for yourself. Join a club or take a class where you meet other people and develop friendships that aren’t tainted by your negative relationship at home. Find a good therapist to have someone listen to your problems with unbiased judgment.
What about the other choice? Changing the relationship?
In some ways, the process of changing the relationship is similar to accepting it. Why? Because the only thing in the relationship you really have the power to change is you. Other human beings are notoriously difficult to control – they rarely do what we tell them or want them to do.
So by changing the relationship, I mean first changing your attitude towards it. And that means changing yourself.
Again, make sure you take care of yourself, eat right, exercise, take time for some sort of meditation, get out and enjoy life beyond your relationship. Try sailing or skiing or learn to cook or paint or cultivate a garden. Anything that stimulates your mind and gets you out there having interesting experiences and meeting other people is good for you. Human beings are social animals. If your social needs aren’t being met in your relationship, make sure you find fun people to be friends with elsewhere – people you can laugh with and cry with and share stories.
The best chance you have of changing your partner is by changing yourself. If you allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, complain constantly, and become bitter and ugly, your relationship ain’t going to improve anytime soon. That’s because you are 50 percent of the relationship. If your half is nasty and unhappy, the odds are against you. So cultivate optimism in yourself. You will be surprised at how much power you have.
If you get out there and enjoy your life, if you remind yourself every morning how lucky you are to have so many good things in your life, your relationship is bound to change – because you’ve changed, and you’re a big part of that relationship. When you focus on the positive things instead of the miserable ones, you will become a brighter, happier person. That will have an effect on your partner and on your whole relationship.
Now there is no panacea for a troubled or broken relationship. But if you feel you have to stay in one, for whatever reason, you can improve it somewhat, and maybe more than you think, by changing yourself and your attitude towards it.
I don’t mean to put the entire burden of fixing the relationship on your shoulders, not at all. Even though you only have power over yourself and your half of the relationship, you aren’t responsible for fixing it all by yourself. You can easily exhaust and discourage yourself by taking responsibility for all the relationship’s problems. [Related: 3 Changes You Can Make Today to Improve Your Troubled Marriage]
You must also learn to ask for what you need. Communicate with your partner as best you can – without nagging and fighting. Asking for what you need is psychologically healthy, even if you don’t end up getting exactly what you need. A good rule of thumb is that you can ask or say anything you want to your partner, if you are willing to drop the subject afterward. That’s a difficult balance to manage – asking for what you need and what you feel you deserve, but without nagging. [Related: How to Stop Toxic Conflicts From Happening]
Remember that this situation you are in will not last forever. It will change, you will change. That’s life. Work with me if you need an expert eye to help you get through the ups and downs of your relationship… and how to possibly turn it around.