How to Change a Struggling Relationship Into a Healthy Relationship
This is the “part 2” to the article “10 Signs You May Be in an Unhealthy Relationship“.
It was brought to my attention that in the first article I made points of the things to keep an eye on, however I made few suggestions of how to handle those ten points. So this article is to address how to handle the ten signs of an unhealthy relationship that were listed in the previous article.
1) Hitting. Any form of violence in a relationship is tricky, because one tends to hold hope that this will improve, which feeds into the abuse cycle. When any form of violence is present, if both partners was to continue with the relationship, it’s important to seek outside help. It will also become important that each partner is in their own therapy to address the deeper issues leading to (and being the receiver of) violent behavior. Violence doesn’t tend to disappear on its own, so the sooner it’s addressed, the better.
In the meantime, as an alternative to striking your partner, when you find yourself getting angry to the point of loss of control, hit a pillow or punching back, or swing a pillow into a bed until you feel better. This technique doesn’t undo violence, however it’s a less harmful outlet for the aggression.
If you tend to be on the receiving end of the violence, and you notice your partner getting to a breaking point, agree to take a break from the conversation and return to it after you both cool down. If your partner persists and you feel threatened, leave and go somewhere you are safe.
2) Name-calling. This is a form of verbal abuse. Couples therapy is a good idea here too because healthier forms of communication and release of frustration need to be learned.
As a temporary solution, when you feel yourself about to name-call, immediately stop talking. This may sound strange, but think of a stop sign in your head the moment before you name call, and just stop, even if in mid-sentence. Keep in mind also that name calling is a verbal form of hitting. So using the pillow technique from above to release some aggression may also help.
3) Lack of Support. While many factors can get in the way of being a supportive partner, it’s likely that one of the reasons you entered the relationship is because both were supportive of each other at one point. If you’re having a hard time being supportive to your partner, start by looking for three things each day that make you feel positively about your partner. When feeling an overall positive regard for your partner, it’s easier to be generally supportive. If you’ve been feeling unsupported by your partner, talk to your partner about your needs and the kind of support you would like. Don’t fall into the mind-reading trap.
4) Forced to answer to your partner. Similar to #1 and #2 above, couples therapy will become instrumental in moving away from this kind of dynamic, due to the ingrained nature of this type of behavior. In the meantime, it’s possible to address ways to compromise with your partner to increase your freedom. While the hope is to not be in a controlling dynamic with your partner, at first it will be necessary to help your partner loosen their grip. This may mean negotiating so you have their consent for some things (which will be less threatening to your partner than a full rebellion, and cause less negative reaction). However, in order to restructure the power dynamic of the relationship, both individual and couples therapy will be important here.
5) Feeling angry or resentful of your partner. The big question here is, what’s going on that’s causing this? Partners can go for years being resentful of each other and not even know why. At times it’s caused by one thing, or can be a collection of disappointments causing the resentment. Beyond couples therapy, journaling can help you reflect, if you’re the one feeling this way. When you become aware of the issues causing the resentment, communicate with your partner about the areas that you want to improve. Be respectful, not accusatory. The goal here is a stronger loving connection as a team, not to battle against each other to meet one’s needs (which rarely works anyway). Also, when you notice yourself feeling resentful of your partner, trying thinking of five things every day that you love about your partner, including not just qualities of your partner, but qualities of your relationship together, as well.
6) Pressure to abandon children of previous relationships. This is another form of control and psychological abuse. The controller in this situation fears being abandoned and doesn’t feel secure if the partner has any relationships that threatens to remove attention from the controlling partner. Handling this means setting clear boundaries. Honesty is important — laying out what the relationship with your kids will be like, and how the new partner fits into the picture. When someone is controlling, the more information they have that can help them understand the picture, the more secure they will feel. If you are the controller in this scenario, ask your partner for this information so you know where you stand.
7) Ultimatums and threats. These are the quickest ways to a breakup. If you’re feeling at the point of making ultimatums and threats, it’s time to sit down with your partner and communicate where you are. For example, “I’ve been waiting for a long time to see you work a little less in order to spend more time at home, and you haven’t. We need to talk about what’s next.” Communicate about the issue directly, rather than taking the issue hostage. This can lead to a genuine dialogue rather than something that’s only going to end badly.
8) Dictating Discussions. At times we need to take a break from a discussion, but this needs to be done with respect for your partner. Let them know when the conversation will resume. And vice versa, if you want to have the conversation now and your partner doesn’t, ask your partner when the conversation will resume. Avoid dictating a final end to discussions when it’s clearly not resolved for both of you. The issues will only linger if they’re not addressed. So a break is healthy, but commit to returning to the discussion.
9) Cheating. The best way to handle cheating is to stop before you do it — whether it’s removing yourself from the temptation, or just keeping in control of yourself. However, the issues that lead to cheating may still be there, and these must be addressed. If one or both partners does cheat, the underlying issues will still need to be addressed, and in addition, trust will need to be rebuilt, and hurt feelings will need to be repaired. Couples therapy is the best recommendation for any of these situations. If issues are present in the relationship, there’s only so long that merely resisting temptation will work.
10) Embarrassment of your partner. Create a mental list of people that you feel close enough to vent to about your relationship. Stick to this list. Once you start venting to people outside of this inner circle, things get messy. If you notice yourself keeping your partner away from people, learn about these issues in your own therapy, and if needed, couples therapy. It’s important to know what’s creating the separation between you and your partner, and then it can be addressed.
The overall themes in this list: communication and couples therapy. Not surprisingly, these go hand-in-hand. Things become messy in relationships when there is a power structure (where one tries to assert control and authority), and when the communication stops. If you want to turn your relationship into a healthy one, issues need to be opened and faced head-on, together.
, . (2013). How to Change a Struggling Relationship Into a Healthy Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships-balance/2013/12/08/how-to-change-a-struggling-relationship-into-a-healthy-relationship/