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22 Ways to Save a Struggling Relationship22 Ways to Save a Struggling Relationship
Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD — By Cindy Lamothe — Updated on September 9, 2021
You’ve heard it a million times but it bears repeating: even the strongest relationships face challenges.
Building a happy, healthy partnership takes work and may not always be easy, especially when there’s been a breach of trust. “Issues are a part of life and a part of being in a relationship,” says clinical psychologist Stone Kraushaar. “And the goal is to not fixate on the past, but work to create together in a meaningful way.”
So, you do you go about that? Here are some tips to get you started, whether you’re dealing with the fallout from a betrayal or trying to keep a long-distance relationship going.
Anytime trust is broken, there’s going to be a rift in the relationship. It might be painful to face, but leaving these issues unaddressed won’t help anyone in the long run.
1. Take full responsibility if you’re at fault
If there has been infidelity or trust has been broken, it’s important to take full responsibility for what happened and be understanding of how your behavior hurt your partner.
Avoid becoming defensive or sidestepping your mistake, but don’t fall into self-loathing either. “You should own it in a loving way that creates the space to start to rebuild trust,” says Kraushaar.
In a nutshell: Take responsibility, but don’t attempt to justify your actions or blame them on someone or something else.
2. Give your partner the opportunity to win your trust back
While you have every right to feel hurt and angry, there should be a desire to work on the relationship.
“Trust can never be restored until the person whose trust was broken allows their partner a chance to earn it back,” Kraushaar affirms.
Not sure where to start? Our guide to rebuilding trust can help.
3.Practice radical transparency
Instead of bottling up emotions, Kraushaar encourages couples to be “radically transparent” with each other about what has hurt them. This involves truly getting it all out there, even if you feel a bit silly or self-conscious admitting certain things.
If you’re the one who broke the trust, this also involves being radically transparent with yourself about what motivated you to do so. Was it simply a lapse in judgement? Or was it an attempt to sabotage a situation you didn’t know how to get out of?
In order to be honest with each other, you’ll have to start by being brutally honest to yourselves.
4. Seek professional help
Broken trust can take a toll on everyone in the relationship.
If there’s been a significant breach, consider working together with a qualified therapist who specializes in relationships and can provide guidance for healing.
5. Extend compassion and care to the person you hurt
If you’ve hurt your partner, it’s easy to fall into a spiral of shame and disappointment in yourself. But that’s not going to help either of you.
Rather than spend all your time beating yourself up over what you did wrong, try shifting that energy toward showing care and compassion to your partner.
Being physically apart more often than not can be rough on a relationship. Keeping the romance alive takes extra effort on everyone’s part.
6. Manage expectations
Have a discussion with your partner and set ground rules that take into account your exclusiveness and commitment to each other.
Being honest and upfront about your expectations from the beginning can prevent things from going wrong down the road.
7. Have regularly scheduled visits
“It’s so important that couples know and have scheduled visits and can look forward to those times and plan to make them special,” notes Kraushaar. In fact, research has shown that long-distance relationships where partners have a reunion planned are less stressful and more satisfying.
8. Set aside time for online dates
If you’re not able to organize scheduled time together due to significant distance or finances, Kraushaar recommends setting up regular online dates with a theme or specific focus.
Don’t just go for your usual conversation topics. Cook a meal together, watch a movie while you keep the video chat open, play a virtual game, or even read a short story aloud, taking turns.
9. Don’t let your world revolve around your partner
While it’s important to pay attention to fostering closeness in a long-distance relationship, that aspect shouldn’t consume you.
No matter how much you miss the other person, don’t forget about other important areas of your life. Keep up with your hobbies and interests — a happy and healthy relationship partly involves you being each partner being their own person.
No matter how you dice it, going through a rough patch when you live together is stressful.
10.Plan a weekly ‘couples meeting’
Kraushaar recommends setting up a specific time each week that allows you both to talk about more difficult topics, such as money, sex, and trust so that these don’t bleed over into all of your interactions.
11. Learn to compromise
All relationships require give and take. When you’re living in close quarters, being accommodating of the other person’s needs and preferences without sacrificing your own can help foster more happiness and fulfillment.
Consider working out some kind of temporary agreement that allows each of you to unwind at home alone. For example, maybe you stay a little later the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while they hang out with a friend on Mondays and Wednesdays.
12. Spend time with friends outside of your relationship
Spending time with friends can have a powerful effect on your personal mental health and can help strengthen your personal identity.
Remember, staying connected to your partner means having a life outside of your relationship.
13. Engage in affectionate physical contact
Kraushaar encourages couples to regularly hug each other in a fully present and connected way. Holding hands or hugging releases oxytocin which can reduce stress and boost your mood.
If you’re not on great terms right now, this might be easier said than done. Try starting slow — simply putting your hand on theirs can help to show that you still care.
14. Don’t be hooked on romance
Deep-level intimacy is about creating a satisfying and meaningful relationship that isn’t always based on romantic expression.
Sure, everyone wants to be swept off their feet from time to time, but it’s important to genuinely respect and enjoy your partner for who they are outside of what they can give you.
Picking up the pieces after a big fight can feel like an impossible task. Try these techniques to help you both move forward.
15. Use skilled communication
Once tempers have calmed down, it’s important to make sure you both have a chance to get your points across. Try to give each person space to communicate their point of view.
“Being open and honest about one’s thoughts and intentions about the relationship itself and the future can restore — or newly create — a sense of safety” in the relationship, says Montreal psychologist and relationship specialist Zofia Czajkowska, PhD.
16. Speak from your heart
In order for you partner to truly hear you, it’s important to communicate what you’re really feeling below all the tension.
For example, avoid accusatory phrases, such as, “You did this to me!” Instead, aim for something along the lines of, “When X happens I feel Y and I think it would be helpful if you could do Z to reassure me or prevent that from happening in the future.”
17. Actively listen
If you catch yourself forming a rebuttal in your head as your significant other is talking, you’re not really listening. “You’re getting ready to defend yourself or go to battle,” says Czajkowska.
“Winning” an argument is never truly winning, she adds. “If your partner feels that they lost, it will likely contribute to more distance, tension, and resentment, so in the long run, you lose too.”
18. Break the pattern
When rebuilding the relationship, Czajkowska advises to consider it a new one, rather than saving an old one.
“Seeing it this way creates an opportunity for defining rules and boundaries from the beginning.” This means striving to understand and work through underlying issues as well as letting go of past resentments you’ve been holding onto.
A lack of passion or case of the “mehs” doesn’t automatically mean your relationship is beyond repair.
19. Look at the upside of your relationship
Spend a week noticing or writing down all the things your partner does “right.”
Researchers have found that we tend to see what we are looking for. If you’re looking for reasons to be mad or upset with your partner, you’ll probably find them. But this works in reverse, too. Keep your eyes peeled for the good things.”
20. Say ‘thank you’ for the small things
Similarly, don’t just silently observe your partner’s right-doings. When they do something that’s kind of helpful, even if it’s just tidying up the kitchen after a meal, verbally thank them.
21. Have fun together
Sometimes, you just fall into a rut. It might sound cliche, but setting aside some time, even just a few hours, to go do something out of the ordinary can make a big difference.
Psychological research shows that partners who play together experience more positive emotions and report greater happiness.
Try taking a break from the same old routine and spend time participating in novel, uplifting experiences.
keep the spark
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Take a one-time class together.
- Grab a deck of cards or a board game you both used to love and head to the park.
- Scan your local weekly paper for unusual events. Even if you’re not totally sure what the event entails, make a plant to go check it out together, whether it’s a craft fair or a car show.
22. Maintain intimacy and communication
Establish how to take care of each other emotionally, advises Czajkowska.
What does this actually mean? For starters, commit to giving each other a heads up when it feels like you’re drifting apart. Sit down together and look at what might be causing that. Have you both been wrapped up in work? Has it been too long since you spent the day just enjoying each other’s company?
“Commitment to working on the relationship is just as important as commitment to the partner,” she emphasizes.
There’s no easy answer here. Ultimately, you’ll need to evaluate whether the relationship is worth the work that’s required to save it from a low point.
It’s also wise to make sure everyone involved is committed to saving the relationship. If you’re the only one willing to put in the work, reconciliation probably isn’t likely.
That said, abuse of any kind, whether it’s physical, verbal, or emotional, is a red flag. Keep in mind that signs of toxicity can be quite subtle. Are you walking on eggshells around your partner? Have you lost your confidence or sense of self?
If you have any inkling that you might be experiencing abuse of any kind, considering reaching out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).
You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by sending a text message to:
- 741741 in the United States
- 686868 in Canada
- 85258 in the United Kingdom
Last medically reviewed on August 27, 2019
How we reviewed this article:
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
- 5 tips for healthy, loving relationships. (n.d.).
- Aron A, et al. (2000). Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality.
- Breines J. (2014). Forgive yourself, save your relationship.
- Czajkowska Z. (2019). Personal interview.
- Kraushaar S. (2019). Personal interview.
- Maguire KC (2007). “Will It Ever End?”: A (re)examination of uncertainty in college student long-distance relationships. DOI:
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Sep 9, 2021
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Aug 27, 2019
Medically Reviewed By
Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD
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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD — By Cindy Lamothe — Updated on September 9, 2021
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10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Relationship
written by CHRISTINA HUYNH
Source: cottonbro | Pexels
Whether you’ve been dating your partner for a few months or have been married for five years, healthy relationships are built from commitment, mutual respect, and effort. While you probably felt an immediate and effortless spark when you first met, it takes work to maintain that spark as your relationship develops—but don’t worry, it will be the most fun and rewarding work you’ll ever do. While every relationship is different, you can always work to improve your bond, friendship, and intimacy. Try these 10 things to improve your relationship RN.
1. Ask your partner something new
Communication is arguably the #1 determining factor of success for every relationship. It’s nice to ask how your partner’s day went, but it can feel routine when you ask the same thing every day or don’t branch out into new topics of conversation. Enhance your relationship and communication by putting in the extra effort to question your significant other on something more specific. By asking new questions (like “How did you feel about that?” or “What do you prefer doing at work instead?”), you’ll avoid going through the motions, listen more intently to each other, and have more meaningful discussions.
2. Designate a monthly date night
Between both of your busy schedules and nonstop responsibilities, the most foolproof way to guarantee that you’ll make time for each other is to set a night every month dedicated to strengthening your connection and reigniting that spark. Whether you’re looking to spice up your relationship or want to do something together that doesn’t include Netflix, schedule a date. The connection from even one night out can have long-term effects.
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3. Say “thank you”
Especially in relationships that have gone on for years and have fallen into routines, we can get so comfortable that we expect our partners to meet all of our needs, whether it’s how they treat us or the daily chores they do. Saying a simple “thank you” for cleaning the dishes after dinner or giving you a compliment enforces their good behavior and makes them feel appreciated as well as helps you remember why you love them. It’s also important to express appreciation and gratitude for them being in your life and how much they mean to you (and not just what they do for you).
4. Schedule a check-in
Scheduling might not seem very sexy and spontaneous, but making sure you’re regularly checking in with each other will keep your relationship strong. It can be easy to let annoyance after annoyance build up until it gets to a full-blown fight, so checking in means fewer fights, more communication, and better connection. After all, a relationship is just two people trying to get their needs met. Use a check-in to discuss any recent triggers, problems, and even all the good things that deserve recognition too. Try doing this monthly, weekly, or even daily, and put it on your calendars so you don’t forget or skip it.
5. Remember the small things
Another way to add meaning to your conversation is to truly listen to what your significant other is saying and then bring up those little things again in the future. For example, if your partner mentions a new pair of shoes that they want, take note of it to gift it to them for their birthday coming up, or if your significant other says they want to try a restaurant you haven’t been to, suggest it for your next date night or surprise them with takeout. The fact that you pay attention to and remember even the minor details that your partner says will show how much you listen, care, and want them to feel loved. Overall, it’s the little things that mean the most.
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6. Let go of the past
As a culprit for many potential arguments and the underlying issue for future ones, what happens in the past doesn’t always stay there. But it’s difficult to move forward in a relationship when you’re still thinking about past fights, problems, or issues that you’ve already resolved. If you find yourself continuing to dwell on the past, it might be a sign to take a step back and consider why. Are you naturally less forgiving or is what happened something you can’t seem to forgive? By focusing on the reason for this recurring feeling, you’ll find more clarity within yourself and about what you want from the relationship with your partner.
7. Show your affection
From grabbing your partner’s hand at a restaurant to going to bed together at the end of the night, you know how you feel about your partner, but they should be able to feel it as well. Physical touch goes a long way in keeping romance and connection alive in long-term relationships. Try to avoid physical touch routines, meaning the only physical touch in your daily life is a kiss goodbye or a hug hello (though these are also important gestures). In addition to your hellos and goodbyes, hug them unexpectedly, hold their hand in the car or while watching TV, or even just pat them on the arm to feel close. Physical closeness can translate to emotional closeness.
8. Learn your partner’s boundaries
Does your partner wish to be left alone when they’re upset? Do they mind that you want to text all day long, or do they prefer you call them when you’re apart at night? Is there a certain way they prefer to argue or certain topics they’re not comfortable discussing with you yet? These questions are simple, but the answers to them will help you understand your partner’s boundaries (and stop you from crossing them). Overall, your partner’s needs are most likely different from yours, and knowing their boundaries is the best way to respect them. Have conversations to explain your boundaries to each other, but also pay attention and ask questions to understand them better.
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9. Laugh together
Relationships are just friendships with exclusivity. Loving each other is crucial, and liking each other is important too. While the life-partner stuff (like dividing chores) or the romantic stuff (like holding hands) might be top priorities to improve your relationship, remember that the friendship stuff is just as important. Laugh together at least once every day, whether it’s sharing a funny story that happened to you at the grocery store, bringing up an inside joke, or watching the show that makes you both laugh out loud. Laughing not only bonds us but also helps us remember that the point of being in a relationship is to enjoy the person we love.
10. Make time to focus on yourself
How we feel about ourselves is how we’ll act in a relationship. For example, if you lack confidence in yourself, you’ll look for assurance in your relationship, or if you don’t like to be alone with yourself, you’ll need to be around your significant other 24/7. To prevent any toxic behaviors, it’s essential to have a strong sense of self: Invest in a new hobby, make plans with some friends, and take steps in discovering who you are as a person. By falling in love with yourself, you’ll naturally become the best version of yourself for the person who is falling in love with you.
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