Six Steps to Healing a Broken Relationship
What do you do if your partner has done something to hurt you deeply but is truly sorry for their actions? What if you both want to restore your broken relationship but the pain of what they did still stands in the way? Is there any hope? If this is you, I have good news for you. Restoration is possible. If your partner is truly sorry for what they did and is seeking to make amends, you can fight for your relationship together. Here are six steps to healing a broken relationship when your partner is sorry.
Understand Your Own Feelings
Before you come to terms with continuing your relationship with your partner, you have to assess your relationship with yourself. How are you feeling? Angry? Crushed? Numb? These are all normal and natural feelings and you do not have to avoid them or get rid of them. Rather, sit with them. Allow yourself to feel sad. View this time as a time of grieving. Similar to grieving for a lost loved one, you are grieving your life and relationship before the hurt. It takes time and that is okay. Also, when another person hurts us, we tend to feel less valuable, less loved, and less worthy. Do you recognize thoughts like this in your own mind? Remember, these are not true. You are worthy. You are enough. Understanding your own feelings (and speaking truth to yourself in the face of lies) is an important first step toward healing.
Create Helpful Boundaries
No matter how much you and your partner want to repair your relationship, things cannot immediately go back to the way they were. In fact, if you do, this does not mean you are "healthy" or "forgiving." It means that you are avoiding the problem, which will only hurt you in the long run. You have to put boundaries in place to keep you and your partner safe and to help rebuild trust. For some couples, this may mean that the offender should delete social media for a while (three months minimum is recommended). For others, it may mean having separate bank accounts so that your partner does not have access to your money. Sometimes, one person does not feel comfortable sleeping in the same room or even living in the same house as the person who hurt them for an agreed-upon period. This is not meant to be a punishment. Rather, it is to prevent the same situation from happening again while your partner is learning how to overcome their hurtful tendencies.
Find Freedom in Forgiveness
You cannot change your partner. And you have to come to grips with that fact. Of course, if they are truly sorry, they will work hard on changing themselves. They will need to hear what you have to say so they know what you need in the healing process. However, the best thing that you can do for your relationship is focus on your own thoughts and actions. We already talked about naming your feelings and counteracting lies with truth. However, there is one more crucial and very personal step you have to take. You should come to a place where you can forgive your partner. This does not mean you have to act as if they never hurt you. Rather, it means that you choose let go of the idea that they owe you something. You choose to let go of your urge to change them. And, in this case, you love them enough to repair the relationship despite the hurt. Forgiveness brings you the freedom to move on.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is one of the most important things you and your partner can do for each other moving forward. Interestingly, many couples have not learned to communicate the right way, even before they have a major situation like yours. So go back to the basics. Schedule a check-in at least once a week (or more frequently, if possible) to discuss what is going well and what is going poorly. Describe your feelings to each other, good and bad. Write lists and goals of what you need from each other and what you want to accomplish in your relationship. Talk about things like how you are dividing the housework and the bills. Remember, communication must be a two-way street. Communication includes talking and listening! Give your partner space to talk and make sure you fully understand what they are saying before moving on. Communication as a couple is your best friend.
This is an easy step to understand and a hard step to actually put into practice. Healing takes time. You probably want to rush through the difficult stage of figuring things out so that everything can go back to the way it was before. If this is you, I have some tough love for you: It won't go back. Your relationship will not be the same as it was before. Don't get discouraged, though. Something like this is highly likely to actually bring you closer together - especially if you are both willing to put in the effort and fight for the relationship. However, this is not a process you can rush. Grieve what you lost. Look forward to the great things you have ahead of you. But don't rush it. Live in the moment and allow yourself to take things slowly. A strong tree doesn't grow in a day, and neither does a strong relationship with deep roots. Good things take time.
Talk to a Counselor
One of the biggest mistakes a couple in your situation could make is to try to figure everything out alone. You may feel alone, but you are not. Many couples have gone through exactly what you are going through now, and were able to come out on the other side with a strong, loving, real relationship. How did they do it? They got help. It is absolutely necessary to have a third person not directly involved in the situation to give guidance and counsel. It is so helpful to have a professional teach you the right way to communicate. Plus, having a counselor is like having your own personal cheerleader. After all, you can do it. And you are not alone.
If you are looking for just such a counselor, please contact me. As a professional relationship counselor, I am ready to guide you through every step of the way.