How to save a relationship that’s struggling (and when it’s best to let it go)


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No matter how strong a relationship may be, you’re bound to hit a few rough patches along the way. These issues can show up in a number of ways including infidelity, a cycle of being on-again and off-again that feels endless, a lack of fun between the sheets, or perhaps a situation that’s become downright toxic. All of these examples (and countless others) may leave you wondering both how to save a relationship that’s struggling and whether doing so is even the best course of action.

The good news is experts say there are ways to discern whether you have reason to stick around, and there are also strategies you can call upon to restore the health of your partnership that’s currently struggling. Keep reading for signs that a relationship is in trouble in the first place, how to know when letting go is the best course of action, and then get tips for how to save a relationship and restore its status to healthy.

How to know when to save a relationship and went to let go

Although optimism always gets a gold star, the truth is that not all relationships are meant to be saved. Before deciding how you’ll proceed, it’s important to first get clear on whether your relationship is worth saving or whether it’s best for you and your partner to go your separate ways.

There are a few key components to take into consideration when making your decision about whether or not to continue the relationship, and love isn’t one of them. “Love is obviously important, but it is not enough,” says dating and relationship coach Laurel House.

What is important is the health (or lack thereof) of the relationship. “If you ever feel physically or psychologically threatened, these are red flags that you should not ignore,” says well-being consultant Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, co-author of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts. “Leaving the relationship is vital to your safety and well-being, and that of your kids if you have any, in these situations.”

Ensuring your partner supports your needs and core values is also important. “If you feel that you are compromising your core values and morals, this is another reason why leaving the relationship rather than trying to fix things might be a better choice for your overall health and happiness,” Pawelski says.

And, of course, both partners have to have a willingness to save the relationship. If one person has already mentally and emotionally checked out and shows no desire to repair the relationship, then it’s probably time to end things.

Signs of a struggling relationship

Here are nine signs your relationship is at risk:

  1. You (or your partner) stop showing up as your best self in the relationship.
  2. You (or your partner) make excuses for each other and hide the truth from friends and family.
  3. You (or your partner) would rather do anything else but spend time with each other.
  4. You make each other feel unworthy or not good enough.
  5. You sacrifice being true to yourself for the sake of your partner and to avoid conflict.
  6. You don’t like who you are when you’re with your partner.
  7. You (or your partner) lose yourself in your relationship. You no longer have a sense of self.
  8. You stopped engaging in activities that once brought you joy.
  9. You don’t spend time with friends.

How to save a relationship

1. Work on yourselves as individuals first

In order to save and strengthen a relationship, both partners need to do their own inner work. “It’s important for both individuals to work on themselves and connect with their core values and strengths,” Pawelski says. “Lead with curiosity by creating an open space where you can both be honest with one another. Only then can you work together as a couple to try to strengthen your relationship.”

2. Fight better

Although it may sound counterintuitive to fight if you’re trying to heal and strengthen your relationship, House says arguing can be a perfectly healthy thing to do. The key, she caveats, is to do it the right way. This looks like communicating in an open, honest way that will bring you closer together versus lashing out and blaming each other, which will only drive you further apart.

3. Express gratitude for the little things

“It’s the littlest things that give breath to the relationship,” House says. Therefore, it’s important to express your appreciation for the little things your partner does. This can take shape in any number of wasy, such as taking out the trash, making coffee, or sending you a sweet text message. And not just once in a while, but daily. House suggests making this a nightly ritual and saying thank you for one small thing you each did that day.

4. Savor your time together

Acknowledging and truly savoring the time you spend with your partner and not taking it for granted is another strategy that can help save a relationship. And not just the big moments, like vacations or birthdays, but all the little daily moments, too, like watching TV together or making dinner at home. Be fully present, and soak up that quality time.

5. Do monthly check-ins

Relationships require maintenance, which is why regular check-ins can be helpful. To do this, House suggests sitting down together for a calm and honest conversation about how your relationship is doing. Cover all areas, such as communication, intimacy, parenting, and finances. “By addressing potential problems early on, you are able to fix them before they break you and simultaneously expand and deepen your true emotional intimacy and connection,” House says.

6. Celebrate each other

Although being there for each other through the tough stuff is an important part of the relationship, so too is celebrating each other’s achievements. “Often we are barely listening when our partner shares something good with us,” Pawelski says. “We may unintentionally dismiss it by not paying attention, going back to reading the paper, perhaps, or changing the subject. These behaviors are just as bad as directly saying something negative about our partner’s good news.” So when your S.O. gets home, beaming with good news to share, put down your phone and give them the attention they deserve.

7. Stay curious about your partner

Reigniting a spark or restoring a state of emotional health to a relationship can be as simple as taking an interest in one another. “In the beginning of a relationship, it seems to be easy to be curious about our partner and focus on the positive,” Pawelski says. “However, later in the relationship when the newness fades, we often mistakenly think we know all there is to know about our partner. We stop asking questions, and we fall into a rut.” So, by simply showing your curiosity for one another, you’ll be able to stay focused on what’s going well and what’s really not.

Other relationship conundrums? Here, experts answer whether flirting can constitute cheating. And here’s how long a relationship break should be in order for it to serve its purpose.

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