Sometimes, it’s easy to forget this. It’s easy to let yourself feel defeated and resentful and bitter. To resort to outright fighting or passive aggressive nastiness. To blame yourself or your partner for your romantic troubles, and to start dreaming of a life apart.
There’s no escaping relationship setbacks. Doubts are inevitable. So are troubles that seem insurmountable. And nothing is more devastating than a prolonged period of relationship pain.
But if you want lasting love—if you want to avoid ‘the end’—you have to extract yourselves from every single relationship rut. You have to remain conscious at all times that difficulties will arise—no matter how much you love each other, sometimes when you least expect them—and commit to tackling them head on.
Luckily, this is not necessarily as intimidating a task as it sounds. As long as your relationship is rooted in love, you will be able to fix it.
You fix your relationship by being truthful about what went wrong. By identifying the underlying issues and addressing them rather than posting a happy couple photo to social media to make yourself feel better through phony “likes” and reassurances that you look so adorable together. The happy couple charade doesn’t last, but happiness can be yours again—as soon as you stop pretending.
You fix your relationship by being compassionate. By trying to understand your significant other, even when their actions seem beyond comprehension. You fix your relationship by choosing to forgive. By moving forward instead of assigning fault or holding grudges. By refusing to reduce yourself to self-indulgent what ifs and circular arguments about what could have or should have been.
You fix your relationship by conquering uncertainty with a heavy dose of trust, which is the antidote to doubt. Rebuild it from zero if you must, but without it love is just dust.
You fix your relationship by remembering that you chose this life—that you chose your significant other, and that they chose you. By deciding to feel grateful for crossing paths, something that happened as a result of a string of serendipitous events completely outside your control, beginning long before you were born. You fix your relationship by acknowledging how extraordinary the world is, and how small your role in it really is.
You fix your relationship by recalling how and why you fell for your partner in the first place. You can do this in many different ways. Look your partner in the eyes, or observe them silently from afar until that familiar sense of admiration sets in. Flip through old photo albums, soaking in each captured smile and tender embrace, each notable moment along the path that is your shared journey—yours and theirs and no one else’s.
You fix your relationship by reliving all your favorite memories, in your head and then again out loud. By recalling how happy your partner once made you. By conjuring your former self, and taking some of that happiness back from them if you have to. Pledge to feel giddy again, and it will happen.
You fix your relationship by demanding quality time. Five minutes lying in bed, staring at each other before reaching for your phones in the morning. Ten minutes sitting on the couch in the evening before dinner, as one of you folds laundry. You don’t need to plan a date night or wait for a special occasion to enjoy each other’s company. Steal time whenever you can.
You fix your relationship by having sex. Call it making love if you have to. Either way, your body will respond to your partner’s touch, and your brain will release hormones reminding you to associate intimacy with pleasure.
You fix your relationship by laughing—at life’s complexity, at your own hypocrisy, at a stupid joke, or a bad movie you watched together five years earlier. Laugh with each other as much as you can.
You fix your relationship by being a better person day in and day out. By waking up and embracing your best self and then setting the bar for personal growth a little bit higher. Lead by example if you have to. There’s no downside to becoming a better version of yourself.
You fix your relationship by promising to do better—together. Again and again and again. By demanding this of each other, especially when things are bleakest. Because the alternative sucks.
You fix your relationship by remembering how awesome love is, and how fortunate you are to have it right there at your fingertips. If only you’d just reach for it.