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Can relationships be fixed?

Can relationships be fixed?

Let’s have a look at relationships that have gone sour. I’m speaking particularly to people who are in one right now and struggling with it, or want to understand a recent breakup. I’ll try to be honest with you about what can be salvaged and what just needs to come to an end.

Relationships can be hard, even when you’re in a good relationship you’ll have hard times. I have been married for seven years. We’ve had our fair share of hard times, from external problems like immigration issues because we live in different countries, to internal problems like losing our connection when we focused in on having a child for the first time.

There are hard times in relationships. But some of these are deal breakers and some of them just trials that are going to make you even stronger. Let’s have a look at why relationships fail and what you can do about it.

 


 

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Full transcript

Can relationships be fixed? Let’s have a look at relationships that have gone sour. I’m speaking particularly to people who are in one right now and struggling with it, or want to understand a recent breakup. I’ll try to be honest with you about what can be salvaged and what just needs to come to an end.

Relationships can be hard, even when you’re in a good relationship. My wife and I have hard times. We’ve been married for seven years, we’ve had our fair share of hard times, from external problems like immigration issues because we live in different countries, through to internal problems like losing our connection when we focused in on having a child for the first time.

There are hard times in relationships, but some of these are deal breakers and some of them just trials that are going to make you even stronger.

Why relationships fail

I think divorce statistics are really helpful here, because it’s not just about divorces, it’s long term relationships. I’m pretty sure they fail for the same reasons – divorces are where it’s recorded. So here are the top reasons why people get divorced.

  • An unbalanced investment. You feel like your partner’s not putting the work into the relationship.
  • Infidelity, cheating and betrayal.
  • Financial stress and financial problems between the couple.
  • Addiction issues.
  • Communication issues.
  • Intimacy and sex issues.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Growing apart over time.
  • Getting married too young.
  • Serious health issues.

Let’s try and pull all of those apart to see how you could fix the relationship if these issues are coming up.

Unbalanced investment

Usually this is recorded percentage wise as being the biggest reason for a divorce. It’s where one partner feels like the other one is not putting in the same amount of work and isn’t as interested in keeping the marriage going, and it feels very one sided.

This is where it’s really good to look at attachment styles. Because odds are what you’ve got going on is one person is an avoidant, and the other person is an anxious, and the anxious ones doing all the work.

Anxious attachment people tend to have this problem of desperately trying to keep a relationship going for years and years. And then they finally give up and just snap, go cold, and just divorce or breakup, like: Ddon’t talk to me ever again, you’re not getting the kids. This sudden turn around is what they use to protect themselves from the suffering.

And the avoidance is just going Oh, I thought we were fine, because they just been keeping their distance the whole time which makes them feel comfortable.

The investment in the relationship should be a regular discussion. The sense of fairness, the sense of commitment, the sense of paying attention to each other and caring about each other’s lives, should be a discussion that’s regularly had. And corrections need to be made when there’s a sense of imbalance.

This is where boundaries come in. You should have clear, explicit spoken boundaries about what a balanced investment in your relationship looks like. From who pays for things to what it means to listen well, to who has what responsibilities with the children, to whose turn is it to put out the fucking garbage. These should be regular, consistent conversations, and most importantly, the meta conversation about how you feel about all of it, if we feel like the relationship is fair.

This doesn’t mean you need to do the same. It doesn’t mean that you will share 50% of every task. Just overall it feels like you’re each doing 50% of the total work.

And if you’re the person who’s doing all the work and you’re not getting reciprocation, they don’t even want to talk about it, or they will they talk about but they don’t do anything: Break up, at least temporarily.

That’s going to be my advice on a lot of these points. A lot of relationships that are in trouble need a reset. Many people don’t understand that a breakup would be healthy. And it’s like an indefinite breakup, you might get back together, that’s still on the cards, but only after changes. And people often will not take your boundaries seriously if they’re just meaningless powerless words.

It’s amazing. It actually breaks my heart how often I’m working with couples and I just keep telling the one who’s struggling the most to break up with them. It’s in their best interest. You want to spark the flame in them. You want them to suddenly get clear on what matters. So give them something to lose.

Because if they know that you’re just gonna complain but stay, where’s the motivation? They’re just complacently stuck in their fears. Break up with them and they’ll think, Shit, now I get to figure out how much this actually means to me because I’ve lost my partner!

Infidelity

I recommend an immediate breakup, and then a conversation about what significant measurable behavioral changes would need to occur on both sides for you to get to a clean slate, where trust is no longer an issue.

Now there will be multiple conversations. The person being cheated on needs to be able to say this is what I need to see from you to feel safe that you’re never going to cheat again. Not just your words, but changes in behavior. And whoever did the cheating needs to talk about the build up. What kind of resentment did you build up, and why? How did you get to the point where you thought it was okay to do this to your partner? What would they need to change, or what would need to change about your dynamic together so that you never get to that place again?

And you stay broken up until you both feel that you’ve changed enough to start a new relationship on new terms.

Financial stress

Most importantly, it needs to be a normal conversation for you to have about the sharing of the finances. Both of you should know where every dollar is, even if you both don’t have equal power over it. It’s not being poor that gives you problems necessarily, but not being a team and working on those problems together.

So there should be multiple conversations. You should be talking at least on a monthly basis, if not more frequently, about your finances, what you plan to do with them, how are you going to solve financial problems together, and so on. And there needs to be a buy in and shared power arrangement of your own making. It doesn’t have to be a set thing that other people use. But the one that works for the two of you, your personalities, your preferences.

Like I say, most importantly is you constantly have conversations about money. The reason most people get into financial problems is they just don’t want to look at it, they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want to think about it. And so they let their money run wild without any supervision. And that’s how they get in problems.

Addiction issues

Real simple: break up, get clean, then get back together.

Communication issues

Ironically, this might be one of the biggest problems but also the easiest to fix because you can always develop better communication skills.

There’s lots of free resources on the internet on how to talk to each other. You can get coaching or therapy with someone like me to develop communication between each other. You can work on the concept of powerful honesty become more honest and more assertive with each other. There’s just so much resources out there.

The only thing I’d say is you really have to work on it together. Any communication issues should be immediately seen as 50/50. Even if one person is just stonewalling and the other person is trying their best to connect, well, this person is still being needy. Right? So they’re both doing something. There’s a reason this person is stonewalling, there’s something that they’re resistant to. So it’s never one sided.

Any problems in a relationship are essentially 50/50. Why do I say that? Because you could always leave. So if nothing else, you’re staying in it, you’re condoning it, even if you’re not that problem. Look up things like radical honesty, nonviolent communication, anything that will help you guys talk to each other better or more.

 


 

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Intimacy issues

Specifically in the bedroom. This is a real classic one for nice guys, especially because it’s around initiating and risk of rejection that they have such hang ups about. And it can be a really deep issue.

So you might think that sex is the issue, but sex is the symptom of the issue. That’s the main way you need to look at it. If you guys have problems in the bedroom, look elsewhere for the cause of those problems. There are going to be emotional problems, there are going to be boundary problems, most likely, there’s going to be a polarity problem with masculine and feminine. .

These days the concepts of masculine and feminine just been sort of dragged through the dust. A lot of people are getting into passive relationships where there’s no tension and spark. It doesn’t even matter which of you is masculine and which of you is feminine. In fact, you can change roles in a given time. You can be the person who’s meek and mild the rest of the week, but the dominant one in the bedroom, it doesn’t matter. As long as there’s always the polarity, as long as always one of us is one and the other is the other. Sexual tension and sexual thrill is a result of that.

So if you have problems in the bedroom, start asking polarity questions: who’s the man of the house? Whether it’s male or female, doesn’t matter. Is somebody being passive rather than feminine? Is somebody being submissive rather than masculine?

Look at where else are you’re struggling, that makes both of you just either not want to have sex or make it such a big deal.

Domestic Violence

It’s not quite black and white. I’d say if you’ve been fine mostly and you just had a one off violent episode, then you can work on that together in therapy. But anyone who’s ongoing with violence and uses violence to solve problems, just break up with them.

Really, there’s 7 billion people in the world out there, you can find one who’s at least not violent!

Growing apart

This is a really insidious one because it happens at a micro level that you can’t see, and consolidates into a huge gap later on. So like a sniper adjusting his scope aim three millimeters here and he’s three kilometers off when he hits the target.

So you want to think about your growth as something that’s constantly happening, and therefore you need to be doing it together if you want to stay together. Shared self development is the key here.

Right now, my wife is doing a new kind of diet nutrition plan. It’s really for women, but I’m doing it with her so that our health and nutrition doesn’t get too far apart, so that we’re working on meals and health together.

Sharing your financial goals. Let’s say you want to go to a workshop, at least go to the same workshop. Say you want hobbies, at least both be doing hobbies and talking about them together and going to each other’s competitions and shows to watch. Be involved in each other’s life.

You don’t have to do all the same stuff, but should still be you’re coming at it as a couple. There should always at least be a cheerleader and a participant.

Health issues

Usually this means that one partner has chronic health issues, and the other partner becomes like a kind of caregiver role. And that can kill the romance and create a lot of stress and all sorts of other problems. It can basically create all of the other problems we’re talking about.

It needs significant boundaries around your roles. You can’t just slip into becoming the person’s nurse or the person’s therapist. You’ve got to always remember, you’re their partner. And you got to have a clear idea between the two of you what that means; what it is and what isn’t.

So if somebody has serious mental health issues, you’re not their psychologist, you’re not the therapists. You’re supportive, you’re loving, you’re the safe place they come home to, but they should not be working through their issues with you. If somebody has severe physical illness, you’re not a doctor, you’re not a nurse. You can bring them soup or help with their bandages, but it should be medical professionals that give them the medical help.

Of course, regardless of boundaries, your role is going to change a bit. It’s just like becoming a parent, suddenly you’re pushing a baby around in a stroller – you weren’t doing that before. There’s certain behaviors that will change even if you’re staying in the partner role. And you’ve got to come to peace with those changes. Stop hoping that they will become something different. Stop hoping this is temporary. Stop allowing yourself to get into their narrative of “this is somebody else’s problem” accompanied by “I have to do this”, or feeling guilty that you feel that way and so on.

Being with this partner means being with someone who has this chronic illness. I have to accept that my new role as partner includes these activities. I have to make my peace with that. It is not a temporary thing – that is being in a partnership. So I’ve got to decide, is it worth it? And if it is, then I am signing off on it, no complaints.

And make sure of course, if you’re the supporting person, that you have “me time”, that you kind of go away and do your own things so you don’t feel trapped by the other person’s needs. And if you’re the sick one, make sure that you access outside support and give your partner a break so you don’t feel guilty about burdening them.

And make sure you’re both constantly talking about any of the issues that come up.

What relationships won’t make it

I’ll finish by just being honest about the kind of relationships I think are irreconcilable; I think you should just break up and move on.

When the resentment has gotten so bad that it’s now contempt; that is, you look down your partner, you see them as less than you, inferior. The John Hopkins University has studied this in excessive detail. And they’ve said, there’s four horsemen of divorce. The main one is Contempt. If you resent your partner so much that you look down on them, there’s basically no coming back from that.

Relationships without trust leading to paranoia. If you just can’t bring yourself to let your partner behave out of sight and trust that they’re doing the right thing, and just nothing changes that, no work you guys do changes that paranoia, then you shouldn’t be together. Because it’s just going to be poison for both of you. Ironically, the more you’re paranoid about somebody doing something, the more likely they are to do it – self fulfilling prophecy – you force them into it.

Relationships without sex. I don’t buy into the idea of asexuality that much. To be honest, I think there are a few people out there but I imagine it’s less than point 0.1% of the population. I think that if you’re not having sex as much as you’re technically able to (I know it’s hard with kids and stuff, trust me, I know), if there’s a reluctance, if there’s plenty of opportunities to have sex and you’re not doing it and you don’t want to change that, you don’t want to work on that, then why don’t you just downgrade to having a friendship and allow yourself to go and have sexual partnerships elsewhere?

Narcissists. Now the word gets way overused these days. Not everyone’s a narcissist just because they disagree with you or because they’re a bit mean to you. But someone with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or someone with antisocial personality disorder are basically incapable of having loving relationships. Even the ones that are really self aware and going to get therapy about it and so on are still going to really struggle to be loving in any sort of genuine way. It’s like having a pet crocodile and thinking that they love you. They don’t; you’re just food to them, move on and find someone else.

As I’ve already mentioned, significant domestic violence or drug abuse – any really bad behavior that might not necessarily be sort of in the relationship but affects it, and the person’s just not showing signs of change. I don’t mean promising they’ll change, I mean actually improving their behavior in a measurable way consistently over time. If nothing else, breaking up might be the catalyst that provokes them into change. But staying there hoping it will get better? No, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior unless somebody makes big changes.

And then we came to people getting married too young. What I’d say is you’ve got to be sure of who you really are before commitment, before you get into long term relationships. Right? People get married too young assess themselves, probably they don’t even know who the fuck they are. And when they figure it out, they go, Oh, this isn’t the partner I want or need, or I hate staying in this hometown and doing this tiny thing isn’t the kind of life I want to lead. That’s why I really quite support the idea of waiting at least until you’re in the 30s before you consider marriage, and being in a long term relationship with someone for years and years before you consider getting married. Or at least a few years of intensely honest communication.

There’s no need to rush into marriage into a commitment to reassure that you’ve tried everything there is you want to try and this is the best option.

How you can make massive progress in just a few months!

You can do all this on your own.

Through trial and error, books, courses and online content, you can figure it out slowly piece by piece over time if you dedicate yourself to it and are willing to fail often and get uncomfortable in order to achieve social mastery and build strong self confidence.

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

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