Relationships break apart for all sorts of reasons, including unresolved conflicts, unmet needs, unrealistic expectations, etc. However, most couples don't know how to fix a broken relationship. Therefore, once their relationship is broken they feel hopeless and like there's no point in trying to repair things. Actually, there's a lot of reasons to repair things and there are specific techniques to do so. This post highlights five steps to take to start fixing your relationship today.
How to Fix A Broken Relationship - 5 Steps
Step #1: Understand Attachment
Step one is understanding attachment. If you have kids, you probably have learned about attachment. Attachment theory says if you meet your child's needs sensitively and consistently they will develop a sense of trust that the world is a safe place. And vice versa. If you don't meet your child's needs sensitively and consistently it will lead to a sense of mistrust, where the world is not a safe place. Each of us have a different level of attachment growing up. Some of have secure attachments because we had a caregiver who lovingly tuned into our signals and met our needs. However, others of us have insecure attachments because we had a caregiver who didn't tune into our signals and didn't meet our needs.
Step #2: Understand Impact of Attachment on Marriage
We all enter marriage with different attachment styles. If you had a secure attachment growing up then you'll enter marriage with a high level of trust, which makes you comfortable with closeness and you'll assume the best in your partner. If you had an insecure attachment growing up then you'll enter marriage with a low level of trust, which makes you uncomfortable with closeness and you'll assume the worst in your partner. Therefore, each partner has a different starting point of trust they enter marriage with.
Step #3: Understand How Marriage Impacts Attachment
How you experience your partner in marriage will make your trust go up or down, regardless of what attachment style you had growing up. For example, partner A enters marriage with low trust because they had an insecure attachment growing up. However, they marry someone who lovingly tunes into their signals and meets their needs and through the years they become more comfortable with closeness and their trust increases. The opposite can also be true. Partner B enters marriage with high trust because they had a secure attachment growing up. However, they marry someone who ignores their signals and doesn't meet their needs and through the years they become uncomfortable with closeness and their trust decreases. Therefore, how you interact with your partner will greatly influence how much they develop trust and attachment with you, regardless of their background.
Step #4: Heal Resentments
If you're curious how to fix a broken relationship, it's vital to heal resentments. Resentment create insecure attachments because they are usually the result of your needs not being met sensitively and consistently. I recommend working through resentment and conflict resolution in marriage using the Reunite Tool. The Reunite Tool will show you how to start with your partner's progress, then comment on how their upbringing and circumstances may have impacted their hurtful behavior, then how you may have contributed to their hurtful behavior and how their behavior may be stirring up a wound from your past. Finally, you make the complaint focusing on your tender underbelly feelings (sad, hurt, lonely, scared, etc.) and your core need under the complaint. Your partner listening will then summarize the complaint to ensure they heard it correctly, discern what part of the complaint they can own without excuses, empathize with how they made you feel, apologize for how they made you feel, then suggest ideas on how to make things right moving forward. You have to effectively work through resentments in this way to bring back a sense of trust in the relationship.
Step #5: Respond To Bids
In marriage, we give bids to get our needs met. Perhaps one of your needs is emotional closeness so you make a bid asking your partner if you could have some quality conversation. Or, perhaps one of your needs is sexual intimacy so you make a bid asking your partner if they would like to get frisky. Or, perhaps one of your needs is to feel appreciated so you make a bid asking your partner if they've noticed all the hard work you've done around the house. When you make bids, you hope your partner responds to them sensitively and consistently. If they do it builds a sense of trust and secure attachment because your needs are met. See the similarity between childhood and marriage with attachment? In both stages of life if your needs are met sensitively and consistently then trust and attachment increases. Likewise, if your needs aren't met sensitively and consistently then trust and attachment decreases. So, if you're wondering how to fix a broken relationship, one of the best things to do is start responding positively to your partner's bids. Do you know what your partner's bids are? Do you know what needs their bids come from? Are you watching for their bids? Do you respond sensitively and consistently to their bids? Also, remember to meet your partner's bids in a way that also works for you. For example, if your partner makes a bid for intercourse and you're not up for it, you could respond with "how about a raincheck and tomorrow morning we can have sex instead" or "I'm not open to intercourse tonight but I'd be willing to give and receive oral sex." You never want to meet your partner's bids in a way that makes you suffer or it won't be sustainable and it could build resentment. Therefore, always think of how to meet their bids in a way that also works for you.
In summary, if you're wondering how to fix a broken relationship, you need to understand attachment theory, how everyone enters marriage with different attachment styles, how marriage can make your attachment style more or less secure, practice the Reunite Tool to heal resentments, then practice responding to your partner's bids sensitively and consistently in a way that also works for you.
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What else would you recommend for couples wondering how to fix a broken relationship?