Sometimes hanging in there pays off.
If you’re going through a rough time in your relationship, it’s easy to find people who will encourage you to break things off. After all, relationships are supposed to make us happy, right? And if you’re not happy with your partner, you should find someone who will make you happy.
But the truth is, our happiness should never come from another person. No one can make us happy. And relationships take work. Anyone who says their relationship is easy and perfect and they never fight is either lying, or in deep denial. Healthy couples fight. And many times, the same issues you’re having in your relationship will come up again in the next one.
As Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says, “you can leave your marriage, you can quit your job, you can only go where people are going to praise you, you can manipulate your world until you’re blue in the face to try to make it always smooth, but the same old demons will always come up until finally you have learned your lesson, the lesson they came to teach you.”
I think about my father, who left my mother when I was just two years old, ripping apart her world, as well as mine and my brother’s, forever. When I was in my twenties, he told me that divorcing my mother was probably the worst mistake of his life. I was livid; now, after all these years, he was finally looking back in regret?
Don’t end up like my father. Here are eight signs to give your relationship a second chance…
1. Your problems aren’t insurmountable
Don’t get me wrong; there are definitely good reasons to end a relationship. Some problems can’t be fixed. If your partner is abusive, you need to get out, and keep yourself safe. If one of you wants kids and the other absolutely doesn’t, that’s a dealbreaker. Not being able to agree on big things like where to live, or what kind of lifestyle you want, might also be things you can’t resolve. Make a list of the problems you’re facing, then ask yourself honestly whether they could be solved. Maybe you’re too tired, sad, or frustrated to think about solving them right now. That’s okay. You might need a break, or a fresh start, or a good couples therapist – but if your issues have solutions, consider hanging in there.
2. You both take responsibility for what went wrong and are willing to make changes
We’ve all been in that relationship where the other person refuses to ever admit wrongdoing, or take ownership of any of the problems in your relationship. In cases like these, there’s really no point continuing to try. You’ve got to have two people who are willing to do the work, to look honestly at themselves and confront their fears and flaws head on. And you’ve both got to be willing to change. An ‘I am who I am and I’m never going to change’ attitude won’t get you anywhere. But if you both can be brave enough to slog through the mess of your own, and each other’s, issues, you’re ahead of most other couples out there. It’s a rare quality to be able to do this.
3. You’re still heartbroken after a month
No matter how heartbroken you are when your relationship ends, at some point the pain starts to let up. You feel glimmers of relief, and hope for the future. You work through the grief and do what you need to do to heal your broken heart. By the time a month is over, you can usually look back and understand why the relationship had to end, and make your peace with it. But if you’re still deeply sad and wishing things could be different after a month, you may have ended things prematurely. Getting some therapy is a great idea at this point, so you can try to figure out why you’re having such a hard time letting go. It could be that your partner is grieving too – and that your feelings for each other are still viable.
4. You’ve still got physical chemistry
A relationship that ends because you weren’t having sex anymore is probably a relationship that deserved to end. Physical chemistry isn’t something you can fake; you’ve either got it or you don’t. If you still want to kiss him whenever you see him – not to mention rip each other’s clothes off – there’s still something there. Couples counselor Mira Kirshenbaum, author of Is He Mr. Right?, says chemistry is the number one most important thing to look for in a relationship. So don’t dismiss the importance of chemistry; it’s actually not that easy to find.
5. One of you is going through a personal crisis
Relationships often fall apart when one partner is going through some type of stressful situation, whether it’s a death in the family, a job loss, a health emergency, or something else. If your partner is in the throes of a crisis, it’s not the time to make decisions about the longterm potential of your relationship. Yes, sometimes these types of crises help cement a couple’s devotion to each other. But other times, they push people apart. If you love your partner, this is the time to suck it up and be there for them. Things won’t be this hard forever; sometimes you have to walk through the fire first, and let things settle down before you abandon hope for the relationship.
6. You think finding someone better is the answer
Sure, there might be someone better out there for you. Maybe everything will be easier with that person, and you’ll never have any thorny issues to sort out. Also, maybe you’ll win the lottery and wake up tomorrow with perfect skin and bigger boobs. I’m not saying you should stay with your partner because you’re afraid you’ll never find anyone better, but think very hard about what the problems are in your relationship. Are they mostly yours, mostly his, or some combination of the two of you? Because a new person is going to have his own whole new set of issues – and you’re going to have the same ones you have now. A wise person once told me to pick the person whose flaws you can tolerate – because everyone has them. It’s simply a question of trading the devil you know for the devil you don’t.
7. You haven’t really tried
Maybe you’ve been together for a while and have been dealing with the same old issues for a long time. ‘We tried,’ you might be telling yourselves. But did you really try? Sometimes it’s not a matter of trying harder, but of trying different. A good couples therapist can help you get a new perspective on your relationship, as can taking a break to get your heads together, and then coming back together for a fresh start.
8. You still love each other
Sometimes love can’t conquer all. But if the two of you still truly love each other, and many or most of the above things are also true – you’ve got amazing sexual chemistry, your problems are fixable, you’re willing to do the work, you’re heartbroken, and you haven’t tried everything there is to try – it’s worth giving your relationship another chance. Because sometimes, love does win out in the end.
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Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.