5 Signs It’s Too Late to Fix Your Relationship
Is it time to walk away or work harder on your relationship? Here are five ways to know if it’s too late to fix a relationship that is faltering, but not quite dead yet.
I’m not usually a fan of quick fixes, but Snap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls by Dr. Lana Staheli and Pepper Schwartz is a fascinating alternative to hours of talking about relationship problems. It’s an alternative approach to the typical relationship advice that says every issue has to be talked about at length. This book also challenges the notion that partners need to understand each other’s every motivation and thought process. Instead, these relationship tips get right to the daily difficulties that cause the fights, addressing unhelpful behaviors and giving solutions to move past them.
I wrote these “signs it’s too late to fix your relationship” for a reader. “I now feel we have maybe out grown each other and that too much hurt makes it impossible to repair things,” says N. on How to Fix a Broken Relationship. “We’ve had counseling but could not afford to keep it up. Do you think that some time apart for us both to reflect on things could help? He says he loves me with all his heart but I have to change for things to work. I just feel so lost, I don’t know what to do. I do not know if we’re both hanging on for the wrong reasons (ie: our daughter) or if this relationship has just become a habit. I would be grateful for any advice.”
I can’t offer you the same advice as a book or marriage counselor can, but I can give you something to think about…
5 Signs It’s Too Late to Fix Your Relationship
There’s no one right answer – and certainly no easy answers. But, there are a few signs that can help you decide if it’s time to throw in the towel…
1. One partner refuses to take responsibility
N’s husband said that he loves her, but she has to change for them to repair their relationship. That’s an unhelpful, manipulative way to blame her for their marriage problems. While I don’t know her husband’s perspective, I do know that an unhealthy marriage is almost never one person’s fault. He’s just as responsible for the state of their marriage as she is.
So, one possible sign that a relationship can’t be repaired is that one partner doesn’t own up at all. I’m not saying N’s relationship is beyond repair, I’m just giving her something to think about.
2. Both partners can’t or won’t talk about their arguments
“We spend more time arguing than not, and any special moment is clouded by an argument,” says N. “We go for days not talking after an argument.” The healthiest way to repair your marriage is to talk! You can’t rebuild and reconnect if you don’t talk about it. You can ignore and repress your thoughts and emotions, but you won’t be repairing anything. You’ll be making things worse.
If your husband is emotionally or physically difficult to reach, you may feel anxious or afraid. You might be worried that your relationship has changed or that he doesn’t love you anymore. While you’re struggling to decide if your relationship can be fixed, remember that all couples go through periods of distance and closeness, disconnection and attachment.
One of the most important tips on how to love someone who is emotionally unavailable is to stop trying to change or fix him. Let go of the illusion that your love will open your husband or boyfriend up, that your emotional depth and commitment is enough to save your relationship. Hold tight to the fact that even though love changes, you can change with it! You can discern whether your relationship is worth fighting for, and you can take steps to rebuild your love.
3. One or both partners can’t forgive or forget
N. mentioned that she has a hard time forgetting the nasty things her husband says to her in the heat of the battle. He had a rough childhood, and he’s bringing it into their marriage. And, she can’t just gloss over his words and actions, or pretend they never happened.
If you can’t forgive or forget, but know you don’t want to repair your relationship, read How to End a Relationship When You’re Scared to Be Alone.
4. You are looking for external signs it’s too late for relationship repair
There is no formula or absolute way to determine that it’s too late to repair your relationship. There are not “for sure” signs a relationship can’t be fixed. Every marriage — no matter how healthy or happy — has stuff that needs to be worked on. Don’t look at these few signs and decide that your relationship is beyond saving. Instead, focus on what you really want out of your life. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our short-term comfort for long-term gain…and it’s almost always worth it.
The other important factor is your and your partner’s willingness to do the work it takes to fix your relationship. Can you talk without fighting, bringing up the past, shutting down, or calling each other names? Or maybe your relationship is just silent and dead. Those aren’t good signs, but they don’t necessarily mean it’s over.
5. You won’t take time to assess your relationship
In Is It Time to Break Up? How to Know for Sure, I list four signs you can’t fix your relationship with your boyfriend:
- He is emotionally abusive
- You keep hoping he’ll change but he never does
- He doesn’t talk about his feelings
- You feel unhappy and alone in your relationship
I also share a “relationship inventory” that can help you figure out the status of your relationship. A relationship inventory requires you to sit down and think about your relationship.
A relationship inventory might include these questions:
- What aren’t you getting from your relationship?
- What are your getting from your relationship – what is good about it?
- Is your boyfriend meeting all, most, some, or none of your needs?
- Are you meeting all, most, some, or none of your boyfriend’s needs?
- Are you expecting your boyfriend to make you happy? (this is a mistake)
- How does your boyfriend keep you safe?
- How would you feel if you knew you couldn’t fix your relationship?
- What are you not willing to do to change your own behavior towards your boyfriend?
- Why are you searching for tips on how to know if you should break up with your boyfriend?
I don’t think it’s wise to overanalyze a decision. But, I do believe that if you really want to know for sure it’s time to break up, you need to think carefully about your own expectations and behavior in your relationship. That’s what a personal inventory can help you do.
A relationship inventory is especially helpful if your boyfriend takes time to do his own inventory – and if you can do a relationship inventory together. That might help you learn if you can fix your relationship as a couple.
Quick tips for fixing your relationship:
- Find free sources of counseling, such as though churches or nonprofit organizations.
- Ask counselors if they know of free marriage resources.
- Be honest about your inability to pay for marriage help, but your need for it. Some counselors and organizations will waive their fees for people who can’t afford it.
- Read books about healthy marriages – together.
Sometimes, you know in your gut that your relationship is beyond repair, but you can’t accept it. I’ve been there – I’ve stayed in awful relationships because it seemed easier than leaving.
Help Fixing a Relationship by Choosing Love
In Choosing Love: Moving from Ego to Essence in Relationships, Gina Lake shares profound insights and practical advice for on how to fix a relationship by letting go of your preconceived ideas and judgments. She describes how to move beyond your ego and conditioning, and create a richer, more loving life for yourself and those you care about. You have the power to determine how much love you experience in any given moment.
In Choosing Love, Lake also discusses how the ego interferes with love and happiness – it’s fascinating how our psyches directly affect our relationships! She shares tips for moving beyond romantic illusions; recognizing, finding, and sustaining a meaningful relationship; overcoming anger, judgments, criticism, and resentment; resolving issues like infidelity, money, commitment, sexual differences; and seeing the Divine in another.
Also, I wrote 13 Ways to Get Money to Leave Your Husband for a reader who is scared to leave a 30 year old marriage. She has no way to support herself, no job, no friends. If you’re in the same boat, you’re not alone — but you CAN survive on your own.
I welcome your thoughts on how to know if it’s too late to fix your relationship. I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you figure out what to do next.