Here are a few ideas for moving past old relationship problems, inspired by a reader who commented on my article about marriage.
“My wife is unhappy and depressed, and keeps bringing up our old problems from the past,” says Ron on 5 Tips for Finding Balance in a One Sided Relationship. “I don’t want to lose my marriage or my daughters. We’ve been together since she was 15 and I was 17, high school sweethearts. We have had our ups and downs in our relationship dealing with infidelity on both sides, but honestly more on my side. I have lately noticed a void between us and asked her about it and she openly admitted that she had a crush on a co-worker for a few years. I found out that she had been flirting and talking about sex with her crush through messenger, text and at work.”
He says that he confronted her, and she immediately brought up the past. “How I cheated on her, physically abused her once, how I am addicted to gaming, ignore the needs of our children, and my past irresponsibility with bills,” he says. “We got over these problems and they were supposed to be in the past. I am a completely different man, heading into my 30’s. I messed up in the past and I am now suffering from watching her fall in love with another man. She looks at him like she used to look at me. She told me once that she loved me but, she wasn’t in love with me. What can I do to fix my relationship/marriage or is all lost?”
I can’t say if Ron’s marriage can be saved, but I do have a few thoughts on moving past our problems…
Moving Past Your Old Relationship Problems
In most marriages and long-term relationships, we deal with the same old problems over and over. For me and my husband, it’s my hesitation to be myself and say what I really think, and his occasional tendency to snap at me in irritation.
So we have the same old discussion over and over: I need to be myself without fear of how he’ll respond, and he needs to respond authentically without worrying about hurting my feelings. So, we haven’t really moved past our old problems…we’re aware they exist and we discuss them openly and honestly.
Your past relationship problems are a bit more complicated. In one sentence, you mentioned infidelity, abuse, addiction, neglect, and financial problems. Those issues are difficult to accept and live with – and I think they require help from a professional counselor or marriage therapist, especially if you’ve been stuck in the past for years. There are too many relationship problems muddying the waters of your current relationship, and you need help sorting through all the complicated emotions and reactions.
Work together to move past your past
You said you want to fix your marriage, and I respect and admire that.
However, does your wife want the same thing? Does she want to move past your past problems and rebuild your marriage, or does she want to let go of the marriage? If she’s ready to let go, then there’s not much you can do to fix your marriage.
If your wife wants to call it quits because the past problems are too much to cope with, I encourage you to get counseling for yourself, so you can get as emotionally healthy and strong as possible. Do it for your daughters, and for your future relationships.
For three specific ways to move past your old relationship problems, read How to Get Relationship Help.
I welcome your thoughts on how to move past your old problems, but I can’t offer advice. You might find it helpful to share your experience; writing often brings insight and clarity to our problems.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.