Is it time to walk away or keep moving ahead? The key to learning how to fix a ruined relationship is to learn essential truths about restoration and reconciliation. These five signs will give you insight into your relationship, yourself, and your partner.
You may hear echoes of your own relationship in this reader’s comment: “I feel my husband and I may have outgrown each other and that our past hurts make it impossible to repair our relationship,” says Nancy on How to Fix a Broken Relationship. “We’ve had counseling but could not afford to keep going. Do you think time apart for us both to reflect on our relationship could help? He says he loves me with all his heart, but I have to change if I want to fix things. I just feel so lost, I don’t know what to do. I do not know if we’re both hanging on to a ruined relationship for the wrong reasons (ie: our daughter) or if this relationship has just become a habit. I would be grateful for any advice.”
I don’t give advice because relationships are complex, and nobody knows your relationship – or yourself – the way you do. But, I’ve learned a few things about how to fix broken relationships from the gospel. God is the source of all wisdom, power, strength, and love – and he wants restoration, reconnection, and reconciliation in relationships more than anything. If we can’t learn from Him, then who can we learn from?
If you want to fix your relationship, your foundation has to be love. Not the plastic, unrealistic, shallow Hollywood-style “love” you see in movies! Rather, your relationship has to be founded on a humble, practical, active, forgiving, deep love that keeps going even when it seems pointless. Even when it’s painful. This is the love of Jesus – and it has the power to change your life and your relationships.
“Love never gives up,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle. Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.”
5 Signs It’s Not Too Late to Fix Your Relationship
There’s no one right answer – and certainly no easy answers! Every relationship is its own story, and only you and your partner can decide how to fix a ruined relationship, reconcile with your husband after a separation, or get together after a short or long breakup.
Take heart! You’re searching for tips on how to fix a ruined relationship because you want to stay connected. That is half the battle. You may not know if it’s too late to save your relationship, but you want to try…and that is your first step. That’s your first clue that your relationship isn’t beyond repair.
1. Both you and your partner are willing to take responsibility
Nancy’s husband said he loves her, but she has to change if their marriage is to be fixed.
That’s an unhelpful, manipulative way to blame her for their relationship 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 is equally responsible for ruining their marriage.
So, one sign that it’s not too late to fix your relationship is that both you and your husband are willing and able to see the damage done. You both can take responsibility for your mistakes and weaknesses, and you’re willing to learn how to repair the damage done.
2. You and your partner are willing to talk about painful topics
“We spend more time arguing than not, and any special moment is clouded by an argument,” says Nancy. “We go for days not talking after an argument. My husband has given me the silent treatment in our relationship since before we got married, so this nothing new.”
The healthiest way to repair your relationship is to learn how to talk openly — and listen with your whole heart. You can’t rebuild and repair a ruined relationship if you don’t talk about what happened. It seems easier to ignore and repress your thoughts and emotions, but this makes relationships worse in the long run.
If your husband is emotionally unavailable or physically absent, you may feel anxious and afraid. Worried, insecure, stressed, rejected. You might be worried that your marriage has changed or that he doesn’t love you anymore.
While you’re struggling to know if it’s too late to save your relationship, remember that all couples go through periods of distance and closeness, disconnection and attachment. The only steady, reliable stream of consistent love comes from God. He pours life, love, grace, and light into our lives – if we accept Him. Humans can’t give each other this type of reliable love because we’re weak, unpredictable. Our hearts are unknowable and wild.
3. Both you and your partner are willing to learn how to forgive
Nancy said she has a hard time forgetting the offensive, unloving things her husband says to her in the heat of battle. He had a difficult childhood, and he brings that unresolved pain into their marriage. She can’t just forget about how her husband hurt her in the past. She can’t ignore the damage he’s done to her and their relationship – nor can she pretend it never happened.
One of the best signs that you can fix a damaged relationship is the willingness of both partners to learn about forgiveness and healing. If your husband refuses to forgive you – or forgive himself for ruining your relationship – then true reconciliation is
more difficult impossible.
Don’t try to change or fix your husband. Let go of the illusion that your love will emotionally fix or save your husband or boyfriend, that your emotional depth and commitment is enough to fix a ruined relationship. But, do hold tight to the fact that even though love changes and relationships get damaged sometimes, our love and knowledge of each other can increase and deepen.
If you already know that your relationship is ruined beyond repair, read How to End a Relationship When You’re Scared to Be Alone.
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4. Neither of you are looking for signs it’s too late to fix your relationship
While there is no precise formula to tell you if you can fix a ruined relationship, your heart and mindset has a powerful effect on your decisions and future. If you find yourself searching for “when it’s too late to save a relationship” and you’re kinda sorta hoping that you find an article that tells you that there’s no way to fix the damage that’s been done…then you may be setting yourself up for a breakup.
An online article or even a relationship book written by a psychologist or counselor can’t tell you if your marriage can be saved. It’s up to you and your husband: do you want to fix your marriage? Are you both committed to your relationship? Are you ready to start searching for articles and books on “how to repair a relationship” instead of “when is it too late to fix a relationship”?
Your relationship CAN be saved, if you decide to save it. No matter how you ruined it or what your husband did to damage your marriage…if you and he decide to repair your relationship, then it can be saved. It’s as simple – and as complicated! – as that.
5. You both are willing to work towards fixing your relationship
The most important sign your relationship has not suffered too much damage is you and your husband’s willingness to get to work. Saving a marriage takes time, effort, energy, and sacrifice – and it’s worth it! Learn how to talk about painful subjects without fighting, bringing up the past, shutting down, rolling your eyes, or calling each other names under your breath or at the top of your lungs.
Get specialized, focused, professional help if you are in an abusive relationship. Abuse is not in the same category as “ruined relationship.”
In 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship I several red flags of unrepairable relationships, such as:
- Your husband is emotionally or physically abusive
- You keep hoping he’ll change, but he never does
- He calls you names, or abuses your pets, children, loved ones
- 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 a ruined 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. What about you? Are you holding on to a ruined relationship because it’s easier than leaving?
Help Fixing Ruined Relationships
In The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption, Matt Chandler helps navigate relationship issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage …even Arguing. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love.
The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid – and timeless – insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. We need to learn how to love and relate to each other from healthy hearts and God-tuned spirits. Our emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word, and we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God’s design for love and intimacy. This affects how we see each other – and knowing ourselves will help us restore and fix ruined relationships.
I’m not usually a fan of quick relationship 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.
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 a ruined 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.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.