Let’s talk about that ONE relationship in your life causing you the most problems.
Because that sounds fun, right? 😉
In all seriousness, you can work on and fix any broken relationship in your life.
It’s totally available to you.
Before I show you exactly how to do it, I want to share with you the real problem…
If you want to listen instead of read, here’s the podcast episode that goes along with this post — Fixing A Broken Relationship.
When you think you have a bad, broken, or troubled relationship there is a story you’re telling about what happened.
It could be something like, your spouse was unfaithful in your marriage, or someone said to your face that they didn’t like you. Or it could be something smaller and several events that happened over time where someone made you feel really unsupported. Or it feels like you have needs that aren’t met. Or the person is doing things that you think make it very hard to love them.
Anything. I’m sure this isn’t too hard to imagine.
The bottom line is things happen. And you have a story about what happened.
That story causes you to feel some sort of negative emotion like disappointment, frustration, humiliation, or heartbreak.
Whatever the case may be, your relationship is having a problem — big or small.
Without doing this work (without having a life coach), you think it’s the other person who is causing you this pain.
Sign up here if you’re interested in joining my Life Coaching Program, Grow You.
This is WRONG.
Really what’s happening is that we cause our own pain based on the story we tell.
Then we get disempowered because we blame someone else for how we feel.
But remember, you always cause your own feelings. Your thoughts cause your feelings.
Here are the best resources on how your thoughts cause your feelings:
- How To Coach Yourself (podcast)
- 7 Steps To Fix Your Mindset (blog post)
- Personal Development Master Class (free training)
All of this is actually great news because it means you have the power to fix the relationship.
Now, let’s talk about how…
Here are the steps to take to fix any relationship in your life…
1. Get Clear On The Facts
First up is to identify the facts.
This sounds obvious, but so often we don’t do this.
We make it messy.
The facts are simple. They’re boring.
I want you to get really clear on what happened exactly. Separate out the facts from your thoughts about the facts. Write it down.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say your spouse charged $5,000 on your credit card and didn’t tell you.
So you would write down the facts — “Spouse charged $5,000 on credit card. Spouse did not tell me.”
These are the facts. From them, you can’t tell whether “good” or “bad.”
The next thing I want you to do is to ask yourself, why is this a problem?
Ask other questions like, what are you making it mean? Why is this a problem? Your answer (thought) might be that your spouse is ruining your financial future. They are someone you can’t trust.
Your answer is what your thought is about the circumstance.
Do this without judgment. Use what I call “compassion and curiosity“.
Now I want you to identify the feeling that thought is causing. So ask yourself — How does it feel when I think this thought?
Maybe that feeling is: devastated.
The negative emotions you have are from what you’re making the circumstance mean.
You always create your emotions. No one else can jump inside you and create them.
It doesn’t mean you don’t want to be devastated; it just means you take responsibility for how you feel.
Here’s how to do that…
2. Take Responsibility For Your Feelings
What’s typically happening when we think that our relationship is broken is that we think our needs aren’t being met. And we think they are the ones causing us to feel pain.
But when you break it down and get really clear on the facts you see that it’s really just your interpretation of the events that are creating your negative emotion.
The key is that you take responsibility for how you feel.
When you’re in this state of a troubled relationship, identify the exact emotion you’re feeling.
It’s not enough to say you’re “hurt.” Instead say, “I’m feeling disappointed.” Then you have something to go off. You know that you’re the one causing you to feel disappointed.
You’re thinking a thought that’s creating that feeling.
It doesn’t mean you have to change it! You just have to take responsibility for the emotion. Then once the emotion passes and once you allow that emotion, you can decide on purpose what you want to do about it.
If you want to change how you feel, all you have to do is change your thought about it. It’s simple. Not easy.
Think about what the person did. Then decide to tell a completely different story about it.
When you take responsibility for how you feel, you actually have the authority to change it.
Here are more of my favorite resources for feelings:
- Why Emotions Matter (And How To Feel Better) (podcast)
- How To Process Negative Emotions (YouTube video)
- What To Do When Something Sucks (podcast)
- Problems Are Forever (And How To Make It Better) (blog post)
- Why Feelings Matter (YouTube video)
3. Practice Unconditional Love
Once you’ve taken responsibility for how you feel, the third step is to decide on purpose to practice unconditional love.
We’re very confused about love.
Love doesn’t come from outside of you.
Love is a feeling caused by your thinking and it’s 100% available for you to feel anytime you want.
Choose love, and commit to it for YOU, not the other person.
Why? Because YOU get to feel the love. And love feels amazing.
This is choosing love on purpose and this is a skill that you can get good at.
Here are more resources on love that will help you with this:
- 11 Ways To Practice Self Love (blog post)
- Self Love And Romantic Love (podcast)
- How To Practice Self Love (YouTube video)
Unconditional love does not mean yes. It might mean no.
You can love someone and say no. In fact, that’s often what can happen.
I like to say, “I love you and no.”
So instead of looking for the separation, look for the connection and ask, “what would love do?” (Side note: listen to my podcast about Separation vs. Connection for more on this.)
This is powerful because if you can love someone who is hard for you to love, you’re growing as a person, taking responsibility for how you feel, and learning to becoming an emotional adult (instead of an emotional child).
4. Be Aware And Honest About What You Want
The fourth step is to become aware of what you want and be honest about it.
You have wants and that’s totally okay. A lot of times we judge ourselves for what we want.
There is no right or wrong. But most people think what they want is right. People just want different things. This is okay!
It’s really important that you communicate what it is you want to your partner.
One word of caution though…
Be aware of WHY you want what you want. If what you want is from insecurity, it won’t matter what the other person does. If it’s coming from insecurity you won’t feel better, even if the other person does what you want.
Here’s an example…
Let’s say you want your husband to call every day that he’s out of town. If you want your husband to call you every day when he’s out of town because you think he might be cheating on you, the calls aren’t going to make you feel better. However, you can want him to call you when he’s out of town for a different reason (just because you want to talk to him) that’s not based on insecurity.
The reason why you want what you want matters. A lot.
So, knowing what it is that you want… tell the other person! You want to make your wants very clear to the other person. And you want to be very clear to yourself about what is so important to you to get from that relationship.
Another word of caution (so much cautioning in this post!)…
You don’t have to get everything you want from one person. One person does not have to satisfy all your wants in one relationship. When you spread out what you want, it’s a lot easier to accept people for who they are instead of putting so much pressure on one person to be perfectly how you want them to be in every aspect.
Say you want to travel. That can be from your relationship with your best friend instead of your husband.
We put so much pressure on one person to fulfill our wants.
Instead, choose the most important wants in that particular relationship and make them clear.
A final word of caution (because there have to be three cautions!)…
You can express your wants, but you can’t control another adult (trust me, I know this from personal experience!).
When you try to control them, you create separation. You’re disempowered. The other person hates it. And no one is happy.
The difference looks like this…
“Hey, I want to be in a monogomous relationship. That’s something I want.” – you
“Hey, me too.” – guy you’re dating.
Now, if the guy you’re dating decides to go outside the relationship, he has every right to do that. He’s an adult with agency. You can’t stop him or control him. But you can say, “this isn’t what I want. I love you and goodbye.” When you try to control and manipulate the other person’s actions, you get into trouble!
You can also ask for small things but not make them dependent on your relationship.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
I really love getting flowers. And I knew I really wanted flowers on Valentine’s Day. So what did I do? I asked Steve to get me flowers ahead of time. Now he doesn’t have to get me flowers. He can get me flowers or he can decide not to get me flowers. It’s just me sharing my preference. This is very different than controlling or manipulating. Which would sound more like this — “If you don’t get me flowers, I’m going to be so mad at you. Or, if you don’t take me out, I’m going to be mad.” See the difference? It’s everything.
Ask for what you want, but don’t hang your emotional wellbeing on getting it.
I want you to make sure your wants are clearly expressed for both the little things, but also the big things.
5. Make Decisions Ahead Of Time
Fifth, is to make decisions ahead of time.
This is LIFE CHANGING, my friend.
Do you want to be with this person?
If the answer is yes, make sure you’re practicing the thought: I want to be with this man.
That thought will change your life. It’s so active. I just love it.
It’s a reminder that the door is always open. That you can end the relationship at any time.
There’s no right or wrong. There is just deciding.
So often, we live in indecision and it kills us. Instead, I highly suggest getting really good at decision making.
Here are my favorite resources for decision making:
6. Give Up Righteousness, Fairness, and Control
The sixth step is to give up the need to be fair. Give up that sense of righteousness. Give up control.
If you are anything like me, this will be easier said than done. I promise you though, it’s oh so worth it.
One of the common hurdles I see in trying to fix a relationship is people feeling the need to control other people and believe in righteousness and fairness and always feeling like you have to stand up for yourself.
Wanting to be right and stand up for yourself is very primal.
Your brain wants to protect you and keep you alive, so it thinks that defending yourself will help. It’s just your ego. It’s actually usually unnecessary in our day to day lives (for most of us who are getting in fights with girlfriends, coworkers, or spouses).
Two of the best tools I have for you that changed my life related to this are:
- Let people be wrong about you, and
- Find the truth and agree with them.
I love the thought, “I’ll let them be wrong about me.” It releases the primal instinct of needing to defend.
When someone accuses you of something or says something wrong about you, instead of standing up for yourself in righteousness, let them be wrong about you.
It lowers your guard and allows you to stop giving energy to something you don’t want to give energy to.
Along the same lines, but the opposite is to agree with them.
When someone doesn’t like you, find the truth in what they’re saying and love you anyway.
Sometimes, I say, “yeah, I get it. I don’t always like me either.”
Then I feel love and connection instead of feeling hate and separation. It’s a beautiful thing and always an option.
For more on this, read the post: A Quick Way To Have A Better Relationship Right Now.
7. Set Good Boundaries
Seventh is to set good boundaries.
You can always set boundaries in a relationship.
A boundary is something that you do FOR YOU.
The best way is to set them out of love (as opposed to out of fear).
A lot of people set boundaries in a way to control people. And the line sometimes gets blurred. People think they are setting boundaries when they are just trying to control another person.
You set a boundary when someone comes into your space.
For example, you can set a boundary that whenever your spouse comes into your office and yells at you, you’re going to leave. You can communicate this boundary from love and let your husband know you’re doing it for you. This is a boundary.
A boundary is NOT: “if you talk to her again, we’re over.” He’s not in your space in this example. He’s doing what he wants to do. You’re just trying to control him. It won’t work.
A boundary is always what you will do when someone comes into your space.
8. End Relationships That Aren’t Serving You
Finally, to fix a relationship, you can end it.
The solution to fixing a relationship is NOT this person changing. Why? Because it doesn’t work! You can’t control them.
You can make them aware of what your wants are and you can decide to stay or go based on that.
If you find that you’re with someone that wants to live a totally different lifestyle than you and it’s a complete mismatch, that doesn’t make the other person is wrong or that they are responsible for you being hurt. It just means you want different things and that the relationship is complete.
Just be careful that when you are ending relationships that you’re doing it from a place of just because you want to and not because you think that this other person is responsible for you feeling bad. When you blame something outside of you for your feelings and you change your circumstance to feel better, you will likely re-create that feeling in another relationship and the cycle will continue.
So I always say — stay or go but like your reason.
The best reason ever to end a relationship is just because you want to. You want to complete it. Not because you want to feel better.
Don’t wait for it to hit “rock bottom”.
Consider ending a relationship as a completion—the relationship has completed.
Practical Tips For When The Sh*t Hits The Fan
Now, I just want to give you a few of my favorite practical tips that will really help you for when sh*t hits the fan (you know exactly what I mean!)…
Remember to Pause — create space before you react.
Decide — decide on purpose how you want to think and feel about this situation.
Breath — Take a deep breath and notice your breath and your feelings.
Wait — until your emotions are steady to talk about it. Say to yourself — you know what? I feel a strong negative emotion I want to come back to this after this emotion has passed.
Address the specific issue — don’t talk about “you always” or make this one instance into a huge problem. Be willing to be vulnerable to tell the other person.
Ask — for what you want; just don’t get disappointed if they don’t do it (you’re adding your emotional responsibility to someone behaving a certain away).
Important Truths To Remember
Here are some of my favorite truths to remember…
- You are 100% worthy of being loved and so is the other person.
- They are 100% lovable just as they are.
- They don’t need to change at all and neither do you.
- You’re not better than the other person.
- When you focus on being right and winning this decreases your connection. That’s why vulnerability is oh so important.
- Remember that no one else causes your feelings. That’s your job.
- Regardless of the circumstances—love is always an option.
- Feeling love is something you can practice and get really good at.
The result of doing this work will be increased intimacy, respect, and connection.
It’s hard to do, especially if this work is new to you.
Again, this is why you seriously need to join me in Grow You. I’ll help you do this work so it’s not so intimidating.
We want to be right. It’s primal. Use your prefrontal cortex and choose love and appreciation on purpose.
This is a skill you can get really good at.
A Final Note!
This work is so worth it for you and for your relationship, for the rest of your life.
Whether you’re struggling with a difficult and toxic relationship or you just want to fix the relationship you’re in… our relationships define us, and they don’t have to include so much suffering.
Remember: your relationship is the story you tell yourself. Make it a good one.
Next Up, watch the YouTube video…