5 Essential Steps to Save Your Relationship

Good relationships proceed without power inequalities and mind games.

Posted Apr 04, 2017

Damon Shaff/Shutterstock
Source: Damon Shaff/Shutterstock

Recall those early days of your relationship when your partner could not get enough of you. He or she would call constantly, stay on the phone for hours, talk with you all night. Now time has passed, and you no longer get butterflies in your tummy when you think of your sweetheart. The spark is gone. You still have romantic feelings for him or her, but you sense that your partner no longer cares as much about the relationship — or at least not as much as you do. You no longer have the upper hand.

It is natural to feel anxious and sad when this happens. Your anguish may lead you to attempt to use various manipulation tactics to get the upper hand in your relationship. But playing games to gain or regain the power in a relationship is bound to lead to its demise. There are many relationships in which one person holds more power than the other, but these tend to be extremely unhealthy. Physically or verbally abusive relationships, relationships in which one partner is cheating, and relationships in which one partner has more assets than the other (that are not common property) are often doomed to fail or to lead to heartbreak and unhappiness.

If you feel your partner is pulling away, the way to go is not to try to gain (or regain) the power in your relationship. "Power" doesn't give you what you want. What you really want is to be loved, you want your love to be reciprocated, and you want praise, admiration, and respect. Your negative feelings about your relationship stem from a perceived lack of these features.

How do you get it all back? How do you act in ways that can restore reciprocal love? Here are five things you can do to help repair a damaged relationship:

1. Let go a little.

If you feel you lost power in your relationship, it may be because you have been too eager to spend time with your significant other or to push the relationship forward. You can't rush things, and hopefully your relationship is not the only passion in your life. Spend time on your other interests (sports, hobbies, school, work, etc.) and give your partner the space he or she needs.

2. Stop playing games.

Many online relationship "experts" will tell you to play power games to win back the love in your relationship, or to reignite the spark. Don't do it. If you purposely ignore your partner or intentionally act cold and distant, you are playing a game. And while this sort of behavior may lead to increased attention from a partner for a short while, it will not have a long-lasting effect on your relationship. If you frequently act rude or mean, ignore your partner, or act cold and distant, your partner will eventually lose interest in you.

3. Respect your partner's wishes.

It goes without saying that not all wishes should be granted — for example, if your partner wishes to have a threesome, and you absolutely do not. But not granting your partner's wishes does not imply disrespecting him or her for having particular desires. Respect is the single most important factor in a relationship. If you lose respect for your partner, or they lose respect for you, your relationship can be irreparably damaged. To show respect for your partner, stop focusing on the negative in your relationship and comment on the positive aspects. Be generous with compliments and caring behavior. And to regain respect, if you think you lost it, learn to set boundaries.

4. Set boundaries.

Make fully clear to your partner what kind of behavior you will or will not put up with — but don't do this in the middle of a fight or while drinking alcohol. If your partner acts in a way you won't put up with or makes a hurtful remark, point out that the comment or action was hurtful, and that you don't want them to repeat it. Keep the volume of your voice low, and use a kind tone. If, on the other hand, your partner tends to become aggressive or hurtful when drinking, then they have a serious problem, which needs to be addressed. You can help, but don't bring up your concerns while your significant other is drinking and being rude. Wait until they are sober and calm, and then express your concerns as calmly as possible.

5. Make up for past sins.

If you cheated on your partner, you need to be genuinely apologetic, and accept that your partner may not trust you or love you the way he or she once did. The only thing you can do in this situation (assuming you have ended the connection with the other person and sincerely expressed your regrets to your partner) is to show how much you love your partner every single day. Assuming you don't commit other infidelities, and that you are still with your partner, he or she may eventually return to loving and trusting you.

Berit "Brit" Brogaard is a co-author of The Superhuman Mind and the author of On Romantic Love.