49 Ways To Heal A Damaged Relationship: A Guide To Restoring Closeness With Your Partner

Nothing is sadder than a failing relationship, like a once blooming bouquet of bright red roses, now withered and dying. While that’s true of any relationship between any two people, it’s especially disheartening when it’s between a husband and wife, or any other romantically involved couple. Recalling how sweet it was, how close you both felt, how much you were both so enthused can bring tears to even the most stoic person’s eyes. Unlike flowers, relationships can be restored to their former majesty. An unhealthy relationship can create ill health in so many ways, from eating disorders to anxiety and PTSD, it’s instrumental that we try our hardest to keep our relationships positive and bright.

In our throwaway world, inherited from the Boomer Generation of the 1950s, for a long while, relationships were no different. But just as this is no solution for plastic or other waste, it is certainly out of place in the realm of living people. Why not try to restore the relationship, keeping with the more contemporary values of recycling and restoring, rather than tossing someone you love away, like an old pair of socks with too many holes to mend? Easy divorce is always an option; signs obnoxiously advertise how cheap it is to kick your loved one to the curb. And if two people are unmarried, it’s even easier. Without ties to bind, breaking up is always an easy choice.

While there may be times that two people have irreconcilable differences, such as physical or emotional abuse, cheating and lying, and substance and alcohol abuse, or drastic change over time, in many more cases, there is usually a way to fix things, when there’s a will. If the two of you have determined that the relationship is worth saving, know that there are many ways to go about doing this. In my article, I shall address twenty two methods of going about restoring a failing relationship. Feel free to use this list as a guide; pick and choose only those ideas that the two of you find appealing. Every couple is different with different dynamics, so no one solution will fit everyone.

1. Professional Counseling.

There are many psychologists and therapists out there specializing in relationships. This is the tried-and-true method that has been around for quite some time, and depending upon many factors, it might just help. If you both feel comfortable with the therapist, that is key. Also, the therapist’s personal style and school of thought matter. There are therapists who believe in the tenets of Structuralism, Cognitivism, Functionalism, Psychoanalysis, Behaviourism, Gestalt Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Phenomenological Psychology, Family systems psychology, Transpersonal psychology, Process Psychology, and about thrity four other major schools of thought. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_psychological_schools) Research with your partner before diving in. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not going to help much. Don’t be afraid to shop for a therapist you, and your partner, both like and trust.

2. Group Therapy.

This is not for the introverted. Phenomenological counseling specializes in talking out problems with your loved one, often in a group setting. One such method is called “dialogue”, championed by theoretic physicist, Dr. David Bohm. There is to be no judgement, just honest assessment of one’s own feelings and reactions. Other group participants may query you on what you’re saying, and so some may find this a bit trying on their personal boundaries. However, for others, the group may be the perfect crucible for dealing with what ails a flagging relationship.

3. Forgiveness Through Faith.

Start going to temple again with your loved one. If you never went together, maybe it’s a good place to start. Your church, synagogue, or other place of worship is a great place to get in touch with important Spiritual values, including forgiveness, loving-kindness, and understanding, tools that will help you no matter what your religion. In fact, the very existence of these common values among the world’s faiths prove that faith itself is a Higher Path, a Way to Greater Good. In truth, you need not go to religious service to embody these Virtues. You can read Spiritual or religious texts together, at home. Even a secular humanist can value human goodness. It need not be framed within a religious context.

4. Religious Counseling.

If you are, in fact, religious, there are yet more faith-based options. Your place of worship, or even a worship center you’re not affiliated with, usually has appointments available with the priests, rabbis, ministers, and monks. Even lay persons. You may bring your issues before this impartial counsel, and receive answers rooted in your own religious values. This is especially helpful if you and your partner are not quite comfortable with secular values, or are already part of a religious community. Of course, personal comfort is essential, so a good fit with the religious counselor is essential.

5. Spiritual Counseling.

These counselors are not affiliated with any specific faith, yet keep their sessions squarely placed within a framework of shared Spiritual values. This is especially helpful if you are non-religious, or if you and your partner have an aversion to organized religion, despite your shared religiosity. A Spiritual Counselor will likely have a holistic viewpoint, and the non-denominational supportive therapy will focus on your individual growth, as well as growth as a couple. This only differs from religious counseling in that no specific set of religious beliefs plays a role, though the underlying values of truth, kindness, and trust are still foremost.

6. Do “Special” Activities You Once Enjoyed Together, Again.

Go to the boardwalk. Shop at the Mall. Check out the bookstore. Visit the arcade. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it together. True, people change with time, and you, or your partner, may no longer enjoy the same activities, but it isn’t impossible to find things you will both still enjoy. Lose yourself in the activity. Whether it’s target practice with a bow and arrow or visiting an art museum, the key is to do it together. Also, it may bring back feelings of the past, evoking the love you once felt for one another.

7. Set Aside Time To Cuddle.

Affection is important. Remember when your relationship was new, you would spend hours on the couch just embracing? Sex isn’t even the idea here; holding one another close is. Find a cozy spot, be it your living room or den, or a secluded patch of grass under a tree, and embrace. It doesn’t matter if you speak or are silent. The idea is to put your arms around your partner. You can gaze into one another’s eyes, or look up at the sky. Or watch TV or listen to music. What matters is the physical closeness.

8. Set Aside Time To Talk. And Listen.

About what, you may wonder? Anything, really. The idea is to practice talking and conversing without arguing or judging. And, most importantly, listening. Don’t play with your phone. Don’t keep thinking about your work or creative projects. If you do, talk about them. The conversation can go in any direction, as long as you are attentive and open.

9. Go Out To Eat. Or Get Takeout.

Probably, one of the things we’ve all done during the initial phase of our relationships was sharing a meal in a restaurant. Of course, you can order in as well. Spend time being considerate and choose menu items you both enjoy. Savor the meal, as well as one another’s company. Eating brings people closer. Try to compromise on where to go, possible taking turns at different places if you cannot agree on one destination. And, eating at home is always fun. Sweatpants or leggings and a tee shirt are always in style.

Romance. Image Credit: Toffee Makey

Romance. Image Credit: Toffee Makey

10. Spend Time In Nature.

Natural settings are intrinsically healing. Whether it’s at the park or in the woods, by the brook or at the beach, natural settings are restorative. Friluftsliv is the Nordic concept of spending quality time in nature. A remote location, deep in the woods on a hike, or up a local mountain, is ideal. The world tends to fall away. Nothing is left but the two of you. And all the flora and fauna native to wherever you are. If you’re by the sea, there’s the crashing of the waves, and salty smell of sea air. Immerse yourself in your senses. Feel the sun. Listen to the birds. become one with your environment.

11. Write To Each Other.

While e-mails are more impersonal than writing letters and cards by hand, it’s a definite option. Let go. Release your feelings into the page or screen. Sometimes it’s easier expressing oneself indirectly, and a lot more can be said. This can foster closeness perhaps better than any other mode of communication. You have time to write, review, and re-write. It’s not quite the same as a live conversation. There’s a lot more deliberateness involved; you can really focus on saying what you really mean.

Anger Face. Image Credit: R.L. Hyde

Anger Face. Image Credit: R.L. Hyde

12. Work on Identifying People Tearing You Apart.

Sometimes it’s your “bestie” that is the cause of all your trouble. Is someone constantly practicing subtle manipulation, getting you to feel mistrust for your loved one? Find the person in your life who has hidden horns, a secret malice toward your relationship. Why? Perhaps they’re jaded,envious, or who knows what else. It’s not your problem. It’s theirs. Oftentimes, people pose as our friends and secretly work toward our ruin. Talking honestly about the influence of others can degrade such harmful influences. You may need to distance yourself from such individuals, once identified. That’s actually a good thing. Think carefully about what other have said about your partner, about your relationship. Again, it may be subtle, and you may have to really be honest with yourself to see that a friend is really a foe in disguise.

13. Work on Identifying Issues Tearing You Apart.

What’s the problem here? Why are you no longer so close? You may think about this on your own or with your partner. If seeking help from an outsider, you may even ask them for their input. It may be that work stress is just too much. It may be that the kids are having problems at school, and that is taking all of your attention. Think. And them think some more. If you talk with your partner, you may arrive at solutions that benefit you both.

14. Play Truth Or Dare.

This sounds silly, but remember how much fun it was when you were eleven? Forcing truthfulness never works, but encouraging your partner to be more honest, by making it a game –and leaving a out in the form of a dare– can be a refreshing change for you both. Remember, levity is a good thing, when it comes to relating to others, especially someone you spend a great deal of time with.

15. Talk About Boundaries That Have Been Breached.

We all have boundaries. And, oftentimes, we aren’t even aware of when we overstep someone else’s boundaries, even those closest to us. So, spend some time dedicated to this topic, whether alone, in a group therapy session,or with your counselor. The dividends pay off well. We all need boundaries to keep our sense of self, and it’s often difficult to articulate this in the day-to-day friend. And, brining your issues to a friend or family member can help you “vent”, but does nothing to solve the problem, and can lead to resentment.

16. Get Drunk Or Smoke Weed Together (Where It’s Legal)

Getting outside our everyday mind is important. And of course, I am not condoning breaking the law, whether religious or civil. But if you can share a special evening in altered sates together, it may be instrumental to your relationship’s recovery. It’s important to take the time to take a break from the grind of life and acquire a different perspective together. Dispense with the logical and linear mind and welcome the warm,fuzzy, intuitive sense that comes with mind alterants. Of course, don’t overdo it. You don’t want to drink so much that you don’t know where you are, but some alcohol can be a good form of “social glue.” Certainly, if you have kids, make sure you have a sitter, or that they’re fast asleep.

17. Spend Time In Silence Together.

So far, it’s been all about talking. And, talking some more. But in truth, there is a beauty in silence that cannot be ignored, though it’s often overlooked. Find activities that you both enjoy that can be done in silence together. Some of those activities may be from this list, but that’s not a requirement.

Messy Living Room. Image Credit: Nicholas Sanguinetti

Messy Living Room. Image Credit: Nicholas Sanguinetti

18. Clean Up Together.

Cleaning up is cathartic, and is one way many of us find solace when truly bothered emotionally. You can talk and clean or talk and remain in silence. When you’re done, you can see your accomplishment, something meaningful that you both did together. Living in squalor is harmful; likewise, living in a messy, disorganized environment can be taxing. At the very least, you will have transformed your shared living space into a more accommodating and welcoming place for you both.

19. Go For A Walk.

You can walk in the forest. You can walk in your neighborhood. Either way, walking is transformative. And, you can walk and talk, or just walk together admiring the woodlands, admiring the neighbors’ homes, even. It’s like this: When we walk, we leave our emotional baggage along the way. If we had eyes to see it, we’d be able to turn around’, look back, and see a trail of broken dreams, shattered feelings, and issues of all types scattered about the trail or road. Give walking together a try and feel the results; this is not exaggeration, not in the least.

Lettuce Heads in Garden. Image Credit: Mike Hunter

Lettuce Heads in Garden. Image Credit: Mike Hunter

20. Plant A Garden Together.

OK; not everyone likes getting elbows-deep in the soil, but planting a garden is rewarding. Not only will you both get fresh veggies and fruits all season long, but watching the garden grow, tending to it together, and finally reaping the harvest is one of the most rewarding shared experiences. You don’t necessarily need a green thumb or have grown up on a farm; even urbanites can hoe a small plot in their yard, or even on their terrace in containers. After some time, you will feel renewed. Working in a garden just does that, for some reason.

21. Cook A Meal Or Bake Together

We all eat together as couples, probably since our very first dates.  It’s the most common activity most engage in together, when a relationship is brand new.  But what about preparing a meal or dessert together? There’s nothing like sharing in the task of cooking or baking, activities usually assumed by only one of the two people in a relationship. The two of you can feel a unique sense of accomplishment once it’s done. The best part? The two of you can share that meal with good conversation, or eat that chocolate layer cake with broad smiles that say, “We did this together!”

22. Go On Vacation.

Aruba. Bahama. Jamaica. You get the idea. Plan a vacation and have a good time. Extricating yourselves from your daily lives can be a great gift to you both, personally, and as a couple. You may find that the issue is the context that your relationship is embedded within, rather than the relationship, itself. And, taking a break from everything is never a bad thing. In fact, you will return to your usual lives with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

23. Spend A Day Away.

You need not plan a week or ten day trip to get away. Find a cool Air-BNB or just spend an entire day, from early morning, until late in the evening, at the shore. It’s not that you’re trying to escape your problems; it’s more like you’re trying to give your relationship a chance to re-blossom outside of the stress of your everyday lives. Make plans or just wing it. Just be sure that you spend the entire day, and perhaps one night, away from your lives. Just like when you return from vacation, you will see all things with fresh eyes.

24.Play A Board Game.

It could be Monopoly or Careers. Or, you could choose a game designed specifically to bring people together, such as Match Mate, TableTopics: Date Night, Over the line, Taboo, Hoopla, Monogamy, Hanabi, Codenames Duet, Fog of love, or Talk Flirt Dare. These games are designed to let you have fun, while learning and discovering important truths about one another, and yourselves.

25. Get An In-Home Couples Massage.

Rejuvenating together is tops. It’s always transformative receiving a massage, but when it’s done holding hands with your loved one, it’s just magical. You’ll feel more comfortable than ever for one thing. And besides, you can schedule an in-home massage session with a mobile company, so that it’s just the two of you (and the therapists, of course.) Couples Massage is usually performed side-by-side, so you can find satori with the one you love right there with you. If massage is something you enjoy, but feel too shy or inhibited, this can be especially helpful. Somatic stress accumulates in your body; that’s how we all store anxiety and every other negative emotion. Eliminating this together is amazing.

26. Get a Couples Facial Together.

Facials beautify, and can be uber-relaxing. If you thought a massage was calming, just wait until you have your face and scalp massaged. And then slathered with a luscious masque. You’ll both be feeling like new, and looking like new, too. If you enjoy doing this solo, there’s no reason why it won’t be even more fun with someone you love right there. This can be done at home, or at the spa. Just remember to take a few selfies with your loved one, so you can goof off and remember how much fun it was to have your faces painted green.

27. Play Video Games.

Bust out the old Nintendo and play some Super Mario. Or, go down in the den and play the kids’ modern video game system. Video games are a lot of fun, and by now, everyone under sixty played them when they were young. So, fire up the old video game system and shoot up some asteroids, or chomp away on some power pellets, navigating PacMan through the maze. If you don’t usually play video games, you’ll be shocked at how much fun they still are. You can also visit a local arcade and do this; it’s really up to you and your partner.

28. Exercise Together.

Exercise is a part of modern life, and with good reason. The cardiovascular benefits, as well as mental, emotional, and physical gains are undeniable. It isn’t just about fighting a bulging waistline; people today exercise just because it’s a healthy and balanced activity that brings wellness, and makes you feel good. You can do weightlifting, Pilates, aerobics, or whatever you both enjoy.

29. Meditate Together.

Finding that still center is about as important as anything in life, probably the most important activity we’ll ever engage in. Doing this with someone you care about next to you will only bring you closer. Whether you do sitting meditation, or lying on your back in Savasana (corpse position), meditating will bring you both more composure, more inner peace, and less stress. Of course, you’ll still have to deal with whatever’s stressing you, but you won’t be subjectively feeling so stressed any more.

30. Do Yoga Together.

Yoga isn’t about posting selfies showing how well you can do a headstand or how much you can bend like a pretzel. Even if your partner is more advanced than you, it’s a great activity to engage in with your partner. Like meditation, for some reason, yoga poses bring peace of mind, emotions, and even Soul. And, your body gets more supple, and you feel better. Again, it isn’t about how far you can stretch, but simply that you take the time to do the asanas. It’s a Spiritual practice that goes back far into history, and it works.

31. Pray Together.

If you’re religious, go for it. It’s been said that a family that prays together, stays together. Nothing could be more true. Whether you pray to God in the form of an avatar like Lord Krishna, or pray for help from an intermediary like a saint, or pray to the formless Creator that is beyond conception, you are both focusing your energy on positive change, calling on Higher consciousness, however you conceive of it. You’re also giving thanks, and taking the time to enumerate all you have and appreciate it all, can help you find perspective, at the very least.

32. Hang Out With Friends.

Chilling in a group can be a lot of fun. But it can bring its own challenges. Be careful of those wishing your relationship harm, whether consciously or otherwise. Being around others, we’re usually on our best behavior. Of course, we don’t treat our partner precisely the same way as when we’re alone. Hanging out in a group setting can be interesting; couples who “get it” can model good relationship behaviors. Likewise, couples who are sour in public show us the horrors of just how we never want to be, especially around other people. This experience can be truly educative.

33. Hang Out With Extended Family.

We all have issues with our in-laws. It’s a basic fact of life. But it’s important that we share some of our time with them, especially our parents, and our partner’s parents, if those relationships mean anything to us. As stated above, we all, necessarily, act slightly, or greatly, different, depending upon who we’re in the company of. Take the time to do the family thing. You’ll see your partner in their native context that they were raised in, and you’ll give them some time to spend with their other loved ones. Don’t be greedy; you need to share your partner with the people in their life.

34. Take Peyote Together In The Desert.

Find a shaman or member of a Native American Church that allows outsiders to participate in *legal* mind expanding sacraments, such as Ayahuasca or Peyote. This is an experience that has been studied since the 1950s, and can bring insights like no other. Do not take street drugs. And, of course, be sure you have a guide that knows the territory, and can frame the experience in a positive Spiritual light. The lessons you learn may surpass everything else you’ve yet encountered in life, if those who have participated in such rituals are to be believed. If this appeals to you, read up on the topic. Such experiences are usually not “fun” in the usual sense, but are Earth-shattering and transformative all the same.

35. Listen To Music Together. And dance.

Whether it’s a live show and you have front row seats, or a rock concert and you’re in the nosebleed section of the upper deck of a stadium, sharing in the experience of listening to music together can be a lot of fun. Or, if EDM is your thing, find a club with a pounding sound system and dance the night away. Music stirs the soul like nothing else; nearly any person you ask would agree. Spend time listening to good music that you both enjoy. And, it need not be live shows; you can listen to the radio together or your favorite live-stream.

36. Take a Class and Learn Together.

What’s less fun than school? Of course, not everyone hates school, so some would answer that nothing is less fun than taking classes. Learning is interesting, and when you learn with someone you are involved with, it becomes a shared experience like no other. Take a class together. Learn a new skill. Explore some topic that both of you find exciting, otherwise one of you might feel bored, and that’s never a good thing.

37. Join A Common Interest Group

Whether your thing is mycology or sculpting, photography or knitting, there has to be an overlap with what your loved one finds interesting as well. There are groups all over, and can easily be found online. Choose something that you both love, possibly an interest that brought the two of you together, if there was one. And then go. Attend meetings. Get involved.

38 Volunteer. Help Others In Need.

Charity is noble and reminds us of what’s important in life. Are the two of you involved in any way right now that helps others? Maybe both of you need to put your bickering or small differences aside, and help people with real issues. What do you both care about? Women’s issues? Domestic violence? Homelessness? Helping students excel? You can join a nonprofit and donate your time. Or, you could even form your own organization and tackle the problem in the way that both of you find matters most.

39. Hold Hands.

Remember way back when? The probability is, you and your partner once held hands a lot. Now that things aren’t going so great, probably not. Make an effort. Hold hands deliberately. It isn’t shocking that you don’t do this anymore,if you feel negativity toward one another. When someone has hurt or offended us, or we’re not feeling close, shirking away is a natural response. So, it makes sense that you don’t hold hands and just pull away.

40. Be Generous and Share.

Having spring rolls and a great Chinese takeout dinner? Great! Your loved one finished her spring rolls. You guys ordered 12, because you like them so much. You’ve eaten slowly and have three left. Do you offer your spouse one of yours? It’s up to you. But generosity goes a long way toward showing you care.

41. Do Little Things That Show You Care.

Whether it’s helping with the laundry or keeping the kids our of your partner’s hair when they have take-home work, your consideration goes a long way toward letting them know they matter to you. If they just shoveled the driveway, make hot chocolate. If your partner is working late and you have to go to sleep to be up early the next day, leave a little note along with a care package of cookies and fruit.

42. Show Appreciation.

If your husband cleaned out the garage, let him know how much it will help the family not to stumble and fall when getting seltzer late at night. Let them know that the little things they do are appreciated. Don’t be patronizing, be sincere. Just say how you feel and really mean it. If your partner cooks an amazing meal, let them know how good the food tastes.

43. Offer A Listening Ear.

Let’s say your spouse arrives home from work deflated and dejected. They don’t immediately open up but you can tell they need someone to listen. You could just eat dinner and get to bed, or you could try breaching the subject. Sometimes it takes a little gentle prodding, but that may be what they really want. No one wants to dump on others. When your significant other realizes that it’s OK to speak about what’s up, they often will. Don’t force it, though.

44. When They’re Sick, Care For Them.

No one likes being ill. But when you’re sick, being ignored by your partner sends a clear message that no one cares. So, show a little love! Make some hot tea, bring them breakfast in bed. Check up on them, even if it’s a quick thirty second call home from the office.

45. Stop Fibbing.

Do you find yourself, or your partner, lying all the time? (Big lies or small fibs both count!) If either, or both, is true, that’s a very bad indicator of the state of the situation. A relationship is built on mutual trust, and even small fibs can destroy that trust. Stop the lying. Right now. Become aware of when, where, and why you are prevaricating. This requires self knowledge, but it’s imperative. If it’s your partner doing the lying, there’s very little you can do. If you can keep calm, gently tell them that you know it’s not the truth. But a lack of honesty can be a real deal-breaker.

46. Learn To Say You’re Sorry.

If you’ve offended your partner, you must sincerely let them know you regret it and don’t wish to hurt them again in the future. If you apologize insincerely, that is, say you’re sorry but just keep doing the same thing over and over again, that’s not going to work. Your partner needs to do the same. But how do they know they need to? That brings us to the next item on the list. The key is really feeling regret for hurting the one you love. If you just spout, “I’m sorry” over and over again it sends the clear message that you don’t really care very much.

47. Be Clear About When Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed.

We all have boundaries. That’s normal. But not explaining to your partner when they’ve transgressed your boundaries makes for a bad situation, especially if you decide to let it slide over and over, and then suddenly assert your boundaries. It’s best to gently explain what they’ve done to hurt or offend you. If your partner continues to overstep your clearly established boundaries, or makes insincere apologies, that’s not going to work. The same goes for you; their boundaries are just as important to maintain.

48. No Manipulation, Head-Games, Or Blaming The Victim.

Are you and your partner straightforward with each other? Or do one, or both, of you play games to score points? If you identify narcissistic traits in yourself, your partner, or both of you, it’s time to rethink the relationship. Such emotional and mental abuse can wreak havoc on even the strongest of people. If it’s you doing the manipulating, there’s one word for you: Stop. If it’s both of you, it’s time to have a sit-down and maturely discuss the matter. If it’s just your partner, it may be difficult to bring the matter to their attention, especially if they’re in the habit of blaming you when it’s really them. These all fall under the category of narcissistic abuse, and it’s a serious matter and may require outside intervention or counseling. This can also be a real deal-breaker, just cause for separation and an abrupt end to the relationship. This can be a real hazard to children, if present, as they are seeing incredibly destructive behaviors modeled. Beware.

49. Do Stuff Together With Your Kids.

Most of the above ideas can be done with the participation of your children. While it is ESSENTIAL to have time alone, it’s also important to consciously spend time with your children. That can be with extended family, or just the two of you, with friends on a fishing trip or in a temple or church for service. Your kids are a big part of the equation, if you have any together. Of course, tripping on mushrooms, or getting intoxicated, are activities strictly reserved for times when the kids are away, but even massage can be a family affair, as Pediatric Massage Therapists are trained to work on kids and adolescents.

Hopefully, this list has provided you with some ideas that you and your partner find appealing. If it hasn’t, I can guarantee you that you’re not trying very hard to resolve your relationship issues, or perhaps, the issues you face are beyond fixing. Share this list with your loved one. Figure out exactly what you want to do, and set aside time to do them. Overworking is a hazard in itself; when it comes to relationships, it’s a destroyer. Remember, you attempts to grow closer and resolve issues are are only as good as the effort, and intention, that you bring to the relationship. If finding closeness truly matters to you, you’ll take the necessary steps, do the work, have fun, and find a common ground once again.

Authored By D. Alban. (C) Copyright 2019 D Alban, All Rights Reserved.

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