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Can a Dying Love Be Reignited?

A relationship therapist’s evaluation of relationship recovery.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Unless there is a crisis, most couples don’t seek help until months or sometimes years after their problems have begun surfacing. By that time, there are often layers of negative patterns that have been deeply entrenched.


When they come into therapy, they are often at the mercy of their current state. What they most need is an objective and concise evaluation of what the variables are that will help them make an informed decision as to whether or not their relationship can get better. They should not be guided into a fantasy that is not likely to happen, nor denied the hope that regeneration is possible if they make the investment required.


That means that there must be understandable criteria to help them make that choice. There is.


7 key factors that affect relationship recovery


The following variables and questions contain crucial information that will help both of you make that decision. Go through them with your partner and honestly tell each other how you feel about each. Your responses will understandably be different, and that is not a problem. Putting both of your reactions and responses together will still help point you in the right direction.


1. Motivation

Most partners do not have the same level of motivation to search for professional help. The partner who initiates therapy typically has more. But the desire to invest more resources into rejuvenating the relationship must be there at some level for both.

Questions:

  • If this person was no longer in my life, would I feel more relief than grief?

  • How much do I truly want to give the relationship a real try again?


2. Resources

Time, energy, money, patience, availability, and emotional resilience are resources that are part of every relationship. When partners are worn down and depleted, those coffers are often in short supply and may have already been allocated elsewhere. There must be a sincere desire to reprioritize those resources to the relationship until it is on its feet again.


Questions:

  • How much do I want to reprioritize those resources, even if it means giving up other people and things that have become more satisfying?

  • Can I redirect my commitment without resentment?

3. Accountability

In order for a dying relationship to have a chance of rejuvenation, all blaming of the other must stop and be replaced by the willingness for each partner to take responsibility for what either may have contributed to the current crisis. Gone must be the need to justify, defend, or keep score.

Questions:

  • Can I give up seeing my partner as the problem and focus, instead, on how I have sabotaged the relationship by my own actions?

  • Am I willing to acknowledge my partner’s positive contributions?

4. Agreement on new goals

To avoid rehashing the past, a couple attempting to reignite love must talk about what each wants and can give to create hope for a mutually meaningful future. Both partners have to agree on what that new relationship would be like for both.


Questions:

  • Do I know what I want?

  • Will it be what my partner wants as well? How can we create a new dream that fulfills us both?

5. Attachments

Attachments can be both the rewards that come from a relationship or the fears of loss if that relationship ends. No matter how self-serving those attachments may be, they must be respected as legitimate by both partners. They are a crucial part of the underlying reasons people stay together. Both partners must be willing to recognize both their altruistic and self-serving reasons for wanting the relationship to survive.


Questions:

  • What would I miss if this person were no longer in my life? Where are those feelings selfish, and where are they genuine appreciation?

  • What would my partner need from me to trust that my desire to stay in the relationship was not just self-serving?

6. Faith in the process

To have any real chance for a failing relationship to be authentically reborn, both partners must have faith that they can and want to do what is required to give it a chance. That means belief in one’s own capacity and that of the other partner to transcend the past and believe in a better future. Faith is the belief that something not yet reliable will happen. Even when things may take time and effort for positive results to start showing, a couple with faith in the outcome can wait it out, especially as they see small improvements accumulate.

Questions:

  • Can we believe that if we do the work, we can bring our love back again?

  • Can I believe that you share that faith with me?

7. Replacing fantasy with acknowledgment and acceptance

People are what they do, not what they wish, intend, or promise. If each partner looks back at his or her own behavior and humbly and willingly accepts that accountability, they can better predict who they can become in the future. There are some behaviors and personality characteristics, whether inherited or created by life’s challenges, that do not transform easily.


In the early stages of a relationship, both partners are convinced that there are no barriers to forever love. As they get to know each other, situations arise that tell them that can’t be so. Even if both partners give everything they have to reclaim and reignite their relationship, they will have to face that everything they want and need of themselves and of the other will not be attainable. What is possible has to be more than enough, rather than drowning in the sea of disappointments.


Questions:

  • If I am completely honest with myself, is my authentic partner enough for me to reinvest in?

  • Can I, at my best, fulfill my partner’s understandable and legitimate needs of me?

  • Are we both ready to do this?

Assessing your chances

After you’ve answered these questions honestly and from your heart, share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, and listen to the same from him or her. You will be more confident in some areas than you are in others. That is natural.


Then ask each other, “Do you want to take this journey with me? How would each of us feel if we regretted not trying? Will we truly be better off without each other?” Your honest answers will tell you if you should not quit.

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