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How to Repair and Renew a Difficult Relationship

Have you been holding on to negative feelings in an important relationship in your life?

Is there anger, jealousy, resentment or hurt simmering under the surface of your interactions with someone close to you?

Has a small incident from the past become magnified in your mind so that it’s all you associate with an otherwise warm relationship?

Is it serving you to hold on to the pain or blame?

Are you ready to let it go?

It’s not so easy, you’re thinking, if it was easy we would’ve done it a long time ago.  It may even be too late.

You’ve sort of learned to live with it, better not to rock the boat. It could get worse.

Yes, I understand how you could feel that way.  I’ve been there too.

Still, it’s a new year, a time for fresh starts. Maybe it’s the right time to make amends, forgive, and heal a hurting relationship.

Here are some of my thoughts on how to renew a relationship in a situation in which you have someone to talk to OR if you need to do it on your own (yes, that’s possible too.)

Renewing a relationship by engaging with another person.

If you’re ready and you believe the other person could be open to a relationship renewal, reach out and invite them to get together. 

Let them know what it’s about – you might say (or write) something like: ‘I’ve been thinking about improving myself and also our relationship. I feel there’s been distance between us and I’d like to find a way for us to be in a better place. Would you like to get together and talk?’ Give it some time – a week or so – before you meet, so that the other person has time to be as ready as you are.  Find a quiet, pleasant, neutral place.

When you meet, start with gratitude and appreciation – make it clear that you come in peace and not to attack or criticize.   

Say that your relationship is important to you and the difficulty has been hard for you. 

Invite the other person to say whatever is on their mind and promise to listen without judgement. 

While they are talking, listen closely, reflect their words back to them, say: I understand, I hear, I didn’t realize, I’m sorry, I forgive. Don’t explain or justify, teach or preach. 

If they invite you to say what’s on your mind, ask them to listen as you did, share a few thoughts about your feelings of hurt/anger and about your hope for change and good times and your readiness to let go of that old pain. 

Ask if it’s ok to hug and if you could get together again. You may not have solved everything, but you’ve taken a big step.

What about doing it on your own?

If you’re drained from feeling the burden of hurt or conflict and want to take steps to let go, but the other person is not ready to meet with you, there’s still work that you can do on your own to forgive and move on.

I’m sharing with you The Work of Byron Katie and believe from my own experience that this process can help you move past relationship pain, even without engaging the other person.

Step One – identify the thoughts that are causing your stress and write them down. You can write freely or use these questions as a guide. Don’t hold back or censor yourself – be as petty or judgmental as you like! 

  • What happened and what are your feelings about the situation? (For example, I am hurt by Amy because she is disrespectful to me at work.) 
  • What do you think of the other person in this situation? 
  • How do you want them to change?  
  • In this situation, what advice would you offer them? 
  • In order for you to be happy, what do you need them to think, say, feel, or do? 
  • What is it about this situation that you don’t ever want to experience again?

Now it’s time to investigate your thoughts and beliefs and open up the possibility of new interpretations and alternative ways of looking at the situation, the other person, and yourself. 

Step Two – consider each of your statements, by reflecting and responding to these four questions:

1.   Is it true? (yes or no, if no, move to 3) (Is Amy disrespectful to me at work?)

2.   Can you absolutely know it’s true? (yes or no)

3.   How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4.   Who would you be without the thought?

Step Three – look at your original thought and actually turn it around to take on an entirely new meaning and interpretation. 

  1. Turn it to yourself  (I disrespect myself at work)
  2. Turn it to the other person (I disrespect Amy at work)
  3. Turn it to its opposite (Amy does respect me at work)

Take time with this process – as if you’re allowing time to meet with another person.  Check your feelings now that you’ve considered a new perspective on your relationship.  

Renewing a relationship is exciting, optimistic – and also quite challenging.  When you’re ready, you can adapt these steps and make them comfortable for you, with another person or on your own.  

In a case where it seems too hard or even impossible to do this work – please feel free to reach out to me.  As a Relationship Coach, I empower two people to reconnect, with support and guidance. I can also help an individual to find new perspectives and release from painful relationships.

It’s a new year – a time for reflection, a time to let go of pain and blame, and a time for renewal.

Consider my New Year Special: Breathe New Life Into Your Relationship 

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