How to Repair an Intimate Relationship

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How to Repair an Intimate Relationship

Everything in nature needs repair to transform. Trees, for example, survive and thrive after a clearing fire.
And humans are no different. In the context of relationships; repair is not about fixing things once and for all. Instead, repair in relationships is a willingness to continuously work to get “back on track.” What follows is some insight into how to repair an intimate relationship.

What Does Repair Look Like?

If you want to know how to repair an intimate relationship, you should know what you’re repairing. Frequently, fights between couples are only the surface expression of underlying patterns of behaviours.

Much before things rise to a crisis, conflict in relationships begins with “The Four Horsemen.”

Like the apocalypse, these four horsemen are the harbingers of relationship death.

  1. The first horseman: Criticism
  2. The second horseman: Contempt 
  3. The third horseman: Defensiveness 
  4. The fourth horseman: Stonewalling

Any work you do has to focus on healing from the effects of these four horsemen. Here’s how to repair a damaged relationship.

1) Begin With Love

Studies show that most couples focus on only the negative aspects of their relationships. As they focus on it for extended periods of time, it magnifies the negativities, justified or not.

Memory distortion tends to feed into the conflicts you’re already facing. Pretty soon, you’re caught in a never-ending cycle that is nearly impossible to break out of.

Instead, take time to reflect on the various moments of love you both share. You can journal or meditate on these. Do what you can to immerse yourself in the “good moments” and recall what those feel like.

2) Set Aside Specific Time, Consistently

Relationships thrive with time and attention. Much like caring for a garden, you need to set aside time to cultivate and nurture the relationship — which is the connection between you two.

Quite a few couples complain that this ends up becoming an obligation. However, it’s about becoming conscious about how you spend your time.

Mary Novak, a family living educator, says, “Novel activities can deepen understanding and spark a connection between partners. If you and your partner always go to movies, try miniature golfing or a sunset picnic for a change.”

3) Familiarize Yourself With Communication Prompts

When you do have time together, there may still be leftover or lingering resentment hovering around your time together. You can start by speaking about the issues right there using a series of communication prompts. These include:

  • Please say that more gently.
  • I can see my part in all of this.
  • I need your support right now.
  • Give me a moment. I’ll be back. Hang in there. Don’t withdraw.
  • This is not your problem. This is OUR problem.
  • How can I make things better?
  • I’m feeling flooded.

These insightful prompts and cues are a starting point to turn back towards your partner — and to make it feel safe for your partner to turn back towards you.

4) Interrupt Your Patterns

Think about a train gaining speed as it moves along the tracks. How do you stop it — even turn it around? And how do you do so without harming yourself?

This is similar to halting destructive behaviours. Once you both fall into a pattern of communication — and conflict — breaking out is difficult.

The best, and most immediate, tactic you can use is to take a time-out. Yes, adults need time-outs too. There’s always a tipping point where you can feel things are teetering on the edge of no return. When you sense that spiral about to happen, it’s time to call a halt, walk away, take a breather, and return once more.

Practice this, along with prompts from the Repair Checklist, and you’ll find it increasingly easier to unlearn destructive patterns.

5) Get Good at Receiving, Too

Relationships are about exchange, being generous with our partners, and extending them the same love and patience that we would like to receive.

But — are we really and truly open and able to receive love?

Depending on your childhood upbringing and the relationship with your parents, it may be difficult to actually be open to love. You want to respond with gratitude and love in return — but you’re afraid.

At the core of this fear sits a mixture of guilt, fear, and shame. So it’s now time to break those blocks and heal that trauma.

  • Start to speak to yourself with greater kindness.
  • Face your compliments and list your strengths.
  • Then, when people speak to you about these, acknowledge them with a simple “thank you.”
  • Store these moments away in a mental “cookie jar” that you can reach into the next time you’re on the verge of shutting down.


Ultimately, any repair in a relationship is not about repairing your partner’s feelings — it’s about repairing your own behaviours. Remember, it’s par for the course in any intimate relationship. The key to healing is to have a reliable plan on how to repair and move forward.

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