When Pressing Reset Can Save a Relationship
"Most people are going to have two or three marriages or committed relationships in their adult life. Some of us will have them with the same person." - Esther Perel, LMFT
There are a number of crises that can derail a relationship either early on or down the road into the years of marriage. Changes in compatibility with values, income fluctuation causing different responsibilities and stresses, lifestyle preferences, wanting kids or not, affairs, mental health; all of these can radically shake up the foundation of a relationship that otherwise was going well.
It is a unique approach to relationships to think that we will have multiple relationships with the same person but in some ways it’s only verbalizing what we already know. Couples evolve over time and they either learn to grow together or apart. It is when something affects their growth apart that there can be a dialectical view; the mindsets that your relationship needs to end, and that you need to not give up can co-exist. This is a dignified and healthier new approach to the on-again-off-again relationship because what if rather than allowing a fight to blow it up, you could plan it?
So how do you reset your relationship?
After acknowledging that there is a significant rift in a relationship and that neither partner has the strong desire or need to leave, this topic can be broached. You and your partner can see the flaws and areas that were neglected in your relationship that if these habits were to continue, would not be sustainable. You both agree that this relationship needs to end and you break up. It can be minutes, hours, or days later that the new relationship begins. This is a fresh clean slate. The old relationship is over.
You don’t have to start off like you don’t know one another, but be playful with it and explore what it would be like if you were back at the beginning with your partner. With the beginning comes the honeymoon phase and who wouldn't want a second round of that?
Now like any new approach, something has to change. To reset your relationship but continue to do the same habits as before will not produce new results. Each partner needs to agree to bring one kind of change to the table. It could be something like regular check-ins about their feelings regarding the relationship, providing more communication, or changing a schedule to see each other more often. It could also be working on your own self-soothing and regulation so things aren’t overwhelming when brought to the relationship, going to therapy for one or both of you, or one partner planning ahead for dates so that the other person doesn’t have to. Each relationship can identify where the weaknesses are and find an opposite action to apply to making it more functional for both partners.
Be mindful that just like in any breakup, even though this one resulted in a makeup, there could be residual feelings still surrounding both partners. It was a reality that maybe one person felt betrayed and learned that the other was considering ending things; these come with a bit of an aftershock which could look like depression, anxiety, or “neediness.” Communication in any relationship is critical and when starting this fresh one, be open and honest about what you’re experiencing, while also mindful of not holding what happened in the old relationship against your partner in the future. Naturally, some things from the past will emerge, but when starting fresh, you need to see your partner as someone who agreed with you to work towards moving forward.
Since every relationship is different and unique, this is not a fail safe method, but it is an alternative to ending things when there may still be potential to try again. It is more about the mental reframing and seeing a second or third try as valid and wiping the slate clean. Hurtful and damaging things may happen in a relationship, but when there is too much to lose for both partners, it is worth pressing the reset button and trying again.