Rain is almost always accompanied by overcast skies, which can easily affect our moods. When rain comes, it ruins fun plans, makes driving more difficult, and keeps us indoors. It is so easy to blame the rain for all the negatives we see, but rain has such an important part to play in our world. Without it, we would run out of drinking water, crops would die, grass would turn brown and wither, and the hot sun would constantly plague us in the summer. We could not withstand the absence of rain.
The same is true for difficult times in relationships. We don’t enjoy the challenging times, the battles over who is right and who is wrong, the nights spent in silence or anger (or both), and the disagreements which never seem to get fully resolved. Those seasons of heartache in relationships feel a lot like being in a perpetual rain storm. When is it going to let up? Why can’t we just have sunny relationships like all of our friends on Facebook?
No, the rain is not fun, but just as April showers bring May flowers, rough patches can lead to times of blooming and growth in your relationship. As strange as it sounds, relationships need some challenges and difficult times. The hard seasons, if we do not allow them to separate us, make us stop, examine, push, pray, regroup, and change what is not working.
Admitting Your Relationship is Going Through a Tough Time
The first giant leap in your quest to pull your relationship out of an emotional briar patch is to admit your relationship needs help. We are spinning our wheels. We are not connecting. We are neglecting our friendship. We are not feeling anything anymore.
There are days when I feel like Eric and I are the only couple in the world who struggles to see eye-to-eye, but that is obviously untrue. All couples face challenges, especially couples who traverse several stages of life together. New stages bring new challenges.
It’s a pride buster, but if you want to take steps to reconnect, you and your sweetie need to look at each other, take each other’s hands, and say, “We have a problem that needs fixing.”
Choosing to Communicate
When you are the most frustrated with your sweetie, you feel the least like working on your communication skills. Yet, that is precisely when you need to communicate the most. Even if you feel no desire whatsoever to talk and share with your honey, you must choose to do it anyway if you desire to save your relationship.
After you admit your relationship needs work, start talking and choose to talk respectfully. Take an object in hand and let whoever has the object have the freedom to speak candidly. Be mature about it and pass the object (i.e., the “right” to speak equally) back and forth.
Talk about one problem at a time. Explain your thoughts and feelings (and focus more on how you felt about the interaction – this can be harder for some people than others… sometimes searching the internet for a list of emotions can make it easier to communicate by using the list). Work on resolving one issue before moving on to the next. Pray beforehand and ask God to give you compassion for each other so you can see each other’s hearts – and give each other grace.
Listen to what your sweetie is saying instead of focusing on what you are going to say in response. Make this time a quest to understand him or her. Request that he or she do the same for you. When you get tired, stop for the day. Pick a day, time, and place to restart your discussion.
Taking Steps to Connect Even When You are not Sure You Even Want To
When you feel like you don’t love someone anymore, the best way to rekindle that feeling is by doing loving actions for him or her. When I am selfless towards Eric, I feel more love for him. Feeling love is not the most important part of a relationship, but it sure makes living life together a lot easier!
Here are a few steps you can take to pull your relationship out of a hard season:
- Date. This sounds obvious, but when couples are struggling, spending time together does not sound like loads of fun. Choose to go on dates and specifically use your time to connect. Don’t use this time to talk about problems, but to have fun and to leave the problems behind for a while. Remember what it is about this person that caught your eye in the beginning of your relationship.
- Speak Daily. Even if you cannot have a full, long conversation each day, make it a point to at least speak for five minutes. Give highlights of your respective days, express affection, and listen to each other. Keep the lines of communication open. Once they close, it is so much harder to open them up again!
- Employ Love Languages. Again, you don’t have to feel love to do something nice for each other. Feelings can return if you actively try to love each other. If you know his or her love language, speak it often. If you don’t, speak them all and see which one your honey responds to the most. Or, ask him or her what you can do to be more loving. Small gifts, notes of encouragement, holding hands, helping with chores, or simply spending time talking – all of these actions can help fan the flames.
- Give More than You Take. As hard as this is to do, focus on what you can give, and not on what you are getting in return. Make it a goal to outdo each other in showing love.
- Get help if you need it. You can seek out help from a mentor couple. You can seek professional (*Biblical*) counseling. You can take your concerns to a pastor or elder in your church. If you are experiencing problems that you cannot see beyond, it is time for a trusted third party to help you see more clearly. You need someone(s) who will hear you both objectively, who cares about you, who will show you what the Bible has to say, and who will give you practical, experienced advice. (We offer a service called The PAIR Test and it is an amazing assessment which will really help you understand more about yourself, your partner, and your dynamics together and very much worth your investment of time and money.)
If you believe your relationship is heading toward marriage, but are having problems and want to save it (or at least try to save it), take the steps above. Ask God to heal your connection – or to show you beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is time to walk away.
If you are experiencing a rough patch in your relationship, do something the world would consider odd. Thank God for it. Count it all joy. If you are a Christ-follower, be thankful that what you are going through now is shaping you and molding you to be more like Christ. Remember that for any garden to grow, a lot of rain must fall. Don’t give up on your garden just because it’s muddy right now. Look forward to the beautiful flowers that are coming.
How have you and your sweetie weathered rough patches in the past?