How do you rejuvenate failing relationships?

Is it possible to achieve true contentment? Luciana Bellini considers how to rejuvenate a failing relationship

Popular psychotherapist Philippa Perry broke new ground when she released The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) in 2019. An instant bestseller, the book earned her a legion of fans, thanks to her sage advice on how to be a better parent and form stronger bonds with your children. And now she’s hoping to rejuvenate failing relationships in general with her new The Book You Want Everyone You Love to Read.

Designed to help with the most important relationships in our lives – romantic, platonic, familial or work-related – it’s essential for anyone looking for answers to life’s biggest questions: how do you find and keep love? How do you rejuvenate a failing relationship? Is it possible to achieve true contentment? And how do you rejuvenate failing relationships?

The book is split into four main sections: how we love, how we argue, how we change and how we find contentment. Each aims to provide practical, honest advice to help our relationships thrive. ‘To truly connect with others,’ Perry writes, ‘we need to be not who we think we ought to be, or who we think they want us to be, but who we really are.’

To understand why a relationship has gone awry, and how we can fix it, it’s important to first recognise that we have no power over other people. We can control only ourselves and the way we react to things. Perry quotes the ‘doyenne of self-help’, Susan Jeffers, who said: ‘You are good enough exactly as you are, and who you are is a powerful and loving human being who is learning and growing every step of the way.’

If the first step if you want to rejuvenate a failing relationship is accepting what we can control and letting go of what we can’t, what’s the next? ‘Ask what that relationship means to you,’ says Dana Moinian, psychotherapist at London clinic The Soke. ‘Repairing broken – or breaking – relationships will require you to be honest, vulnerable, compromising and brave. So, if you’re going to expend so much in an attempt to make things better, you really need to be invested in wanting it. Even if things don’t go as you hoped they would, you won’t have regrets if you can be sure that relationship was worth the effort.’

When once-strong relationships flounder, says Moinian, there’s usually a key factor: ‘It’ll come down – directly or indirectly – to communication. The first piece of advice, therefore, is to ask: how is your communication different to what it used to be, and why? Try not to look at how the other person has changed in the way they communicate with you; instead, look at how you may be different, either in the way you’re giving or receiving messages.’

Perry agrees, writing: ‘We don’t have to have it all worked out before we start to talk – sometimes we only find out what we are feeling, or what we know, in conversation with others.’

When trying to rejuvenate a failing relationship, our actions could spell the critical difference between success and failure. ‘People mistake love for something you fall into, whereas it is much more than that,’ writes Perry. ‘Acting lovingly is something you /do/. Love is not just passive.’

As for feeling stuck in a relationship rut, Perry says it can be overcome only by taking responsibility for our actions and beliefs: ‘Identify your patterns of behaviour, notice whether these are a response to the past, and then start to respond to your circumstances as they are now.’

If you’re looking to rekindle something that feels lost, Moinian suggests reminding yourself what first drew you to that person: ‘Sometimes, what we like about someone is the way they made us feel. So as our feelings about ourselves change, so too will our feelings about the person, who may see us in a way to which we no longer relate. This, incidentally, can apply to our interests or views of the world, which may evolve and leave others behind.’

Perry notes that self-awareness and reflection are key to rejuvenating failing relationships: ‘It is so much easier to blame something outside of ourselves for our discontent than it is to look inwardly for a cause.’

Ultimately, to rejuvenate failing relationships and havepositive and fulfilling connections of any nature, boils down to one thing: having a happy and successful relationship with ourselves. ‘Our relationship with ourselves affects our relationships with others,’ declares Perry. ‘Doing work on yourself is important. It isn’t selfish or self-indulgent, because it helps you get rid of all of the barriers that stop you becoming closer to someone else. We are all works in progress.’

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