All couples at some point reach the relationship buyer’s remorse phase. This is the point where one or both start to wonder or question. They may think things like this is not what I signed up for or why should this be so hard. They have probably bumped up against issues and problems and been unwilling or unable to resolve them. They have probably been hurt and may have developed patterns of reacting to each other that make things worse rather than better. Many couples get stuck in negative patterns of arguing and fighting or withdrawing and withholding. In order for things to improve they need to break these patterns. They need to choose to do something different.
An interesting finding from marriage research is that many people who reported being unhappy in their marriage but chose to stay together, later report being very happy in that same marriage. It may pay to be patient and to see the buyer’s remorse phase as a signal to choose to grow and develop as a person and as a couple.
There are some strategies to help get unstuck:
Stop talking about your relationship
I recognize that ignoring problems is not the way to solve them. But I have found that couples in the buyer’s remorse phase of their relationship are not able to have a conversation about their relationship without it escalating to unpleasantness and way worse. So for the first while stop talking about your relationship.
Put positive energy back in your relationship
Smile at each other. Find reasons to feel grateful and to compliment each other. Pretend that you like each other if that is what it takes.
Get helpful help
Avoid simply venting to your friends and family, especially if this turns into relationship or partner bashing. Helpful help is the kind that supports and validates you and at the same time helps you consider how you might be contributing to the problems. Talk to someone you can trust to not blame you or your partner.
Talk with each other
Once you have put some positive energy back in your relationship and you feel you can talk to each other without falling into the same old negative patterns of reacting, create some regular time to talk through your issues. You may need some help with this step. It can be advantageous to have a neutral third party present; you may want to consider a counsellor, mediator or ecclesiastical leader. As you start this process remember that you need to listen twice as much as you talk. Always take time to validate and acknowledge what you partner has said before you jump into making your point.
As you choose to interrupt your negative patterns of reacting, focus on the good in your relationship, feel and express gratitude and actively listen to your partner your relationship should start to feel a little more comfortable. Give yourselves time for healing and growth. Be gentle and patient with yourselves and with each other.
Sometimes it is time to get out
In cases of abuse the above advice does not apply. Call the police or go to a shelter. If you are in danger in your relationship, find a way to get out.