Reconciliation Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on Reconciliation Mistakes to Avoid

People break up for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they’re done. It’s over. Other times, couples find that they aren’t done with each other, and want to reconcile.

Conventional wisdom says that if your relationship was in enough trouble that you separated, you’ll likely not do a better job of staying together the second time around.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

Couples can successfully reconcile. If they have a handle on the challenges that accompany creating a better relationship. Most couples don’t realize how difficult that task will be.

The good news is that reconciling couples are normally very motivated to keep from making the same mistakes they made previously. But that’s not all it takes.

Consider the following 3 biggest reconciliation mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Couples get back together and simply hope for the best.

When reconciling couples are asked what’s changed in their relationship, they usually say, “We’re trying harder.” What does that mean? Generally, that means they’re trying harder not to be bothered by the same behaviors that made them angry, disappointed, or upset in the past.

In the short run, it works, but eventually this approach fails as old patterns and problems reappear. Couples cannot sustain this long term because they are not addressing underlying problems — they’re just trying to prevent themselves from reacting badly to them.

Couples do better when they take an honest look at what previously went wrong. It’s important to determine the ways in which each person has contributed to their relationship issues, and follow a specific plan for addressing those problems.

This is often a difficult thing for couples to do. It’s far easier to point fingers at each other, than look inward for changes that need to be made. It’s also easy to feel defensive or attacked. But try to keep an open mind. Be willing to make concession or changes in order to improve the relationship. The odds of successful reconciliation are low, if just one partner is working toward change.

Finally, don’t forget to discuss the aspects of the relationship that you like. Do a full relationship inventory, rather than focusing just on the things that have gone wrong. What works well? What do you want to retain?

  • Couples talk about the relationship without taking sufficient action.

Often couples do a good job of talking about necessary changes, but can’t seem to move past those discussions to take actual action. At that point, the relationship can become stuck.

To reach productive solutions, couples must realize that change is hard. Both partners need to become actively aware of what they want to do differently, and take specific action to implement those changes.

Couples should be very purposeful and deliberate, rather than thinking spontaneous change will occur on the part of either partner. It won’t. The behavior patterns in a relationship aren’t generally conscious decisions. We don’t decide to yell at or undermine each other; those habits happen automatically. Doing something different has to be intentional.

Dealing with automatic responses takes effort and is definitely hard work, but it gets easier with time, and as new habits develop. Partners will find that it becomes easier to work on their relationship, as payoffs for commitment and effort start to occur.

  • Couples expect too much too soon.

People want results. Now. We tend to seek instant gratification, a desire probably exacerbated by our technological conveniences. Patience can be a real problem for some people.

When couple come back together after a breakup, they are hopeful and optimistic. Frustration can set in, if progress isn’t made as quickly as they hoped. They may believe reconciliation isn’t working, and give up prematurely.

It’s a good idea to set a minimum time limit of at least three to six months, maybe longer, to determine whether reconciliation efforts are working. At that point, it’s fine to reassess whether you should continue to work at it.

Take it slow and adopt a long-term prospective. When it comes to reconciliation, look for growth and progress, instead of immediate results.

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