8 Steps Toward Healing When Your Relationship Is Falling Apart

If your relationship has been on the rocks these days, you’re certainly not alone: January tends to be a rough one for couples, with the first Monday after the holiday break informally dubbed “Divorce Day” by lawyers because of the immense flood of divorce inquiries they receive. Last year, divorce support service Amicable expected over 40,000 people to Google the word “divorce” in January, and some reports show it to be the most popular month of the year to break up.

What’s up with all the early-year turbulence? Part of the timing has to do with the holidays that have just passed—these family celebrations can be stressful for couples, both because of the chaotic family celebrations and traveling but also because of the need to perform an aura of joy. Even if the relationship is falling apart, most people can’t bring themselves to initiate a breakup once the holiday season takes off around early November. But once January rolls around and a sense of normalcy sets back in, the gloves can finally come off.

Now of course, if you’re facing the possibility of a breakup right now, you don’t need to lose hope just yet. Just because you’re in hot water doesn’t necessarily mean you need to throw in the towel. If you care deeply about your partner and you’re both committed to making the relationship work, there’s almost always a way to rebuild. For couples who are struggling and mutually do want to try to work things out, heal, and ultimately stay together if possible, here’s some advice on how to proceed:

1. Don’t make any rash decisions.

Many people enter a particularly rough patch in their relationship—an awful fight or transgression, a grueling and unspoken sex drought, a dysfunctional pattern that has repeated itself one too many times—and begin to head for the exit. But that’s giving up too soon, whether out of fear, frustration, or laziness.

“The longer the relationship and the more invested (think kids), the more you should take your time and be sure about what to do,” certified sex therapist and couples counselor Jessa Zimmerman tells mbg. “Absent any abuse—substance, alcohol, physical, verbal—I think we have a lot to learn by staying and trying to make things work. We’re going to carry any unresolved issues or work into our next relationship.”

Not only will you save yourself the trouble of falling into the same patterns the next time around, but the truth is, many couples really can work through their difficulties if they’re both willing to put in the effort. So how do you know a relationship is worth fighting for? “Length of time, co-owning a house, children all influence and demonstrate a level of investment that may be worth fighting for,” Zimmerman says. “When you have looked at your part of the problem and done your work to change (and feel good about that) and you’re still unhappy—that may be time to end the relationship. Avoid the tendency to make rash or sudden decisions in a difficult moment.”

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