I have been thinking a lot lately about how relationships can be difficult. I don’t mean just the obvious fighting and silent treatments we give each other now and then, but a bigger issue that many of us have or might face at some point; hopelessness. What do I mean by hopeless?
Sometimes we will get worn down with the way we interact with our partner; the constant disagreements and quarreling, or the lack of respect or affection. Maybe there is a heavy cloud of negativity that is ever looming. When this goes on for a long duration, the relationship can start to feel hopeless. This article will discuss this issue and look for some helpful solutions.
Marriage doesn’t make us exempt from a feeling of hopelessness
My wife and I have been married for more than twenty years and we have had our share of disagreements and moments of depression. In fact, I spent a considerable amount of time depressed. Not depressed because I married the wrong woman, but depressed because I had made so many mistakes while married to her.
I am a firm believer and supporter of the law of sowing and reaping. For me, I have sowed a lot during my years of marriage. Unfortunately, I have sowed a lot of bad seeds. Just as a farmer that plants corn must harvest corn, we who plant bad or negative seeds must harvest bad or negative results.
It was only a few years ago now that I made a choice to start planting good seeds that would, in time, yield a good harvest for our marriage and future. It was when I learned to change my focus and attitude that our relationship started to improve. But it wasn’t instantaneous. The decision to change was instant, but the results have been coming slowly.
As I can see definite improvement for us, it is still a battle for me to fight off the depressing thoughts and poor attitude and stay on track. There are certainly days where I succumb to the depression and it’s in those moments where I can see that there are feelings of hopelessness in my marriage. Wondering when I will find some stability and maintain that elusive ongoing feeling of happiness and positivity.
But life isn’t only about always being positive and happy. This is also true of our relationships. We are emotional people. What is important to learn here is, we must find a healthy way of dealing with the difficult times that our relationship faces.
Our actions affect our partner
To add to my story above, my moments of negativity or depression continue to work against me. This is because when I get in these moods, it negatively affects my wife. She had a plan for a great marriage and a happy future, but when she married me, well, she got more than she signed up for.
Of course, we’ve had many happy times, but we’ve also had many difficult times. Our most difficult times are long in the past, but when I relapse into negativity or depression, it stirs up the old memories. It is in these moments where I can see the defeat in my wife’s eyes. I can see hopelessness in her. I can see that she is wondering if I will ever fully recover and live the life we dreamed of together years ago.
Now, I didn’t write this article just to bash myself. Instead, I have described my actions because they are real for me, and they really do cause a feeling of hopelessness for ever having the most perfect marriage and future. And, this is true for many others, too. Depression and lost hope stems from many underlying issues.
For me, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence was always a big issue. I always felt like I lost more times than I won. This kept me in a constant feeling of depression. It made me feel like there was no point in trying. I have caught myself thinking the same thing in my relationship over the years; there’s no point in trying to have a good attitude or trying to be positive, because tomorrow, I’ll likely just wake up miserable again.
Of course, this doesn’t have to be true. However, this is where the shift needs to be made.
We are in a continuous state of growth
So, when we have these kinds of depressing or negative thoughts, we must find a way to combat them and turn to the positive. This is where the growing comes in. Since we are continuously learning, we are also continuously growing in knowledge and understanding.
It is perfectly normal for us to have feelings and thoughts that can bring us down, but we need to find ways to quickly balance out our thinking and emotions.
The issues that cause other relationships to feel hopeless might not have anything to do with a depressed or negative partner. This just happens to be where I struggle. For others, it could be something about the finances. Perhaps, there is too much debt, or a partner keeps overspending, causing a shortage of funds each month.
Or maybe, a partner is always angry, and it feels like it will never improve. Whatever the scenario, we must make a choice to start looking for viable solutions now if we want to see positive changes.
For me, it has to do with focus; for others, counseling might be necessary. Knowing the next step and taking it is the difference between the relationship feeling hopeless and the relationship growing into something much better. But the step must be made. The couple must decide to make the step together and agree to work together to improve.
Five steps to move from hopelessness, to a lasting, hope-filled relationship
I will list five steps a couple can use that will set them on the right course. I know they work because we have used them in our own marriage for various situations. What’s important here is that the couple works at this and doesn’t give up. It isn’t easy addressing hard issues, but it’s the persistence that will bring you to success here.
It is fully possible that external help might be necessary in the form of a counselor or church Pastor or someone trustworthy. Sometimes, we get to a point where we just can’t come to an agreement before the conversation turns to a fight. This doesn’t mean that there is no hope for the relationship; rather, it means that there are some characteristics and behaviors that must change and some forgiveness that must first take place.
It’s a process. It was a process that got us here and it will be a process that gets us to a new place. When we have a strategy or action plan, our potential for success increases massively.
If you are struggling in your relationship and feel like it has lost all hope and meaning, try these five steps:
- Identify the issue
- Agree to work together
- Come up with a plan of action
- Utilize available resources to build new skills
- Small steps daily
1. Identify the issue
As I have identified an issue in my own relationship that has potential to cause damage and feelings of hopelessness, other couple’s who are struggling will need to pinpoint the major reason for their breakdown.
Couples fight all the time. However, due to a lack of communication, it’s possible that, let’s call him Todd, doesn’t always know why he and his wife, let’s call her Lucy, are fighting. What I mean is; Lucy might be fed up with some of Todd’s behaviors, and Todd might not be aware that this is an issue at all. So, every time that Todd does something small, Lucy goes into fury.
If Lucy would confront Todd about what the true underlying issue is that is causing the frustration, then there could be a chance for immediate restoration.
Taking responsibility isn’t always easy. Nobody likes to admit fault. I get it. But there isn’t any way to correct an issue if we aren’t first willing to own up to it. Once we determine that we have a certain habit that is destructive in some form, we can start working to break that habit and replace it with a productive habit that starts us in a new direction.
For me, negative talk and a depressed attitude are what comes about periodically. I am learning to put these steps into place as soon as possible when I notice that I’m headed down the wrong path. This is the habit that we must form if we want to resolve our issues quickly and with as little damage as possible. Notice the issue, and take steps to correct it right away.
2. Agree to work together
Our relationship is a unity of two people. This means, we’re in it together. The good and the bad affect us both. This doesn’t automatically mean that a couple is willing to work together to improve a situation, however.
Sometimes, we get to a place where there’s been too much damage done and we don’t want to work on a solution. There will be times where a relationship is at a point of hopelessness and the only reasonable solution we can think of is a break-up. But I would like to say that such a time or situation is one where the couple has both decided that it is, in fact, hopeless, and that they aren’t willing to try any further.
If you are nearing this situation, but willing to try to work things out, I really recommend that you look into the resources available from Mort Fertel. He has a high success rate of helping couples to find their way back to each other, even if only one partner is willing to put in the work. You can check out his site by clicking here.
I would also like to say that there are many couples who have recovered from some extremely difficult situations because they agreed that there is possibility and that not all hope was lost. The road to recovery wasn’t necessarily easy, but worth it.
If a couple can agree to work together on a common goal, they become a powerful force. One that defies odds and overcomes even the most difficult obstacles. But this also means that the couple must agree to forgive each other of their wrongs and move on; no returning to the issue.
Working together means not attacking one for what they’ve done and the other must agree to stop doing whatever it was that they were doing in the first place, think of Todd and Lucy, that was causing the hardships.
3. Come up with a plan of action
An action plan is a road map. It is a series of steps that will take us to our destination of choice. There are always going to be things that throw us off track, but we must work to avoid these distractions or stumbling blocks.
If we don’t devise some sort of plan, then it won’t be long before we are right back where we were when things were difficult.
With a plan and an agreement to work together at it, we are much more likely to get where we’re going; to a happy relationship. This plan of action includes setting some goals.
All relationships should have goals. Many couples agree that they want a nice house and money in the bank. But there are many goals we should consider. Parenting goals, financial goals, intimacy goals, communication goals, activity goals, relationship-longevity goals, retirement goals, and health goals to name a few.
If we don’t write down our goals, we are very unlikely to attain them. It is said that just by writing down our goals and revisiting them often, we greatly increase our likeliness of success.
So, take some time with your partner and write out some short-term and long-term goals. Even if your relationship isn’t in a state of despair, I still encourage you to have goal list for both your relationship and your personal life. This is just good planning.
4. Utilize available resources to build new skills
Counseling might be a necessary step for many couples. There should be no shame here. Counselors study techniques and strategies for relationship and life improvement. It should be no surprise that they hold winning formulas that we are unaware of.
Now, of course, I understand that going to a stranger and confessing our deepest secrets might not be all that appealing. However, it might be necessary. A good counselor or therapist won’t be judgmental. They will be sincere and courteous and will offer wise words that will help.
Available resources can mean many things; online relationship courses, counseling, community courses, books, DVDs, seminars, and even marriage retreats.
What is important is that we find the necessary tools that will help us with what we are dealing with. The necessary tools are the ones that will help us develop the vital skills to get us through the current hardship, as well as, potential future hardships.
I also try to encourage individuals and couples to start developing these relationship-building skills as early as possible. It is good practice to be prepared. Since there is no limit to our learning capabilities, why not spend a few hours per week learning a skill that will help us create an amazing future?
When it comes to relationship improvement resources, we want to start with educating ourselves in what is bothering the relationship. For me and my depression, it comes down to where I focus my attention.
Several years ago, I was laid off from my job indefinitely, and since then, have assumed the role of stay-at-home dad/blogger. Well, I went from making a six-figure income to being supported by my wife. I struggled with not having an income for a long time, and as I said, I still catch myself slipping into depression.
Even though I am working to build a career as an author and blogger, the process is slow and testing. For me, the solution is to seek out positive material to watch and listen to as often as possible; especially, when I start to develop a negative mood.
5. Work at it daily
Trying to create a new habit or revive a damaged relationship isn’t a one-day excursion. This is a process and it could take years to fully develop. For us, twenty years after saying “I do,” and we still find ourselves feeling ready to give up and part ways periodically.
As I said earlier, the difference between breaking up and breaking through comes down to willingness to commit to a plan of action together and push through.
I can assure you that there will be difficult days and there will be enjoyable days. The goal is to minimize the difficult days and maximize the enjoyable days. But if we don’t embrace the available resources quickly and develop the skills needed, we stand to experience more difficult days then not.
To that point, I spend a great deal of time learning about personal development and relationship improvement and I can honestly say that my life goes much smoother when I am continuously engaged in learning. It’s when I take a break from it that I return to poor thinking and begin to focus on the wrong things in life.
My wife and I must make a deliberate choice each day to get up with purpose and hope for our relationship and put in the effort to move towards our goals together. It’s not always pretty, but together we are strong and capable.
So, if you have taken the necessary steps to get your relationship back on track, or are ready to do so, make a solid commitment to each other that you will stick to your decision and take steps daily, together. Small steps lead to great journeys.
The hopeless relationship is the one where the couple has completely given up. We are all going to make mistakes in life, but we can overcome them. We can work together and come up with a plan of action that will get us through the situation.
When we work together, we are strong. We can learn together, we can build skills together, and we can reap an amazing harvest together from a series of good decisions and actions. But we must make this the new habit and stick to it; even when we make more mistakes.
If you feel like your relationship is in a state of hopelessness, try implementing the steps in this article with your partner and look ahead to better times. It might not happen immediately, but by working together on a new plan, your relationship has amazing potential to become better than it ever was.
If you have any stories of hope or helpful tips, please share them in the comments below for others to enjoy and possibly implement into their own situations.
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How to get your spouse to hear you, by Mort Fertel.