Updated 19 December 2006

Before you call it quits

It's not a happy moment, realising that your relationship is in jeopardy. But if you're going to try to salvage matters, here are some steps you should include in your agenda.


It's not a happy moment, realising that your relationship is in jeopardy. But if you're going to try to salvage matters, here are some steps you should include in your agenda.

First, it's important to agree that the relationship is in trouble, even if you don't agree that it's repairable. When you do this you'll need an environment that's free of interruptions, so the TV stays off, the phones are silenced and the kids should preferably be somewhere else.

Check your reactions. People in troubled relationships sometimes do things they secretly know will infuriate their partners. If you know that staying out at the pub until the wee hours is a point of contention, give it a break for a while. Deliberately creating conflict might end the relationship quickly, but like suicide, it’s not the braver of your options. Similarly, you may know that confessing about a tryst with your ex will put paid to any possibility of redeeming your current relationship. Ask yourself whether you’re planning to own up for the right or wrong reasons.

Avoid the stereotypes. Some men slip into generalisations about women’s behaviour and attitudes. At least 99 percent of the banter about PMS, waiting at the door with a rolling pin, or feigning a headache is pure rubbish. The blokes who are most free with it are secretly concerned about their shortfall - perceived or real - in the trouser department and rely on Andy Capp cartoons for their insight. And they often have very little first-hand knowledge of relationships. Avoid quoting them, aloud or to yourself.

See the professionals.A marriage guidance counsellor can be of great assistance in creating a safe space for the two of you to talk about your relationship and your feelings about yourselves and one another. If you're serious about your relationship, you will go down this avenue before you call it quits.

Exchange lists.You should each compile a list of things you feel your partner isn't doing, or ways you feel you've been let down. Exchange lists and agree to work on more than one or two items a day. This can inject some positive feedback into the relationship.

Accentuate the positive.Each of your should write down what it is you value about the relationship, as well as your values, needs and goals. Agree to find some common ground where you can accommodate each other. Draw up a list of things you like and dislike about each other's behaviour. Agree to be specific, but to write down a positive trait for every negative one.

Deal with your own anger.Each of you should identify the “red rags” that trigger your anger. Dealing with the your own anger should become a priority.

Agree to give each other space. You'll each benefit from time alone, so agree that say, you do everything every Monday evening while she goes to her book club. Tuesdays are your night for playing pool with your mates and so on.

Find time together. You need to broker space for yourselves as a couple, whether it's one evening a week or a month. Going to a movie together is allowed, but it would be better if your could actually have a conversation.

Own up. Some things are better kept secret. Other might be worth owning up to as a way of acknowledging that you've done less than you could have to make the relationship work.

Tape them.Try carrying a microcassette recorder around with you. Record your negative feelings on it and go through them when you're calm, before unleashing them on your partner. – (William Smook)

(Picture: Angry couple from Shutterstock)

Read more:

14 signs of  a healthy relationship



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