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How to Repair Bad Relationships

Updated on March 7, 2012

*HubNugget winning entry

Even animals fight.

So seven billion people packed together with colorful emotions, a will to act, and a cache of needs and desires guarantees that emotions, choices, needs, and desires are surely going to clash at times. Tension between persons is never an easy thing to deal with, but it is normal and can be expected.

What is good though is the flexible nature of relationships. They stretch well to accommodate our assumptions, flare-ups, faults, and regrets and snap back just as well often stronger and healthier.

But it’s not automatic. Relationships take work and threatened relationships require unremitting attention to nurture them back to health—that is, if this is the goal of the parties involved. We may treat troublesome relationships as if they no longer matter to us, but they do stress and even depress us. It is not possible that we can so easily detach ourselves from a bond in which we’ve invested large amounts of time, energy, and love. Dying relationships are just that, small deaths.

So how can we heal troubled relationships? I offer three suggestions.


This means make sure the other person hears what you say as you mean it, and vice versa. Change is never a possibility until warring parties can agree to emotionally disengage and talk sensibly. Another way of saying it: close your chest of arsenals and open your heart. I understand that this can be difficult for some of us. Many people fear opening up emotionally. To do this means to expose ourselves to another person; and that is awkward for people who may have lived much of their lives hiding their true identity to settle for superficial individuality. So the point is not merely to communicate but to communicate honestly by going deeply within ourselves to clarify or resolve any issues that would foil an attempt to restore relationship with someone else.

Be Assertive

Get the results you want. No, this is not having your way…the whole problem. Instead, it is moving beyond the trifles of what did or didn’t happen to create agreeable relations (first) that will foster resolution. So, seek to understand and act orderly and in a negotiable way. Clearly state what you want and also learn to compromise. What assertiveness is not is aggression, and people make the mistake in their minds that if they are to assert themselves they have to be negative or belligerent. This is wrong. Assertiveness rests in communication know-how: the knowledge of what pleases you, the motivation to go after it, and the respectful attitude to win it.

Be Perceptive

It is important that we know how far to take an issue that gets personal, not because we don’t wish to put everything on the table but because some things may not be ready for exposure. People cannot always handle the truth about themselves. Think about yourself: the secrets or faults you may keep that no one knows about—you think. Think about the people you may have confronted with their own personal bombshells and how they reacted to you, especially in the days thereafter.

I was a counselor during my years in college and often had people come to me for advice, willingly sharing their lives with me. I truly cared for these people and could often perceive correctly things they were not telling me. I had to be careful about what I could confront and what needed to be let alone.

You see, to confront people with their private misgivings and fears at inappropriate times can upend them psychologically. If we’re conscionable people we ought to believe that we cannot say things to others simply because we feel the right to say it or because it needs to be said. It may need saying but it also needs to be carried out with the utmost respect and care for the other party, even if that person is dead-wrong on the issue.

So let these three points get you started in the right direction. Strong relations matter.


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    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 6 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Yay, Angie! I'm encouraged that these words are beneficial to you. Thanks for reading.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 6 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Wise hub, ithabise ... thank you for putting your advice so clearly and concisely.

      It will certainly give me something to think about when I am tempted to tell someone exactly where I think they are going wrong. ;)

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 6 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      So glad it's good advice to you, chelseacharleston. Thanks for reading.

    • chelseacharleston profile image

      chelseacharleston 6 years ago

      So timely. I definitely need to work on my timing as mentioned. I have a gift for connecting the dots in other people, but breaking the news can be an issue. Thanks!

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 6 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Thank you, Mary. We have a responsibility to be respectable to others for our own decency's sake.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

      You gave some very good advise here. We can destroy another human with our words if we are not careful. Good Hub.

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 6 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Yes, we never have the right to devastate a person emotionally. This is to be vindictive. Basic human respect goes a long way; and it amazes me that we ever lose it.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      ithabise.....This is such an excellent bit of advice. I would especially re-iterate the suggesting about using caution and respect when confronting people with their misgivings and fears. At a time when someone is in a very emotionally fragile state....we MUST be wise enough to use the apprpriate words, in a gentle and helpful way. Thank you for bringing this important issue to the table. Voted up!