Bob Marley once said, “Everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” Marley may have been a total womanizer, but he’s got a point. In long-term, truly intimate relationships, some level of betrayal and hurt is almost inevitable—whether your partner lies about quitting smoking or has a full-blown affair. So perhaps true love isn’t about finding someone worth suffering for, but rather finding a relationship that’s worth putting in the effort to repair.
“You’re not doomed to split because you’re facing a specific issue,” says Samantha Burns, a licensed mental health counselor, relationship counselor, and dating coach. “Certain issues are more challenging to overcome, but the success or failure of the relationship is determined by how you cope with the issue.”
Here are some signs that the two of you can still work things out.
1. You’re Still a Team Regardless of who caused or contributed more to the problem, successful couples approach these hurdles as a team.
“For instance, ‘Even though you bought that car without my permission and I’m super pissed, now we have to figure out how to get out of debt,’” says Burns. This is what she refers to as the “we factor.” These couples are able to keep the big picture in perspective and realize they love each other, even when they don’t like each other’s actions.
“Certain issues are more challenging to overcome, but the success or failure of the relationship is determined by how you cope with the issue.”
2. You Both Take Responsibility Obviously, it’s not your fault if your partner cheats on you. That being said, it is important in that situation (or any other) to look at all contributing factors on both sides. Perhaps your partner has commitment or impulse control problems. Or, maybe you’ve been emotionally distant.
“Oftentimes, rebuilding trust can’t happen until each partner acknowledges his or her role, whether active or passive, in the bigger problems that led to the betrayal,” says Burns. “Taking responsibility for the distance and chasms in the relationship is key for the couple to create and define a new stronger, more committed future together.”
Whatever the case, Burns emphasizes that it’s vital to practice introspection. If you have a situation where no one is willing to admit they’re wrong, the problem is likely to repeat itself one way or another.
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3.You Haven’t Lost That Lovin’ Feeling This is a biggie, and the reason some say love conquers all. If you and your partner still love each other and are capable of showing it, your relationship has a greater chance of surviving even the most devastating trespasses.
“[Successful couples] are attuned to each other’s love languages, which are the ways in which each partner most prefers to receive love,” says Burns. “This makes it easier to resolve conflict and feel connected again, because you’re saying, ‘I love you,’ in a way that really resonates with your partner.”
Whether it be words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service, or physical touch, learn each other’s love language and utilize it daily—especially when the road gets tough.
“Taking responsibility for the distance and chasms in the relationship is key for the couple to create and define a new stronger, more committed future together.”
4. You Have External Support Our current social media climate makes it so easy to compare ourselves to others (#relationshipgoals), and swipe right or left on any potential mate. At the sight of any flaw or betrayal, we’re expected to move on and find someone better. There are just so many options, after all!
“These days, especially for women who pride themselves on being independent and powerful, there’s a lot of shaming that goes on for staying in a relationship where the man cheats,” says Burns.
If you’re trying to mend things with your S.O., it’s helpful to be surrounded by friends and family who are open and willing to listen to your feelings, rather than those who make negative comments or encourage you to leave your partner.
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5. You Both Want It to Work After all, the relationship isn’t going to fix itself.
“If you have tried to straightforwardly address your partner’s reluctance and resistance, but he or she denies any responsibility for his or her actions, refuses to change or invest the energy into working through it, and is unwilling to put in the effort or go to therapy, it might be time to walk away,” says Burns.
While almost any issue can be resolved if the above factors are aligned, it is important to acknowledge that there is one problem that cannot be remedied: any abuse, physical or mental, should never be tolerated. Yes, people do change these behaviors, but it’s not worth the risk to wait around and hope that it happens.