Luisa Tam
SCMP Columnist
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam

How to prevent a break-up and rebuild a relationship that’s stagnant or in trouble

  • Break-up season – the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day – is coming and it’s a dangerous time for relationships that are on the rocks
  • Couples running on ‘autopilot’ need to understand that what their partner needs to feel loved may not be the same as it was in the past

We are apparently approaching the annual break-up season, which falls in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. But whether you believe in this cruel trend or not, it appears to have reasonable grounds for its yearly appearance.

Break-ups tend to spike right before big events that involve gatherings, such as meeting each other’s families and friends. This kind of pressure tends to trigger the question of commitment and doubts, especially for those who have relationship anxiety or if one’s partnership is already on shaky ground.

But you can still buck the trend by learning how to safeguard your relationship. Small changes such as focusing on doing positive things to reinforce it and fixing problems before it is too late can breathe life back into a stagnant or troubled partnership.

Contrary to how some couples behave, relationships don’t run on autopilot once you press the right buttons, says Sonia Samtani, a clinical hypnotherapist, life coach, and relationship and wellness coach. “Relationships need constant focus, attention and action to maintain functionality, and even more so to restore after breakdowns.”

Sonia Samtani says now is the time to reflect on the lessons you learned in 2020 with your partner.

To hold on to your relationship, the most important thing to do is communicate, she says. “Issues arise because of a lack of open and honest communication, when people either suppress their feelings, cover them up, or pretend that they are feeling something else.”

Other effective safeguards include maintaining couple’s rituals.

“A regular couple’s ritual makes a huge difference; schedule a time weekly to connect, where both of you can focus on each other and the relationship. It could be over your morning tea, or just before bed where there are no distractions.”

Some useful exercises to do during that time include allowing each other to share their thoughts on whatever they want to say. It is important to schedule time for this, so that you can avoid interruptions for a few minutes.

If you believe everything is in balance like Newton’s law of motion, then every negative situation has a positive part to it – even if you can’t see it at the time
Sonia Samtani

You can also engage in other exercises such as sharing three things that happened to you during the week, or sharing your gratitude lists, Samtani suggests.

“Since we are still transitioning to the new year, take some time with your partner to reflect on the lessons you learned in 2020 that could help your relationship, and set some intentions together about what you want to create in 2021”, she adds.

Furthermore, finding positives in the midst of negatives is also useful.

“Seeing things positively or negatively depends entirely on what you are focusing on and the quality of questions you ask yourself. If you focus on how helpless you are when things don’t go to plan or ask questions like ‘what is wrong with my partner?’ then you are likely to get a negative internal response, and the situation will spiral.”

Samtani points out that to see positivity, ask questions that focus on solutions and that move you forward towards harmony, such as “what can we do to understand each other more?” or “how can we handle this situation with love?”

Even if your relationship is on the verge of break-up, you still have a chance to rebuild. Photo: Shutterstock

After all, perspective is the key to happiness, she believes.

“If you know deep down that your partner would not do things to hurt you intentionally, take a moment to see things from their perspective and ask yourself what they could be focusing on that led them to behave in a way that you saw as negative.

“If you believe everything is in balance like Newton’s law of motion, then every negative situation has a positive part to it – even if you can’t see it at the time. If you focus on gratitude, lessons and growth, you will probably see the positivity that is balancing out the negative forces to maintain equilibrium.”

Even when your relationship might be on the verge of a break-up, you still have a chance to rebuild and reboot, but only if you put your mind to it.

“To rebuild your relationship emotionally, you need to be aware of your own needs and those of your partner’s, and also understand that they may not be the same as before,” Samtani says. “A lack of awareness about what your partner needs to feel loved and supported, or assuming that it is the same as it was 10 years ago before children, can lead to breakdown.”

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To begin the rebuilding process, she suggests an awareness exercise that involves asking each other questions like: “What makes you feel loved, wanted and accepted?”, “When did you feel most loved and supported by me and what made it so special?” and “What can I do to make you feel desired physically?”

But she notes that to prevent these sharing sessions feeling like a tedious task, you should create an intention for the conversation that inspires both of you. You can even do it over something fun like a hike or a glass of wine, or any other shared activity that you and your partner enjoy doing together.

How to purge negative emotions

• Know how to handle yourself when you feel negative emotions and prevent them from being directed at your partner or coming between the relationship

• To purge your own negative emotions, have a regular reflection routine that looks back at your day (or week) to make peace with what you’ve been judging

• If you are feeling angry, sad or helpless, don’t suppress or ignore it; acknowledge and express it in a healthy way by using exercises such as meditation to release it. You can also ask your partner for permission to release it emotionally, but in a controlled manner

Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post