When you and your partner decide to hit the reset button on your relationship, you must first attempt to identify what it means to start over from each partner’s perspective.
For some couples, this will mean finding forgiveness and discovering a way to close the door on a painful history before creating a new life together. Other couples may find that starting over means getting to know each other for who they are today. Life stress, the demands of family and children, or focusing on busy careers can cause an emotional disconnect between partners, making you feel like you are living with a roommate or even a stranger.
The good news is that starting over can happen if both people are on the same page and believe the relationship is worth fighting for. Whether you engage in therapy, work with a relationship expert or dating coach, or attend a weekend retreat or workshop, you must commit to being open to the possibility of change. This requires vulnerability and an open heart, which can feel scary if you have been hurt in the past or experienced a loss of trust.
A mistake many couples make when attempting to start over is they keep one another stuck in the former relationship dynamics by overthinking, expecting, or fearing pervious behaviors and dynamics to reemerge. The first step to creating a healthy relationship with a clean slate is letting go of the old relationship that wasn’t working. Commit to meeting one another as who you are today and begin moving forward together in the same direction.
What does it mean to restart a previous relationship?
When someone is willing to start over, they realize it’s not about blaming or pointing out past mistakes. It is a willingness to find a middle ground and approach an already established relationship in a beginner’s state of mind.
When we nurture a new relationship, we are present and engaged and spend quality time together. We are curious about our partners and strongly desire to learn about one another’s experiences and perspectives. We also naturally focus on the positive things and allow the relationship we create to unfold without projecting. It can be a time when we find joy in our commonalities and differences.
It is not always easy to bring this mindset to a relationship with someone with whom we have a long history involving negative or hurtful experiences. Starting over in a relationship can be difficult to embrace when we’re grappling with negative emotions from the past. The key is identifying the fears and negative narratives getting in the way and keeping you from cultivating the curiosity and joy that caused you to bond in the first place.
It is not required to agree with one another’s perspective to move forward, but it is required that you respect and accept the validity of each other’s experiences. It is impossible to authentically move forward with someone who has hurt or betrayed us if we don’t feel they can grasp the gravity of our grief or pain.
10 tips for how to start over in a relationship and make it work
When a couple decides to restart their relationship, some helpful practices can be implemented to forge a stronger connection this time around. Applying these practices could be the difference between making the relationship work and repeating harmful patterns and fights that led to the breakdown in the first place. Here are some helpful tips for restarting a relationship and making it work:
1) Process negative feelings
Couples struggle with how to start over when they are experiencing unresolved emotional pain. We must accept and understand our history before we can move beyond it. To forgive, we must first feel heard. We can not ask our partner to let go of what caused them pain if we don’t recognize the pain it caused and why it occurred.
This is not an easy process, and couples often hope to bypass this part of healing and agree to a fresh start. Unfortunately, this does not work. You must focus on yourself to acknowledge and understand. Ask yourselves the following:
- What must I recognize, understand, and forgive to move forward?
- Can I empathize with my partner’s experience, validate their feelings, and take responsibility for previous actions that may have caused harm to the relationship?
- Do I have a positive vision for our lives together, and what might be possible if we start over?
2) Set realistic expectations
Rebuilding a relationship takes time and effort. While you may be eager to move past the previous issues and create a perfect partnership, be realistic about the challenges that may arise along the way. Building trust, improving communication, and addressing underlying issues won’t happen overnight.
By acknowledging that progress takes time and patience, you can avoid becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. Remember, starting over is about laying a strong foundation for a healthier relationship, and that requires realistic and clear expectations and a willingness to work through the obstacles together.
3) Create shared goals
One of the main reasons couples decide to start over is the belief that life is more valuable together than apart. Consider the reasons why you and your partner are choosing to start anew. Talking about shared goals and dreams will move you toward creating the positive future you imagine is possible.
Pay attention to your thoughts and your inner narrative. Give your loved one and your relationship the benefit of the doubt. Focus on being friends. Talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Write a new story by co-creating the partnership you believe is possible instead of staying stuck in your old story.
4) Close the door to unwanted experiences
Once you have done the work to acknowledge and process negative feelings, be intentional about leaving your former dynamic behind. The key to starting over is a willingness and commitment to create a new experience and cultivate a new relationship. Do not let fear or anxiety keep you and your partner stuck in unwanted relationship dynamics.
Talk about the relationship you are creating by focusing on the outcomes you want instead of the outcomes you fear. When we ruminate on our fears, we often manifest them into our reality. Allow a new version to take form and flourish.
5) Engage in your own personal growth work
The wounding we experience in relationships is often deeply rooted in our past. Without realizing it, we can project trauma from childhood like being raised by emotionally immature parents, or a previous relationship that involved emotional or physical trauma, onto your current relationship.
Spending alone time to do your personal development work or therapy can help create the self-awareness you need to work through old baggage that you may be holding onto consciously or unconsciously. Understanding and taking responsibility for unhealthy behavior can help you break free of toxic patterns and bring the best version of you to breathe new life into your relationship.
6) Try couples counseling
Working with a trained professional such as a couples therapist, family therapist, or relationship coach can be an effective way to help couples start over. An expert can teach couples to communicate effectively, process and resolve emotional wounds, improve intimacy, and forge emotional connections.
A therapist or coach can offer an unbiased perspective that can deepen a couple’s insight into their experiences and facilitate a greater understanding of why difficulties occurred so other unwanted mistakes can be avoided.
7) Create rituals of connection
Rituals of connection are the little things you can do every day to feel connected with your partner. This can be as simple as speaking with kindness and affection while you spend time conversing over a morning cup of coffee or giving a hug or kiss when leaving for work.
Most couples, over time, forget to do the things that brought them close in the first place. Doing nice things for your partner, like bringing home a treat from the bakery or buying flowers for no reason, can be opportunities for positive connection.
8) Learn how to have stress-reducing conversations
Healthy communication is critical when considering how to start over in a relationship. Learn to support your person when you have to discuss bad news. Healthy partnerships are built on trust and communication.
When your partner can bring difficult topics to you, and you can listen with empathy without giving unsolicited advice or becoming defensive, you create, you create emotional trust and attraction in your relationship. Gottman Method Couples Counseling can teach you and your spouse how to improve communication and easily have a stress-reducing conversation.
9) Help your partner co-regulate their emotional state
Co-regulation is the process of entering a calm state with another person so each person can bolster the other’s state. We can co-regulate with our children and friends, but it is especially important with our significant others. We feel safe with people we believe to see and understand our emotions.
When we are distressed, it can be beneficial for those close to us to help regulate our emotional state by consoling and remaining calm. However, staying calm when your partner is distressed can be challenging because our emotions are so intertwined with our significant others.
Significant others who hold space for each other’s difficult emotions without taking them personally help support each other’s ability to emotionally regulate while increasing trust and deepening connection. Let one person speak while the other person listens. Seek to understand your partner without rushing to fix or change them. This practice will help you build the trust necessary for starting over.
10) Celebrate progress and milestones
Acknowledge and appreciate the positive changes and improvements you make as a couple. Celebrating milestones creates a sense of accomplishment, reinforces your commitment to the relationship, and brings joy into the journey of starting over. Whether reaching a new level of open communication, resolving a long-standing conflict, or achieving a shared goal, take the time to celebrate these moments to foster a positive and encouraging atmosphere.
Recognizing and celebrating your progress builds momentum and reinforces the idea that your efforts are making a difference. This practice also serves as a reminder of the potential and growth ahead, creating a sense of hope and excitement for the relationship’s future.
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Scenarios when a fresh start might make sense
A fresh start can make sense when both parties wish to forgive and move forward. They both have determined there is enough about the old relationship that they value trying again and are committed to putting in the effort required to heal truly. If you both want a new beginning and have determined that healing the relationship is in your best interest, couples therapy may help you start to heal your relationship and start anew.
Here are seven scenarios that may lead to the desire to start over in your relationship:
- When infidelity, an affair, or intense feelings for someone else have occurred.
- When one, or both, parties have gone through addiction and are now in recovery.
- When experiencing struggles with infertility.
- When the spark or emotional connection with one another has been lost due to outside circumstances (kids, family, career, financial issues, traumatic events, grief, loss, etc.)
- When initial hopes for the relationship are beginning to seem out of reach.
- When partners do not know how to support one another in their individual or shared challenges and aspirations.
- When trauma from childhood or other relationships surfaces and has a detrimental impact on the current relationship.
A broken relationship doesn’t always deserve a fresh start
It is essential to point out that a fresh start is not always possible. There are some betrayals or crossing of boundaries that people can not or do not want to work through and instead prefer to move on. The truth is things occur that will make it impossible for two people to repair a broken relationship. There are issues that people decide are deal breakers for them, and a second chance is impossible. It is not wrong if you determine that it is in your best interest to move on. A relationship reset might be a bad idea if:
- There have been ongoing affairs
- Mental or emotional abuse
- No matter what you do, you feel wrong and unheard by your partner
- You are the victim of domestic violence
These indicators may be a wake-up call that the relationship is not salvageable. Continual lying is another example where folks may decide that starting over is not the best move. Mutual Respect is essential. As always, it is up to the people involved to decide the best action for them.
Therapy can help you create a new relationship with the same person
While starting over in a relationship can be a daunting task, seeking the guidance of a trained and experienced couples therapist can provide invaluable support and guidance throughout the process. Couples therapy can play a vital role in helping you create a new relationship with the same person. Couples therapists are trained to help couples navigate complex dynamics, improve communication, and work through unresolved issues. They can assist you in developing effective strategies to rebuild trust, establish healthy boundaries, and foster deeper emotional connections. Through couples therapy, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourselves and each other, learn new tools and techniques to enhance your relationship and find healing and growth together.
Likewise, family therapists specialize in relational dynamics and can provide valuable insights and interventions to help you navigate the challenges of starting over in a relationship. Remember, reaching out for professional help is not a sign of weakness but a proactive step toward creating a fulfilling and thriving partnership with your loved one.