'Fake It Til You Make It' May Be The Key To Fixing Your Damaged Relationship

Relationships can stall, experience bumps in the road, or seemingly become afterthoughts as we go through the grind of daily life — especially after the honeymoon period, where a relationship is new, exciting, and driven by feel-good love hormones and newfound attraction. According to Brides, the honeymoon phase of a new relationship lasts for approximately the first six months, and if a couple decides to continue with a long-term relationship, they must figure out how to make things work when day-to-day life and responsibilities set in. When things start to feel boring, stale, or lacking excitement, this is where communication skills, intentional acts of affection, and active efforts to connect with your partner come into play to keep your relationship going.

As relationships go on, there's always the possibility for emotional damage to occur if one person isn't fully honest, or even if a partner simply feels unheard by the other person. Feeling unseen in an intimate relationship with someone for whom you have immense affection can result in distance and emotional pain and can ultimately take a toll on the relationship. There's also the premise of the seven-year itch, when partners have been together for an extended period of time and have lost the sense of mutual infatuation experienced during the honeymoon period, says Psychology Today. If your relationship feels damaged or stalled and you don't know how to proceed, one way is to fake it til you make it, using techniques like these to get back on track.

Honesty and transparency are essential

Let your partner know how you're feeling with the utmost honesty and transparency, though always be respectful in how you approach verbalizing your feelings — it's easy to become hostile or critical of the other person, even when we don't intend to be mean. Perhaps it's because in romantic relationships, we are usually at our most vulnerable when we allow someone to truly get to know us and we open our hearts to them, so even the slightest hint of criticism from the person whose opinion and feedback we value most can feel like a tidal wave of insults that cause us to close off from the person as time goes on. Regaining transparency and honest dialogue with your partner may be where you need to begin to repair a damaged relationship, and opening up after closing yourself off can be a scary thing to do. 

Before and after speaking with your partner, particularly about sensitive or vulnerable topics, try writing your thoughts in a journal or practicing a mindfulness habit such as meditation. Prioritizing self-care is the best way to remain level-headed and calm when feeling vulnerable and fractured, especially when discussing potentially uncomfortable topics with someone who knows you so intimately. Another tip to make certain you remember all of your key points without getting sidetracked is to write out a list or even a script for what you want to say to your partner.

Be intentional about intimacy

As life becomes busy, it's easy to get caught up in other things and neglect quality time spent with your partner. If there has been damaged trust in the relationship, it may be even more difficult for partners to reconnect because of increased vulnerability, distrust, and hurt feelings. Part of rebuilding trust in a damaged relationship is showing immense amounts of mutual respect through prioritizing consent. It's also the most important rule of intimacy, so don't ever push your partner outside of their comfort zone, and don't allow yourself to be pressured to be intimate when you aren't comfortable. Besides, intimacy will be much more enjoyable when both partners are fully interested, consenting, and present in the moment.

With a foundation of consent, be intentional about creating opportunities for intimacy in your relationship, both physical and emotional. When conjuring thoughts of romantic intimacy, it's easy to jump straight to sex. However, oxytocin — the feel-good bonding hormone — isn't just released during sexual intimacy, reports Dignity Health. Simple acts like holding hands, hugging, and sitting next to each other can also instigate oxytocin production in our brains. Especially for relationships with damaged trust, starting with the smallest forms of touch and then working your way up on a mutual basis is the best approach. Since oxytocin can enhance attributes like empathy, gratitude, and generosity, spending time each day being intentionally intimate with your partner is a great way to fake it until you make it.

Give each other daily affirmations

Particularly when you're going through a rough patch in your relationship, it can be far easier to focus on the negatives than on the positives. This is exactly where the fake it til you make it approach comes in handy. Be intentional about identifying the positive qualities you admire about your partner, advises Your Tango. Whether you go back through old photos or video clips of your favorite moments during your relationship to absorb the positive energy you both had at that time, or you decide to sit in stillness with a journal to write out everything you admire about your partner, taking the time to recenter your focus on the things you love about your partner will help you shift your overall outlook toward your relationship.

The next step with this approach is to find ways to tell your partner the things you love about them and the many ways they make your life better. You can leave sticky notes on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, take time each day to sit down together and share what you both appreciate about each other, or send a quick text message letting your partner know that you're grateful for the effort they've been putting into your relationship, household, or any other aspect of your shared lives. These daily affirmations require very little effort but can make a big difference. Everyone likes to be complimented, and complimenting someone you care about will make you feel good, too.

Toss out scoresheets

Sharing an intimate relationship with someone often means sharing physical space in addition to responsibilities and emotional loads, which can result in a lack of personal space and a tendency to become overly irate when a towel is discarded on the bathroom floor or dirty dishes are left overnight. Whether little things like clothes strewn everywhere or larger trust difficulties, it's easy to find yourself going head-to-head with your partner. It's even easier to begin keeping score of all the things they do that upset you. Even though it's admittedly much easier said than done, you have to toss out that scoresheet. Keeping score builds up resentment and prevents you from appreciating the positive contributions your partner makes, and it certainly doesn't feel very good when your partner throws their own scoresheet at you.

The most important thing to remember is that you and your partner are a team. Instead of allowing a toxic dynamic of "me vs. you" to plant roots in your relationship, shift your approach as partners to a mindset of "us vs. the issue." Imagine your relationship as being akin to a sports team or collaborative group that must work together to win the game or complete the project. When you give your partner the benefit of the doubt, they'll be less likely to respond defensively, and you can avoid over-the-top, tense arguments, instead opting for a team approach to resolve whatever issue is in front of you.

Practice healthy conflict resolution

Most people can relate to letting things fester and having frustrations come out through hurtful words we don't actually mean, thus leading to a stressful argument with your significant other. Though most of us would agree that this isn't a healthy approach to conflict resolution, it rarely feels like there's time in the midst of daily life to figure out better strategies. Luckily, there are easy ways to implement conflict resolution discussions and tactics in your relationship that can make resolving issues far less dramatic.

One tip is to have daily check-in sessions with your partner — even if it's just for five minutes — where each person has a chance to say how they've been feeling. Find a space free from distractions, sit down for a few minutes, and listen openly to any concerns either person may have. Remember that you're a team, and it's your team versus the issue at hand, not you versus your partner. Positive Psychology describes this mindset as being a win-win framework wherein you're both approaching the conflict with the relationship winning in the end.

When things are calm, discuss with your partner how you'd like to resolve conflict. You can even roleplay and practice healthy conflict resolution techniques before actual tension arises. Journaling to write out your raw feelings and determining what your needs are before sitting down to discuss conflict with your partner also can save you both distress. Listen openly and respectfully to each other.

Prioritize solo time

Just as setting intentional time to spend with your partner is an important part of repairing a damaged relationship — and is simply good relationship advice in general — it works in tandem with scheduling time to spend on your own. Being in a relationship is a wonderful thing when our partner becomes our favorite person to spend time with, but if you let the relationship with your partner overshadow your relationship with yourself, you'll be at risk of losing your sense of self, says Psychology Today. Spending regular time by yourself to sit with your own thoughts or to do a hobby or activity that you personally enjoy can be a healthy opportunity to reflect on your personal goals, needs, and desires for all areas of your life. It can also serve as a chance to understand the compromises you've been making for your relationship and if those compromises are continuing to serve you well.

When kids are involved, or even the daily demands of running a household and performing well at work, it can be a slippery slope to losing your connection to yourself, potentially leading to an overload of stress, burnout, and loss of social connections. Having your own friends and your own hobbies in a relationship will make your partnership stronger, not detract from it. Taking time for yourself will give you a chance to relax, ultimately making you a better partner and parent. Encourage your partner to do the same.

Go outside and explore nature together

One way to instantly create change is to literally change your environment. If your relationship is damaged or in a rut, try getting outside with your partner. Even simply being in a new environment can provide you both with a clean slate to decide how you want to establish the next chapter of your relationship. 

Go out for a date in nature and pretend like you're back in your early stages of dating, essentially faking it until you make it to a T. Forest bathing is a wellness technique that involves immersing yourself in a natural environment and soaking up your surroundings with all of your senses, using mindfulness to remain present in the current moment. Try this technique with your significant other to rebuild your relationship's foundation from the literal ground up. Bring a journal with you, and together, you can write out shared values for your relationship, how you both wish to be supported, and how you promise to support the other person.

Watching a breathtaking sunset with your significant other can provide a romantic backdrop, as can a delicious picnic with sentimental foods. Oars recommends taking your relationship outside to enjoy the boundless benefits of fresh air and fresh vitality in your partnership. Spending time doing activities like camping, kayaking, or going for a day hike can increase trust between partners, so take this as your sign to put on your sunscreen and spend a day outside with your partner!

Be kind to yourself, your partner, and your relationship

No matter the status of your relationship or the bumps you're experiencing, the utmost piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. All relationships face moments of stalling or hiccups that can cause damage, so don't be hard on yourself if your relationship is currently in a place that isn't Instagram-perfect. Be kind to your partner in the process, even when it feels easy to lash out, and let them know that you appreciate their efforts in helping to repair your relationship. Additionally, be kind to your relationship and understand that it will likely take time for things to heal. One way to have a positive outlook during this process is to visualize the strength of the bond you'll share with your partner as time goes on, and then effectively mimic how you wish to interact in your ideal relationship in a move that is a spot-on example of faking it until you make it.

Seeking support from your community, friends, and family members is important, but try not to bad-mouth your partner to a degree that you inadvertently frame them poorly in the minds of your support system. For discretion, as well as for advice from highly trained professionals, consider speaking with a therapist on your own or asking your partner if they'd like to try couples' counseling as you navigate rocky times. Give yourself and your relationship time to heal.