How To Fix A Broken Relationship
Lessons from the relationship I wish I had cherished sooner
Have you ever lost touch with someone you loved? A partner, a parent, a sibling, a friend? Sadly, most of us have. For me, there’s one relationship in particular that comes to mind. For years, the distance between us lingered in the back of my mind. And, I knew that no matter how great my day was, life without him would always be a little bit worse.
Until one day, I received a piece of news that shocked my system. From this day, I chose to swallow my pride and be vulnerable. And I worked to get back what we had lost.
This is my story. I’ve included four simple steps that you can take today to strengthen your most meaningful relationships.
The News that Changed Everything
I received a call from a good friend of mine. She was sobbing on the other end of the line. Her Dad had been diagnosed with Cancer. I froze; I had no idea what to say. In part, because there’s nothing I could have said to make my friend feel better. But there was another reason. This news had struck me with a much greater force than I expected. Why? Because it made me think of my Dad.
This news made me realize, more than I ever had before, just how fragile and short life is. The people you know today, won’t always be there. It’s a reality that thankfully, most of us forget. It’s a petrifying thought. Blocking it out of our minds is necessary if we want to live our lives to the fullest without fearing the future.
But, this subconscious coping mechanism can have a devastating effect. It somehow gives us permission to take our relationships for granted; we assume our loved ones will stick by us no matter what. Well, unfortunately, whether it’s by choice or otherwise, this isn’t so. We should cherish and be grateful for our relationships each and every day.
The Relationship I Wish I Had Cherished Sooner
Over that past nine years, I’ve studied in three different universities, worked for four different companies, and lived in four different countries. I’ve needed many words of advice, and my Dad has undoubtedly been the steadiest constant in my life.
My dad is my rock. He’s the first person I call when I need advice, when something is wrong, when something is right, when I feel lonely, when I just need a chat, or a pep-talk. He makes me feel safe, at peace and empowers me with his wisdom.
But, our relationship hasn’t always been this way –
The Years I Wasted
We were very close when I was a child. But once I reached the age of 10 or 11, things started to change. I started to change, and he wasn’t changing with me. So I felt alone — suddenly, it’s like we lived in different worlds. He didn’t understand how I felt, or what I needed.
It was nobody’s fault; things just change. But he was my Dad! In my eyes, he was supposed to understand! In my eyes, he left me. And this anger turned into resentment, that lasted for over a decade.
Like many of you, I hated high school. I felt like I didn’t fit in at all. And, to make things worse, I felt ashamed to admit it. I bottled it up inside, thinking there was something wrong with me. So, my parents had no idea. And my resentment towards them only grew stronger.
By the time I was 17–8, I barely spoke to my Dad. If we absolutely had to communicate, it would be in short grunts, and we ended up arguing almost every time.
The Turning Point
My relationship with my Dad gradually improved whilst I was in University. As I experienced adulting and learned first hand about the hardships of life, he became my advisor, my confidant, my rock. But we never got back the closeness that we had when I was a child.
It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve realized this isn’t how I want our relationship to end up. Life is too short; I want our future to be happy and shared. So, I’ve taken action.
I began with four simple steps that had radically strengthened our bond. They’re steps that you too can take to get back what you had and strengthen your closest relationships.
1.) Embrace hugs.
I mean a real hug; a bear hug — the ones that last long enough for both of your bodies to relax and sink into each other. You’ll notice that it feels as though you understand what the other is thinking; the level of trust and intimacy increases. Plus, hugs have been shown to improve your heart health, as well as your happiness.
2.) Spend quality time together.
“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” — Benjamin Franklin
Of course, it may not be possible to literally see your favorite people every single day. But you should make it a priority — life is short, and you never know what tomorrow might bring.
We all have busy lives; our own schedules, plans, and commitments. Dealing with our own responsibilities already seems like a lot to handle, so we channel our efforts towards doing those things that we feel we have to do.
But this means that our closest relationships often fall into the backdrop of our daily lives; we end up taking them for granted. We forget to make these a priority too. Even when we do meet, we’re distracted with our phones or worried about other stresses in our lives.
So I encourage you to prioritize spending some real quality time with your loved ones; no phones, no distractions, just you and them. Listen, laugh, cherish your time together.
3.) Show an interest in their past.
I was 26 years old when I realized I barely knew my parents. At the time, I was reading a book by Mark Wolynn titled ‘It Didn’t Start with You’, about how inherited family trauma shapes who you are and how you end the cycle. So, one morning, when the three of us went for a walk, I seized the opportunity to question them about their childhoods. Trust me, I dived deep.
They shared stories that I had never heard about before. Even stories about how my grandparents grew up, whether they were happy, the hardships they experienced, their relationships with their parents…I came to a realization that many of us overlook — our parents were people before us.
Learning about someone’s past can give you a much greater appreciation for who they truly are, and it heightens your ability to empathize with them; to understand why they behave and feel the way that they do. In turn, you’ll be better prepared to be there for that person; to provide support, and to approach situations with them more constructively, in a way that will strengthen, as opposed to weaken your relationship.
4.) Communicate every day.
For me, it’s about consistency more than the duration of each phone call. Even if it’s a five-minute conversation on your way to work, or a quick ten-minute chat before you go to sleep; calling someone regularly shows that you’re thinking about them and that you care about them much more than a one-hour monthly call.
Of course, this will vary depending on which relationship you’re trying to strengthen. But for those people who are closet to you, like family or your closest friends, the conversations don’t need to be massively insightful. Just sending a photo via Whatsapp, or voicing a random opinion through a voice, not during your lunch break, is enough to show you care.
I write about happiness, self-development, and navigating life — Stay in touch and sign up to my mailing list for exclusive content.