How to Fix a Bad Relationship

by Contributor

Poor communication often derails the most important relationships in a person's life. The ability to listen is the best tool you can bring to any reconciliation efforts. This checklist of other pointers can help you patch things up with the parties indicated.


Remember that love is a verb. Choose to love your spouse for better or for worse.

Communicate even if it results in an argument. Choose a private place and a time when you won't be interrupted.

Outlaw any name calling, references to past history, and cheap shots during the argument. Stick to the issue at hand.

Listen to your spouse attentively without interruption. Pay attention to the emotions that lie behind the words and body language. Do not try to change those feelings or offer solutions; just validate them by listening.

Don't go to bed angry at each other. Call a truce before bedtime. Most things look better in the morning.

Take action. Do something every day that shows your love for your spouse even if you don't feel love. Love has a funny way of creeping back into the picture.

Remember that the bond of love grows even stronger after you've survived difficult times.

Teenage child

Set good examples through your actions. Listen attentively and let your teen know your love is unconditional. Resist complaining, nagging or criticizing.

Give clear guidelines. Explain the reasons behind them and the consequences of failure to abide by them.

If your teen disobeys the guidelines, reaffirm the reasons behind the guidelines and hold him or her responsible for the consequences.

Choose your battles carefully. Is blue hair really worth arguing about? Also, make sure to notice and affirm positive behavior in your teen.

Communicate openly about the many peer-related challenges, including alcohol, drugs, smoking and sex.

Encourage your teen to get a part-time job to learn financial responsibility.

Give your teen space and time to figure things out. Allow him or her to make mistakes. It's part of the learning process.


Reach an agreement with your spouse that you are going to work on repairing your in-law relationship as a united couple.

Make a list of past events that have injured the relationship. Forgive and forget, but also learn from the events.

Set clear boundaries as a couple about what is acceptable behavior for your in-laws. Communicate these boundaries to your in-laws when necessary.

Take time to get to know your in-laws. With knowledge comes greater understanding of these people and their behavior.

Be polite and treat your in-laws with dignity and respect even if you don't like them.

Learn to accept advice from your in-laws graciously even if you have no intention of following it: "Thank you for your thoughtful suggestion."

Always give your in-laws another chance. Set new limits if necessary after a negative encounter, but keep the bond alive.

Troublesome neighbor

Explain to the neighbor in person how he or she is causing a problem. If you feel concerned for your safety, bring a friend and have the encounter in an area you consider safe.

Suggest several solutions that take both your needs and your neighbor's into account.

Listen attentively to your neighbor's version of events. If the neighbor becomes argumentative or threatening, end the encounter immediately. Do not engage your neighbor in an argument. Report any threats of bodily harm to the police.

After you have listened to your neighbor, confirm that your neighbor agrees to one of the solutions. Be sure to thank him or her for cooperating.

If the neighbor neglects your request, decide whether you can tolerate rude behavior to keep peace in the neighborhood.

If you can't tolerate it, contact the landlord, neighborhood-watch representative or cooperative board. Call the police or city hall as a last resort.

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  • If you find yourself being judgmental toward the other person, you are not on a road to reconciliation. Adopt an attitude of understanding, instead of judging, if you truly want to improve your relationship.
  • Listen carefully to the body language and emotions of the other person. The real reason for his or her distress may be too difficult to put into words. If you listen only to the spoken words, you'll miss the underlying problem.
  • Be careful not to be preoccupied with solving the other person's dilemma or with dispensing unsolicited advice. Sometimes a person just needs an empathetic listener, not a problem solver.


  • Chronic or explosive arguments with loved ones may be a sign of anger-management problems or substance abuse. Seek appropriate therapy if necessary.
  • Physical contact, sexual assault or demeaning attacks during an argument are inexcusable. Seek help from a domestic abuse shelter or from law enforcement if you are a victim of physical, sexual or mental abuse.
  • Harboring anger, desires for revenge or hatred against another person will eat away at your own well-being. Find it in yourself to forgive others.

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