How To Repair Strained Or Broken Relationships

A subject not often discussed is the topic of how to repair strained or broken relationships.  It is one that comes up in everyone’s life, so it will be useful to make a few suggestions about it here.  We will talk about relationships from friends, family, and lovers.

Relationships among friends we will treat first.  The first step in this process is to make an evaluation to determine whether the relationship is worth saving or rehabilitating.  It is a simple fact of life that some relationships have an expiration date; when two people no longer have anything in common, or their paths take them in divergent directions, it may be difficult to find common ground.  In this situation, it is always better to let the relationship die a natural death slowly, rather than rapidly.  Abrupt terminations may leave the other party with negative feelings, and this should be avoided if at all possible.

There are some instances where repair is not possible.  When someone has committed a fundamental violation of trust or respect, this is a warning sign that the person was never a friend in the first place.  Another point to keep in mind is that repair of a broken relationship requires—no, demands—the participation of both parties.  If the other person is unwilling to participate in the process, then your efforts will be futile, and will come to nothing.

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Once we have determined that the friendship is worth repairing or sustaining, the next step is to decide how to make the first approach to the other party.  In this we must try to evaluate the reasons for the problems in the first place.  We should make an honest assessment about how things got to where they are.  Did someone say or do something that caused hard feelings on the other side?  Was there some intervening cause that made the two parties diverge in plans and activities?  These types of questions must be honestly and repeatedly asked.  We have a tendency to minimize our own hurtful actions and exaggerate those of others, and this must be kept in mind.

The key rule at this point is to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other party.  We must try to see things from our friend’s perspective.  For many people this can be difficult, as it involves getting past our own feelings of hurt or rejection and into the shoes of the other person.  And yet it is essential.  Very frequently the reasons for strained or broken friendships lies in the fact that there is some problem going on in the other person’s life.  Only by being a perceptive student of human nature can we divine the cause.  Sometimes the only thing that caused the strained relationship was some misunderstanding that was easily curable.

Keep in mind that we must try—at least in our own minds—to discover the source of the other person’s problem.  This is not always possible, as human beings are not always rational.  But we can at least make the effort.  I remember in the film Hoffa that there was a great line from Jack Nicholson.  He told one of his men, “Real problems, real grievances can be resolved.  They can be negotiated.  But imaginary grievances? That man is going to hate you for life.”  I have no idea if Jimmy Hoffa every actually said this, but it sounds like something he would have said.  He meant that we should avoid hurting the pride of our friends.  We should be acutely aware how it is sometimes the intangible slights that can most rankle with a man.

When you have decided to make the first step, it is always better to initiate contact directly.  Do not wait for the other person to do it.  Depending on the circumstances, this should be done discreetly and without too much in the way of overpowering insistence.  There is a certain type of finesse that a man should have at critical times, and this is one of them.  The approach should be direct, but neither insistent nor demanding.  A fish is best hooked with a lure gently laid.

Of vital importance here is that the approach be sincere.  One should genuinely want to contact the other party.  Sincerity is the glue that binds friendships together and permits their longevity.  There should be no hypocrisy or falsity in any of our dealings with friends.  This kind of thing is immediately apparent and, once detected, its whiff surrounds the offending party like a permanent cloud.  If the other party is receptive to the approach, we can then gradually feel our way forward, taking care to avoid the reasons why the friendship became strained in the first place.  Things may never quite go back to what they were, but at least we can find solid ground for a new frame of reference.

Two examples will suffice here.  The historian William Shirer worked closely with famed correspondent Edward R. Murrow when the two were in Germany in the 1930s.  Yet after the war was over, the two grew apart.  Shirer’s account of the estrangement suggests that he was repelled by Murrow’s enthusiastic adoption of the anticommunist hysteria of the time.  Shirer found himself gradually blackballed from most major news networks before being forced out completely.  He broke with Murrow over these events.  Many decades later, he approached Murrow; all venom spent, the two were able to find common ground again.

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Another example makes the same point.  Theodore Roosevelt was a strong-willed, insistent man, to say the least.  He was in a position to choose his successor as president, and to this end he selected a man very different from him, the affable and rotund William Howard Taft.  Taft eventually began to find Roosevelt an overbearing and unwelcome presence in his life.  The two men eventually broke completely, a result of their personality differences and different conceptions of leadership.  To his credit, Roosevelt eventually approached his old friend privately to patch things up.  They were never the same, of course, but at least some cordiality was restored.

Relationships with family are of a fundamentally different sort.  Because we are linked by bonds of blood (or perhaps marriage), it will be more difficult to disentangle ourselves from those with whom we have become estranged.  On the other hand, it may be easier to repair such grievances, or at least find common ground, since there may be more shared experiences with the other party that act in our favor.  The key here is not to expect too much.  Although shared history and common blood may work in our favor, they can be counterbalanced to some extent by the fact that irrational family antagonisms can run deeper than those from strained friendships.  Patience and persistence are most important here, perhaps more so than friendships with those unrelated to us.

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Repairing strained relationships with lovers is perhaps the most difficult.  When a man and woman have been united in the past through the coital act, an entirely different set of emotions and motivations come into play.  Relationships between lovers can fail or become strained for an infinite number of reasons, and it would be impossible to discuss all of them here.  It is enough for me to state my opinion that it is nearly impossible to bring an intimate sexual relationship back to what it was after it has been broken.

Strained is one thing; broken is quite another.  My own experience leads me to believe that once a sexual relationship is done, it is done.  One cannot really go back to what it was before.  Amicable dealings are certainly possible, and happen all the time; but I would not call this friendship.  I would call it an uneasy equilibrium. Love’s inflammatory presence scorches all it leaves in its wake.

Read More: 5 Proven Ways To Stop Obsessive Thoughts

47 thoughts on “How To Repair Strained Or Broken Relationships”

  1. In my experience, #1 reason for destruction of association of any type: Alcoholism and the antics and dysfunction and ugliness that arise from it. Alcoholism has ruined so many relationships in my life whether family, friendships, or romances. Fuckin’ drunks. Zero accountability trainwrecks who live for self-destruction and destroying everyone and everything they come in contact with. I’m done with these people.

    1. Before I get my Kratom joke in I think its addiction as a whole whether it be gambling, alcohol or sex that is the main problem. Alcoholism being but an expression or type of that.

    2. It really is shocking to me how, in a land where kratom, pot, and Fourlokos are banned, and I’m not allowed by my government to bring my nail clippers on vacation with me, alcohol is ubiquitous. It is not only legal, it is ingrained in our culture, and it is “cool” not only to use it, but to abuse it.
      I remember as a teen when the last Die Hard movie came out, and it begins with Bruce Willis “humorously” waking up in a drunken stupor from the night before, and immediately grabbing a whiskey bottle and downing some more before stumbling in to work. It was done to show he was a cool, rebellious kind of guy, but it was portrayed in a totally different way than if he was addicted to say, heroin, and rolled over and grabbed a needle and jammed it in his arm before rolling in to work late.
      I rarely drink, but had a few the other night, and it totally ruined me the following day. Banning alcohol would probably never work, but it is absolutely the most destructive drug we have. We could at least stop glamorizing it.

        1. I work in the correctional system. I am sick of seeing people dragged into jail for having a little bud in their pocket. It just keeps the prison industrial complex going. You know, heads in beds.
          Meanwhile we are drowning (in North America) in a tragic opiate problem that started with prescription medications. It is mind boggling.

        2. I’ve been lucky to encounter cool cops that have let me off the hook for carrying around worse than pot. They usually have just confiscated and given me a warning. Some cops have been real dicks to me and taken me to court for stupid shit, but some of them really broke the stereotype for me.
          Yeah I’ve heard from social-worker friends that opiates are becoming really popular in BC in a bad way, didn’t know it was happening in Ontario (you’re north of TO right?) as well .

      1. I don’t think that alcohol is the worst drug we have but I definitely agree with you on everything else. That whole “charming drunk” thing in Hollywood has to die. And people need to know that the people in Mad Men are drinking iced tea, not liquor. They would be unattractive sacks of shit if they actually drank and smoked as much as they pretended to.

    3. In the Russian Roulette we are genetics, people get the bullet of addiction into their skulls. In your life its alcohol among those you know as the catalyst of destruction. In others it can be heroin, weed, cocaine, food, or attention. Your ‘drug’ of choice may vary, but you never get back to baseline of old you once were before the the ‘drug’ touch your lips. Once you understand how the luck of genetic draw works, you may guide a person from his addiction and repair your relationship, if you are lucky.
      To go back in the topic at hand, all relationships can become strain when we do not have control of how self and our reactions to life itself. We must not assume another person’ thinking is the same as our own and to understand that people have different thought process compare to our own. Once you get that out of the way, you got one less hurdle in repairing an relationship.

    4. I’ve never been much of a booze-hound, unless there’s nothing else available. (Genetics, conditioning; I don’t think there’s anything necessarily meaningful about one’s choice of intoxicant.) I do like to partake of the sacred herb on occasion, and have been known to go the “pillbilly” route with the opportunistic popping of a few oxy’s or similar material when available (visiting old folks? the dentist? that sort of thing.)
      I’m beginning to see the problem with a lot of these substances — other than the obvious physical and relationship damage they can do — is that while supposedly eliminating boredom for a while, they only train the mind to be *more* bored when the substance isn’t available.
      I sometimes find myself dreading days off when I’m just likely to sit around the house; without a substance tucked away in the cupboard, the fear is “What the hell am I going to do with myself for all those hours?” and end up diddling around doing useless minor repairs, rearranging books, and so on. There are only specific movies I can watch while “dry” — they generally have to be either very action oriented or very intellectual (mysteries) to keep my brain busy. (On the herb, I tend to watch more impressionistic, emotional type stories, where the higher brain functions aren’t taxed too much.)
      Ditto for music. While some substances do enhance your enjoyment of music (herb does; opiates do not), I find that I tend to “save” certain songs for when I’m high (so as to better appreciate them more) but then have a hard time sitting still for them when I’m at baseline.
      Opiates have the benefit (for me) of giving me temporary enhanced mental focus without too much sleepiness, so I’ll use them when feeling creative (writing mainly) or watching a movie that normally I would find too boring. The pain relief aspect is welcome when I’m working out or recovering from a workout, though the danger is that I may push myself too hard, not feeling my limit soon enough.
      The upshot of all this is that some things *should* be boring, so that you do the mental work to make your life more interesting The drugs, by providing instant boredom relief, actually condition the brain to be *more* easily bored. So understanding that paradox is a good step towards diminishing your dependence.

      1. I like weed for the ‘chill’ factor and the creative ideas I get, but I find it difficult to have in-depth conversations on more ‘serious’ topics because staying on-track is much more difficult.
        The other problem with weed is that unless I’m engrossed in some creative project or exercising, it’s too easy to justify spending hours playing whatever song or youtube video rushes into my mind. I become way more impulsive than I normally am.
        Alcohol is great as I’m drinking and swimming to the bottom of the pool away from the noise. It’s such an appealing pool to dive into. But the deterrent is how I feel afterwards- either the lethargic feeling I get, the regret at things I’ve texted or said to people, plus thinking about the money I spent on drinks that could’ve been spent on something more useful and long-term.
        I’m absolutely against the “ban it” solution, but people need to realise that nothing good comes easily. If you need to toke up/ drink/ shoot/ snort/ trip or pill in order for your life to feel interesting or to feel ‘normal’, then your idea of ‘normal’ and your attitude needs some real examination.

      2. I agree, it’s a double-edge sword because of how harmless it is, and there are some definite benefits but it makes you feel OK being a sack of shit

  2. An apology is fine. But, if they are unable to forgive, that is their deal. Groveling will only make you look like a simp, and you are probably better off with a broken relationship.

    1. Yes, precisely. I’ve apologized a few times in my life. If the person then swings around to try and guilt me in the future, I tell them “I apologized sincerely once. I’m not going to spend any more time being guilt tripped. You either accept the apology and we move forward, or you don’t and we don’t”.

  3. “Seventy times seven”……….you always need to forgive for your own mental health. That doesn’t mean that you cannot keep your distance to protect yourself. Chalk them up as toxic material you need to cut out of your life.

  4. “To unknow the known, you have to know the unknown” which is my simplistic way of saying:
    try to imagine various unseen things the other person has or may have done to your benefit. These will counteract the real slights they caused you. It’s a way of releasing yourself from the built up resentment and lets you live a happier life.
    It doesn’t really require any action on your part either. Just a way to disentangle yourself from the emotional drama.

  5. Good read but you did not really explain what makes a strained relationship worth saving. Mankind always asks “What is there in for me?” I don’t see many good reasons to pick up with the hassle of repairing such a relationship

  6. A notable example is musicians who make fantastic records together, but who eventually cannot stand each other as people. That’s a tough one, having awesome creativity/performance chemistry and collaboration with people who gradually turn into someone you loathe personally. Do you punch in your timeclock and put aside your differences for the sake of the music, or say screw you dude we’re done I’m fed up with your neverending bullshit. Makes for some grade-A melodramas especially when you inject women into the equation – DONT.

    1. Let me start off by saying I have ZERO musical talent I have about as much rhythm as an 8.3 Cummins running on three cylinders.
      I always wondered about that one myself, I always assumed it was partly the money and every one around them constantly kissing their ass, then they can’t decide which of them is “the most special one” out of the bunch.

      1. I read Life the autobiography of Keith Richards. He talks about living with and being close to Mick Jagger. He said that for Mick attention was like heroin. He needed it. He had to be the center of every room he was in. He had to be with the most beautiful women. Have everyone love him. “For Mick, attention was like heroin. I was much easier going. I just liked the actual Heroin”

        1. One thing is for sure about Keith Richards, he’s a survivor. It makes you wonder though, why a guy who has it all seemed to try so hard to kill himself over all those years. I never tried that hard and probably won’t ever live to his age lol

  7. Last two paragraphs have tons of truth in them. When the romance and sex are gone, it’s not likely they’ll ever come back – even in the context of a long, stable marriage. Give a women the children she wants and you can easily and instantly drop to dog-squeeze on her priority list. Especially if she has a career, too. (Good reasons for women to NOT work!) Is it worth trying to get back? My opinion – no. Once gone, it ain’t coming back. Just keep things stable for the kids, and then pull the rip-cord once they’re out of the house.
    And women wonder why so many married men have affairs? It’s simple and obvious – they take away romance and sex and expect men to not care?

    1. Rollo T would say you lost the frame.Divorce allows you to get it back.The problem is you figure out and wonder if any gal is worth that type of headache.

      1. Medical issues changed my frame years ago (Let’s just say that I’m getting up in years). My frame now consists of educating my sons and their friends that listen about not putting up with shit tests and keeping a mentality of not being made subservient because of a woman withholding affection or sex (abundance game). I teach through example. I’ve already done well educating them about cultural rot and the poison that is third-wave feminism.

      2. I assume it’s fairly common for marriages to lose the romance and sex. And I would assume that the headache will remain in any following marriages. Maybe men as they age just get to a point where they no longer care for various reasons?

    1. Pants are important but it seems a BEARD divines more power than pants. Roman gladiators wore skirts so the balls could swing freely. But you’re right in a sense that pants can and do rock the house. A seminal part of the domestic patriarchal order.
      PANTS=ORDER
      http://66.media.tumblr.com/e90522152db806efa6c81b2d9b263992/tumblr_n6mjvoaKH71qlz7wco1_1280.jpg
      But order isn’t enough. You need protection of the BEARD. This clan was attacked and destroyed by pharisaical lackeys within their own faith. Notice how the man has no beard and how the women are allowed to peacock with beehive hairdos? That was Jeff’s downfall. Pretty much everything else he did right though. Being the lawmaker in his tribe, he should have decreed that the women flatten, cover and scarve their heads as per the coming patriarchal tidal wave. Only the men should peacock now. If only Jeffs had asked MCGOO.

        1. If the girl in your pic is as young as she appears, that’s a bit too young to marry. It probably didn’t culminate to a consummated marriage but TMZ and others ran with it. She may have been displaying early female hypercocity where the youth actually believes they can groom an older mate. Schoolgirls have been known for having crushes on their teachers. Jeffs became like a magnate and being circumcised and shaven, he lacked the fortitude to say “Whooa charlie, she prepubescent. She too damn young.” But he was in the seat of power like many similarly ‘headstrong’ but ‘dickweak’ circumcised politicians (I wouldn’t trust dickchopped politicians especially). He made the rules yes, but eventually there came a point when the girls overran their circumcised leader like a bully throws the frame of a handicapped man in a wheelchair. Many circumcised men succumb to a single bitchwhipping wife but Jeffs, he must have had THREE BALLS at least and a prophetic vision.
          No Jeffs wasn’t perfect. Without a beard and being circumcised he was like a blind man leading the blind. Also many clean shaven, circumcised preachers from other denominations find that they cannot minister with their full soulful faculties either. They’re ‘thumpers’ more than they are prophets. A whacked shaved preacher is likely to be a bitch whip to the state party line or likely to be some clergy response team shill. Jeffs was no federal shill but he was divining the FLDS ‘Principle’ the best he could with his handicap. You’re only as strong as you are blind and as weak as you are desensitized. His handicap was having his penile nerve endings and his RF antennae static sensor ‘feelers’ (beard) SEVERED. So he was slightly out of touch. So he was influenced by the bitch squalking of the world when he did the dastardly thing of ordering all the tribe’s males young and old to be circumcised. Like WTF? That in itself takes him down two points.
          The mainstream LDS knew he was as weak as the rest of the greater chopped church, pacifist, circumcised and with roughly the same level of early obedience training that mainstream LDS kids get. Only Jeffs preached the ‘Principle’ and that’s what the mainstream Mo’s wanted to eradicate. Any man who preaches doctrine that is heretic to the state is going waaay out on a limb by doing so, and it is essential that he be armed with a big robust beard and a full uncircumcised ROD OF POWER (dong).

  8. This isn’t too hard, the biggest thing is you have to be man enough to realize when you fucked up and be man enough to swallow your pride and say I’m sorry. I have seen it many times when a good friendship is thrown away because one of them is a self centered asshole that couldn’t admit he was wrong.

      1. Maybe I’m speaking from experience and attempting to keep you from making the same mistake.

        1. I speak from experience knowing I wasn’t always right. What I am getting at is who are you presume the objective truth of any emotive situation lest you are a part of it.

        2. Never said I wasn’t part of it. I’m old enough to realize my limitations and sometimes bullheadedness is one of them.
          Never said I wasn’t the asshole either.

  9. Always remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. It is much easier to forgive family that has repeatedly burned you if you can accept the idea that it is you who is moving on and not ever having to deal with them again.

  10. Lovers are not friends and family. there is only frame and who controls it. I try not to fuk my friends and family.

  11. Theodore Roosevelt, an egotistical left-winger, forced people away with his micromanagement and “My way or the highway” mentality?
    I suppose some things are timeless.

  12. When dealing with family, make a list of all of the things that cause fights and avoid them like the plague. Find common ground and stay there. This means avoiding politics and/or religion. My sister and I only talk about what is going on in our lives, small talk. We avoid the touchy subjects, like the past, politics, etc.
    Great article, as always.

  13. My take is that if you make the mistake of putting a premium on relationships with people who are not immediate blood relatives you are looking for controversy. Ultimately you learn that no friends equals less problems. As far a women are concerned once it turns into a conflict zone you have to ask yourself is it worth it?

  14. I am happy to read articles like this on ROK, and would like to see more of it. Thank you QC!
    However, I strongly disagree about what you write about love relationships. This kind of defeatist attitude is one of the factors contributing to the astronomical divorce rates in the west.
    Yes, mending a damaged love relationship is difficult, painful, humbling and sometimes humiliating. And the burden often falls almost completely on the man, as the more emotionally mature of the partners. But in any longer relationship, there will be times when it needs to be done. Bucking out on this is not an alternative for any man who wants relationships with women beyond casual fuck-buddies.

  15. After 6 years in marriage with my Wife and 3 kids, my wife started going out with another man,she showed me cold love, on several occasions she threatens to file a divorce,I was totally devastated and confused because i cant believe this is the same woman we have been sharing so much love and affections she has completely changed i dont want to loose her because i love her so much until a old friend of mine told me about a great spell caster Priest Abasi on the internet who helped a lot of people with their relationship and marriage problem by the powers of love spells, at first I doubted if such thing ever exists but decided to give it a try because it was my last hope,I contacted this great spell caster,he helped me cast a spell and within 48hours i was suprirised when my wife called me and started apologizing,isn’t that wonderful? much thanks to this unique spell caster Priest Abasi now she is back to me and she has loved me more than ever before.if you are having relationship problem ,you need your lover back or you want the great priest to cast a pregnancy spell or you need ay help contact the great priest now on [email protected]..

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