How to Repair and Sustain Relationships

Guest Post by Walter E. Jacobson, M.D.

Practice forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, consideration, graciousness and generosity. Turn the other cheek. Treat others as you wish to be treated.

Try to avoid getting defensive and angry. Give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume the worst. Don’t assume your partner did what they did to intentionally hurt you.

There is always the possibility that it was a thoughtless comment, that they did not mean what they said or they did not appreciate how it might sound to you.

Perhaps you misinterpreted what they said because of your own insecurity and self-esteem issues. Rather than get angry and start verbally attacking them, best you address what was said or done in a calm way, point out to them that what they said was hurtful and give them the opportunity to realize how it sounded, clarify what they said and apologize for what they said.

If your partner gets defensive, angry or invalidating (not wanting to take responsibility for what they did) and not receptive to a calm conversation, you disengage, with the plan to discuss the issue at a later time when they can calmly participate in the discussion.

You need to respect boundaries. If you are the one who is angry, defensive and yelling, and your partner is the one who wants to disengage and discuss it later when you are calmer, you need to accept this.

You need to back off. You need to not stay in their face, follow them from room to room, escalating the problem. You need to disengage until you’ve calmed down and are able to listen and communicate effectively.

Accept your partner’s shortcomings. Let go of harsh judgments and criticisms. Don’t cop a “holier than thou” attitude. Acknowledge your own shortcomings.

Overlook the small stuff. Choose your battles. There is a lot you can let pass, that you can ignore and not make an issue over. Those things that really do matter you address.

Do you want to be right or happy?

If you feel the need to correct or berate your partner over everything they do, and you need to get them to acknowledge that you are right and they are wrong, you may have the ego satisfaction of being right, but you won’t be happy. Oftentimes it’s better if you tell yourself that you know you’re right. It doesn’t really matter if they think they’re right, what matters is that you’re getting along.

If you cannot let stuff go, you need to talk about it and not hold it in. If you hold it in, at some point your resentments will come out in inappropriate ways where you attack your partner over something incredibly meaningless or minor. This is perceived by them to be an unwarranted attack. They don’t know it’s because you’re upset over something they did to you yesterday, last week, last month or last year. This causes them to be angry, and then you react to their anger, and it’s a vicious cycle.

Avoid being sarcastic. You may think you’re just being funny, but you’re actually just being mean. Sarcasm is not good-natured humor. It is an attack.

Don’t gossip about your partner and their shortcomings. Avoid humiliating them in public.

Your turn

We would love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below. What tips do have for a successful relationship? Do you feel you always need to be right?  Would you rather be right or happy?

As always, thank you for your valuable time.

About Walter E. Jacobson, M.D.

Dr. Jacobson, a graduate of Cornell University, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the UCLA/San Fernando Valley Psychiatry Residency Program, is a board-certified psychiatrist who has been in private practice in the Los Angeles area since 1999.  He specializes in insight-oriented psychotherapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, spiritual psychotherapy, couples therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and past-life regression therapy.  He’s also a motivational and inspirational speaker and a Mastery of Life Mentor, guiding people toward the fulfillment of their goals and dreams.  He has authored his first book, “Forgive to Win!” which teaches people techniques for building self-esteem, eliminating sabotaging behaviors and creating the lives that they want.

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  1. 1

    This hits so close to home. I recently initiated a break up with my boyfriend  because of an incessant need to be right. I would often use the your phrase “would you rather be right or happy?” He is a good, good man but something needed to change. I want him back, so badly and it was hard for me to do that, but I didn’t see any other recourse when I was always “wrong” 
    Thank you for this post.

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