How to Get Past Major Setbacks in Your Relationship

You spend days, months, and years building your relationship to create a space between you and your partner that is as healthy as possible. Everything goes well — until it doesn’t. Setbacks happen to the best relationships and the most perfect couples. Whether it’s an affair, dealing with death, depression, loss of a job, pregnancy (or lack of), or even just a simple loss of trust, suddenly that connection that took so much time to create may be severed, flipping your relationship on its head. The trust you felt between you and your partner may be replaced with doubt and hurt. Anger may take the place of the love you felt just days before.

Unfortunately, setbacks are inevitable. They happen. A loss of trust, experiencing intense loss, hardship, or a changed perspective all have the power to ruin relationships between two people who still truly love each other. What matters is the way you respond to life’s inevitable setbacks and the manner in which you are able to move on.

1. Allow yourself to feel

sad man sits on the end of the bed while his partner looks stern

Don’t cut off your emotions. | iStock.com

Before you try to fix your relationship or repair the blow, give yourself time to feel. Be gentle as you allow yourself time to process the setback and feel the associated emotions. Don’t set expectations regulating how you should react or feel, just let it be natural. Stare out the window, go for a long drive, yell, cry, and express yourself in any manner that relieves the pain.

2. Acknowledge and accept

Lesbian couple standing and looking each other

Acknowledge what happened and move on if you can. | iStock.com/amazingmikael

When you first face a major setback, you may slip into a world of denial. It may seem easier to write the problem off, ignore it, or push it into the farthest corner of your mind. In reality, a setback will change your relationship and lead you both down a difficult road. It can be painful to open your eyes and acknowledge what’s ahead. It can be even more painful to accept it. Acknowledgement and acceptance make up one of the most important and difficult steps in the process of overcoming your shock and moving forward.

3. Don’t play the blame game

couple arguing while sitting on the couch

Work it out as a team. | iStock.com

Sometimes things just happen in life that aren’t anyone’s fault, but whether deserved or not, you may react by pointing a finger of blame. When your partner’s actions lead to a setback in your relationship, you may feel angry and hurt, but once you’ve processed those emotions, give yourself time to forgive. In order for a relationship to move forward after a setback, you’ll have to let go of your emotions, release your anger, and try to start over. The same rule applies for any frustration or anger you feel towards yourself. Just like you need forgiveness from your partner to move forward, you’ll need to forgive yourself before you can leave the past behind you.

4. Give yourself time

man and woman fast asleep

Don’t rush the time it takes for you to heal. | iStock.com

It takes time to recover from a setback. It will take time for your relationship to recover from whatever hurt or loss it experienced, and it may take even more time for you and your partner to recover as individuals. Expect ups and downs, great days and horrible ones. Give your partner and yourself the luxury of time to let go of the pain and begin again.

5. Talk it out

a male couple sits on the stairs while having a serious talk

Good communication is key. | iStock.com

When you’re dealing with hardship, the worst thing you can do is keep all those emotions bottled up. Talk with your partner, but also find a confidant, friend, or therapist who you feel comfortable expressing the full range of your emotions (good, bad, and embarrassing) too. Putting words to your biggest hurts, fears, anger, and sadness will release the gravity of those feelings. Expressing yourself in a honest, truthful manner may make you see your situation differently, and the perspective of a third party will bring clarity to your situation.