It may be sad or comforting to know that all relationships at some point reach the buyer’s remorse phase. At this point, one or both start to wonder or question. Couples start to think things like, "this is not what I signed up for" or "why should this be so hard?" They have probably bumped up against issues and problems and been unwilling or unable to resolve them. They have inevitably been hurt and may have developed patterns of reacting to each other that make things worse rather than better.
Couples frequently get stuck in negative patterns of arguing and fighting or withdrawing and withholding. For things to improve, they need to break these patterns. They need to choose to do something different.
A hopeful finding from marriage research is that many people who reported being unhappy in their marriage but chose to stay together, later report being very happy in that same marriage. Suggesting that it may pay to be patient and to see the buyer’s remorse phase as a signal to choose to grow and develop as a person and as a couple. Couples who allow their commitment to their relationship and to each other carry them through the rough times may find that their relationship is more resilient than they thought and be rewarded with a stronger bond.
Four strategies to help you get unstuck and moving in the right direction:
1. Stop talking about your relationship
I recognize that ignoring problems is not the way to solve them. But I have found that couples in the buyer’s remorse phase of their relationship are not able to have a conversation about their relationship without it escalating to unpleasantness and much worse. So for the first while stop talking about your relationship.
2. Put positive energy back in your relationship
Smile at each other. Find reasons to feel grateful and to compliment each other. Pretend that you like each other if that is what it takes.
3. Get helpful help
Avoid simply venting to your friends and family, especially if this turns into relationship or partner bashing. Helpful help is the kind that supports and validates you and at the same time helps you consider how you might be contributing to the problems. Talk to someone you can trust to not blame you or your partner.
4. Talk with each other
Once you have put some positive energy back in your relationship and you feel you can talk to each other without falling into the same old negative patterns of reacting, create some regular time to talk through your issues. You may need some help with this step. It can be advantageous to have a neutral third party present; you may want to consider a counsellor, mediator or ecclesiastical leader. As you start this process remember that you need to listen twice as much as you talk. Always take time to validate and acknowledge what you partner has said before you jump into making your point.
As you choose to interrupt your negative patterns of reacting, focus on the good in your relationship, feel and express gratitude and actively listen to your partner, your relationship will likely start to feel a more comfortable. Give yourselves time for healing and growth. Be gentle and patient with yourselves and with each other.
The next phase of your relationship, if you work through the buyer's remorse phase, is mature love. In the mature love phase, you are perfectly aware that your partner is going to at times drive you absolutely crazy and you choose to love them anyway. You continue each day to focus on loving thoughts, to express gratitude, to speak respectfully and kindly to one another and to behave in loving ways toward each other. By consistently making these choices, you will continue to feel in love with each other.
Please note the exception to the above advice is in cases of abuse. Call the police or go to a shelter. If you are in danger in your relationship, find a way to get out.