Can Couples Come Back After Years of Unhappiness?


In many relationships, there seems to be that inflection point where you decide to go forward together, or you decide to go forward separately. But can you come back from years of unhappiness? 

Especially, when couples are getting to the empty nester stage, they are asking the question of whether they can come back from this long phase of unhappiness that they’ve had together. It’s complex because there are a lot of things – kids, future grandkids, the house, money, friends, family members – that hold them together. 

But those things are not enough to generate happiness. They have to be able to find that together, and the only way that’s going to happen is through something called the mutuality factor. In other words, there has to be a mutual interest in trying to make it work. One person cannot do the work of two to make a marriage happy. It requires both. 

Here are five ways to cure years of unhappiness and effect change that you might want to see in your relationship:

1. Take on some shared humility and forgiveness.

Stop pointing fingers at each other. Own up to how you’ve also contributed to your unhappiness. And that takes humility and forgiveness. This is the time when one says sorry for what they brought to the relationship that made it unhappy and the other person owns up to it too. 

2. Dismantle the walls.

Walls are constructed very carefully to protect you from future pain because you’ve been hurt by each other. But when you agree to work together to bring about happiness, then you have to be willing to dismantle the walls you’ve set up brick by brick. And when there’s humility and mutual forgiveness, it’s a lot easier to do it. Both parties are becoming more open and less defensive with each other.

3. Move from disrespect to respect.

Honor each other’s voice and choices instead of being disagreeable all the time and cutting each other off. Whether it’s a person’s time, space, work, or personal interest, showing respect to your partner takes a lot of different expressions. This makes the other feel that they matter.

4. Operate with persistence.

Don’t let fear and pride get in the way. Be patient with each other and don’t give up too quickly. 

5. Invest in good times together.

If you want to find your happiness, you need to invest, not just “spend.” For instance, invest time and money to go on a trip because you’re investing in the relationship. Get involved with some cool activities and have fun together that you feel like kids again.

If you want to learn more about how to come back after years of unhappiness, check out