How to Fix a Relationship You Messed Up

Friends hugFriends hug

People, being imperfect, sometimes mess up their relationships with other people. This is not limited to just romantic relationships. Families fracture. Friends separate. Co-workers with a previously good working relationship may become rivals. Although there are always two sides to any relationship, sometimes one person is primarily at fault for spoiling the relationship due to mistakes that they have made. The mistakes may have been a gradual progression or a sudden event, intentional or unintentional. Regardless, it is up to the person who made the mistakes to take responsibility for healing the rift.

Pen and paper

Step 1

Make a list of what you did to wreck your relationship with the other person on the left side of a piece of paper. These can be seemingly small mistakes, sometimes over time ("Took him for granted," "Acted suspicious of her without reason"), to larger things ("Purposely ignored his birthday," "Cheated on her"). Nothing is too small.

Woman writing in notebook

Step 2

Write the reason why you committed the mistake to the right of each item. Mind you, this is not an excuse or a reason why your behavior is okay. It is just the reason that you did it.

Women thinking with list in hand

Step 3

Look at your list. Draw conclusions about yourself from it. Do you have a pattern of irresponsible behavior? This might mean you aren't really ready to be in a relationship at all. Do a lot of the mistakes relate to passive aggressive or aggressive tendencies? You might need counseling to work through your own issues. Consider whether you really want to try to mend the relationship and if it is important enough to try to save. Some people torch their own relationships because, while they may love the person, they are not in the right place in their own lives to be involved.

Man waits at coffee shop

Step 4

Meet with the person that you formerly had a relationship with to talk. Choose a neutral location that isn't emotionally loaded in a negative way or a location that has positive associations for both parties. Tell the person upfront why you want to meet them. Set up the time a few days to a week in advance to give yourself and the other party time to prepare.

Two women have a discussion

Step 5

Look at the issues from the emotional point of view of the person that you were in the relationship with in the time leading up to the meeting. That is, don't just think about the issues in regard to yourself but from their role instead, experiencing the consequences of your mistakes as though they were happening to you.

Couple share phone bill

Step 6

Speak honestly to the person about what occurred and how you think it might have made them feel. Discuss what you realized your motives were and then what you plan to do to make sure that these mistakes are not repeated. Make the actions specific, such as attending counseling or not having contact with a specific person. If you betrayed their trust and the relationship is a romantic one, your action might be to give the person the password to your email account or to give them a copy of your cell phone bill each month for them to look at or not look at at their own discretion. Make sure to tell the person that they are important to you or that you love them, if that is the case, and why this relationship is important. Answer any questions that they have for you in a serious manner and give straightforward answers.

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Things You Will Need

  • Pen
  • Paper


  • The other person may feel the need to take verbal shots at you during your meeting. Allow them to vent in this way and maintain a sense of humility and humor.


  • Even after this, the person may not wish to renew your relationship. That is their right. Work on the issues that wrecked this relationship on your own so that you don't wreck the next one.

About the Author

Antonia Sorin started writing in 2004. She is an independent writer, filmmaker and motion graphics designer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has completed work for the Long Leaf Opera Company, the former Exploris Museum and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She graduated from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

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