If the spark of attraction that initially ignited a romance with your boyfriend has begun to wane or if he's been finding more things to nag and complain about lately, your relationship may be overdue for a major tune-up. According to Dr. Phillip McGraw, TV personality and author of "Relationship Rescue: A Seven-Step Strategy for Reconnecting With Your Partner," it's essential to reconnect and reframe your perspectives about each other in order to move toward a healthier, more respectful partnership. Ignoring the warning signs, he says, is a guarantee that bad habits and attitudes will continue to repeat themselves.
Seek clarification of the core problem that's causing friction and distance, advises psychotherapist Nancy Dreyfus, author of "Talk to Me Like I'm Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a Flash." Oftentimes the arguments that couples engage in are a reflection of something much deeper and unspoken that's troubling them. It's not, for instance, that a guy hates your friends and doesn't want to go out with them. The reality could be that he's scared of losing his job, trying to save money and not feeling up to being around a perky crowd just now.
Acknowledge your share of the problem, Drefus recommends. Even if it seems as if he's the one who has been creating all of the hiccups in your relationship, putting him on the defensive and keeping him there with scolding, criticizing, name-calling and blaming is only going to widen the divide. Apologize if you've been inattentive, preoccupied with problems of your own or too quick to jump to conclusions without fully hearing him out. Listen nonjudgmentally. If he sees your willingness to work toward a solution, he's more likely to take a cue from your example.
Focus on specific issues as they occur, says Nana Einarson, author of "Do It Yourself Relationship Repair Guide." What frequently derails a relationship is when one or both sides saves up all of their frustrations and then cumulatively sandbags the partner during a fight about something completely unrelated. Because of the amount of time that has passed, your boyfriend may not even remember a particular incident and retort that you're just being hysterical. Resolve to communicate concerns and worries when they happen, not weeks later.
Show your boyfriend what he still means to you by surprising him with his favorite meal, tucking love notes in his pockets and calling him midday to let him know he's on your mind. As Einarson points out, couples sometimes forget all of the lengths they went to during the early courtship phase to show that they were attracted and interested. Once "caught," it's too easy to slide into a ho-hum routine of taking each other for granted. When criticisms start to outweigh compliments and displays of affection, it erodes confidence and self-esteem. Make time each day to let him know he's loved.
Consider couples therapy if your attempts at communication only continue to escalate the problem. A nonjudgmental third-party in a neutral and nurturing environment may be able unlock elements of discord that you haven't been able to identify on your own.