winning her back

Reader N. R. writes:

My girlfriend and I have been going through a rough patch. Okay, I’ll be honest: I screwed up pretty royally, and I think she’s thinking about leaving me. But I’m at a complete loss as to how to make things up to her. What can I do to make her stay?

Dear N.R.:

We all go through rough patches in relationships (unless we end them before the rough patches start, which is my current MO). You should be aware that there are certain things in any relationship that might be unfixable, although what those things are changes from relationship to relationship. If you’ve cheated on her, or taken her for granted one too many times, or really lost her trust, you may just have to cut your losses and admit you effed up and it’s never going to work out. Of course, some people are capable of forgiving these major problems, so you might still have a chance. I think you should give it a try, regardless of what you did.

Wine and roses

If you've never done this for her, now might be a good time to start. Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.

Admitting you messed up is a very, very good first step. If you were blaming the relationship problems on her, that would be another story. And it’s quite possible that she’s done a thing or two to exacerbate the problem (takes two to tango).  But we’re talking about what you’ve done, and what you can do to fix it. So let’s focus on that.

Now that you’ve admitted to yourself (and my blog readership) that you’ve messed up, you’ve got to tell her you know you messed up. Don’t just assume she knows that you think it’s your fault. Even if she does know, without a doubt, that you are the problem here, hearing it out of your mouth is a much better, proactive step than just letting her stew over it. Swallow your pride and fess up. Apologize as necessary. She needs to hear it, and so do you.

Next, change the behavior. Have you not been spending enough time with her? Turn off your stupid video game and spend time with her. Have you been flirting with other girls (even if it’s just innocent but you know it makes her uncomfortable)? Stop. Stop right now. Make a concerted effort to staple the holes you’ve created. Again, even if she’s part of the problem, the only part you can fix is your contribution to it.

You probably know deep down exactly what you need to do to fix the problem, and what you could do to make her feel better. You’re the one who’s been in this relationship, and if you’re really up to the challenge of fixing it, you’ll make the necessary effort. I know sometimes girls can seem like a mystery, but if you know what you did to screw up, you can change it. Otherwise, ask yourself, “What does she need from me?” If you feel like she hasn’t made her needs clear to you, ask her what they are. Even that is a sign that you’re trying to fix things. And sometimes it’s the thought that counts.

Of course, changing your behavior is going to be really, really hard. You’ve got habits set up you don’t even know you have. If you’re not willing to completely rearrange how you think and react to your relationship, guess what… it’s never going to change. You have to force the change, and it has to start with you.

Go to counseling if you need to. Having an arbiter or mediator is extremely helpful in airing and fixing relationship troubles. And you can feel better knowing that the advice you’re getting is coming from a trained professional, rather than just some blogger who writes about things she never went to school for.

Something very easy you can do that for some reason gets overlooked is just make an effort to be sweeter and more thoughtful than usual. There are many very simple things you can do to make her feel like you’re trying, and (most importantly) that you thought of her. Men really don’t understand how powerful a dozen roses (or, to be less generic, a dozen of her favorite flower, and you should know what that is by now) can be.  If you’re going to the grocery store, pick up those cookies she likes. (If you don’t know what she likes, she should have dumped you ages ago.) It’s really not hard. Being thoughtful is probably the number one thing you can do to show her that you mean to make it up for her.

After you’ve made your effort, she has to come the rest of the way to accept it as good enough. Again, I’m sorry to say, sometimes it’s too little too late. If she can’t forgive you, you’re going to have to let it go.

And remember, of course, to keep your needs in mind. If there’s an underlying reason in your mind or heart that’s been causing you to act a certain way, it may be a sign that you two aren’t cut out for each other. Be honest with yourself. And be honest with her. That’s the best advice anyone can give you.


1 Response to “winning her back”

  1. 1 Richard
    October 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Regarding the rough patch, did it predate your screw up? If so, then the screw up might simply be a symptom and it’s time for you to let her dump you. Do whatever it was again.

    Are you one of those guys that has to win back his woman even when he doesn’t really want to be in a relationship with her? Once again, freedom opportunity knocks.

    If you don’t want to think about it then distraction is the way to go. Strong drink and make up sex can take the edge off for a while.


    If she is a keeper and the relationship sane, then time to dish out the preserves. Kat’s suggestions of apologizing, giving flowers, and being on good behavior are sensible. Another thing that works is actually trying to understand her motives and emotions. You know, listening, looking at her face and eyes while she speaks, that sort of stuff. Maybe it’ll give insight, maybe you’ll seem nicely attentive. Who knows. However, don’t hand over your balls. Keep ’em safely ensacked. They might buy you some additional time in the relationship but she’ll never give them back and will never respect your neutered pleasant self.

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