• Catherine Hansen MD, MPH

Does your relationship need CPR?

“My relationship is on life support.”

“There is very little hope.”

“We are living as roommates and it’s barely functional.”

These are just some of the comments I have heard from women over the last several months and it’s time to find a way out of the fog.

Clearly, the first step is knowing YOURSELF, loving YOURSELF, learning to soothe YOURSELF, tapping into the joy of life for YOURSELF and there is no relationship more important that the one you have with…..guess who?.....YOURSELF.

However, if you’ve done the essential personal work, and your relationship is still flat-lining, it’s time to give it CPR.

So, let’s get started.


The first step in healing any ailing relationship is always to reflect on where you are now and where you’d like it to be. A true, honest, no holds barred, conversation with YOURSELF about what is going on in your relationship. The more responsibility you can take for the problems, the more chance you have of bridging the divide.


It important that you don’t skip over the reflection! Remember why you fell in love, recognize the beauty of the relationship and have deep gratitude for all the positives you have brought into each other’s lives. Only after you have completed, journaled and embodied your reflections are you ready to proceed. The next step is to evaluate and emerge with a vision and plan about what you are aspiring to create. As you get ready to talk to your partner (not yet), it’s important to have clarity about your intentions and your willingness to dig in and do the work. It is going to take a lot of personal effort to renew your long-lost love and you want to be clear about the direction you are going.

Core values:

As you prepare for that heart-to-heart you’ve been putting off, it’s vital that you stay connected to YOURSELF. As the conversation shifts into a blame-game or silent treatment, you mustn’t lose connection with your most powerful ally. Yep….YOURSELF!

What is most important to you?

WHY do you want to fix things?

Do you want to fix things?

What do you bring into the relationship that deepens it and adds value to you and your partner?

Know these things with confidence and act according to them throughout the healing process.

Be true to your values, don’t waiver when you feel attacked and avoid getting defensive. When you know yourself at the level of your core values, there is nothing to defend.

Lean In & Lift it Up:

Now it’s time to connect. This can’t be a quick conversation and it will likely take several sittings if things have gotten really off track. So, create the space in your life to do this right. Definitely do NOT have these conversations with kids around and ensure you are both well hydrated, well rested and ready to dive in. Avoid alcohol at this stage to ensure you are both speaking with clear minds and set yourself a time limit so that you know when it’s time to hit the pause button and re-start later. Going to bed angry is okay if you have a plan to begin again the next day. You’ve invested years in this relationship, it’s okay to take days, weeks or months to revive it. Unconditional love never dies.

A.I.M. (Action, Intellect, Mindfulness)

As you set the tone for open dialogue with your partner, the first task is to reveal your interest and willingness to grow together. With confidence, reveal your heart (it’s okay to cry). Express your deep desire to make things better and WAIT. Let your partner respond. Let the awkward silence continue long enough that you have BOTH shared your true and genuine interest in the process of reconciliation. It’s not going to be easy, but it WILL be worth it.

Be confident, honest and frank when you make a request. This is simply a clear expression of your needs. Any healthy partner will be willing to fulfill on your needs once the residue of the relationship is rinsed off.

Your superpower is listening.

If you are trying to breathe new life into a relationship on life-support, the most important skill is empathy. Be willing to hear about previous hurts and be willing to understand how your actions may have contributed. Lay down your ego and listen.

Mutual empathy is like a defibrillator for a dead relationship and someone needs to go first.

Finally, highlight the actions you plan to take to bring you and your partner closer together. These are the things YOU will do as a way of leaning into your relationship.

Here are some ideas:

i. Keep a DAILY log of 1 thing you LOVE about your partner (do this every single day). It doesn’t matter if your partner is not doing the same, this will open your heart and mind for closer connection.

ii. Create space for regular “couple time” (no kids, no agenda)

iii. Share your needs openly and without expectation, emotion or judgement. Clear is kind.

iv. Create a list of reasonable items you would like your partner to do or help with and dialogue about why this is so important to you. Be willing to compromise.

v. Create a list of reasonable items you would like to do FOR your partner and dialogue about why you chose those things. Be open and receptive to other items your partner would appreciate more. Be willing to compromise.

If sex is your biggest area of conflict, start slow and schedule regular “sex play” time. This doesn’t have to be intercourse if you’re not ready and foreplay is often more enjoyable at this stage, no pressure, no judgement, just orgasms. You used to be great in bed and you will be again! Women’s biggest sex organ is the brain and a woman cannot become sexually interested or aroused if her mind is anxious, worried or mired in conflict. All of the above connection opportunities, when successful, will allow deeper vulnerability, communication and connection so that, together, you can allow physical intimacy to return naturally.

If you feel that you have already tried this approach many times without success (including developing the most important relationship with yourself first), you likely need a third-party counsellor to help you communicate. Don’t wait another day without hiring someone skilled in marital or sexual counseling.

If you feel threatened or unsafe at ANY time in your relationship, this is not normal and should not be tolerated. Get help!

Resources (created for Military Families):

1. Feel threatened or unsafe? Call 911 for emergencies. https://www.cafconnection.ca/National/Programs-Services/Health/Healthy-Relationships/Tip-sheets/Creating-a-Safety-Plan.aspx

2. Intimate relationship continuum and chart: https://www.cafconnection.ca/National/Programs-Services/Health/Healthy-Relationships/Tip-sheets/Intimate-Relationships-Continuum-and-Chart.aspx

3. Reclaim Your Life: A Doctor’s Guide to Health and Vitality for the Awakening Woman (this is the rough framework Dr. Hansen uses for reclaiming and renewing ANY relationship, including the one with yourself. It provides a pdf you can refer to on your journey to become your best self. Grab your blueprint here: https://www.drcatherinehansen.com/

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