Change is hard. No one wants to do it. We want things to work in our lives, but we don’t want to be the ones to have to change. Or we don’t want to admit that we are the ones who should change.
We want our partners to be at fault. The ones who hold the responsibility for doing the work. But if we really look at what is going on, we can usually find something that we can work on ourselves.
Waiting for our partners to change sets us up for failure. It creates a situation where we can sit back and continue to blame the other person. And often the other person only feels that blame/criticism/attitude which doesn’t give him or her the motivation to change at all. Instead, it sets up a f-you scenario: F-you! You are the one who has to change first! No, you are!
But do you want to know the secret to getting someone else to change? Change something in yourself. If you change something, whether it be your mood, your words, or your attitude, than you will find that your partner will change in response. Their mood, words and attitude may be completely different as well.
It is hard to admit that we have something to change at all. Our instinct is to say: “I am not the one with the problem. You are the one with the problem.” But to be really effective in working on a relationship, we need to be honest with ourselves. What are we doing that contributes to the situation? One person in a relationship is not in a vacuum. He or she is existing with someone else. And maybe a significant piece of the issue is with the other person. But is there a little piece that you should be taking ownership for? Something that you can change in yourself, with your partner?
A classic example of this can be seen with sex. The couple comes to me and he says that she never wants to have sex. She says that she is too tired, busy with kids/work/household. Perhaps she could work on time management, on prioritizing, on making time for the most important relationship in her life. But what could he change? Perhaps if he did the dishes and put the kids to bed, she would find that she has less going on and therefore more room in her mind to set the mental mood for sex.
Another, similar, example: She complains that he wants too much sex and that she feels so much pressure that it is a turn-off. However if she made more of an effort to make time for him (even if it means having sex one more time per week/month than they normally do) then she might feel less pressure and therefore be more open to sex.
This same principle can be found in countless other interactions between partners. I know that you want change in your relationship. I know that your partner wants change. I want there to be less blame and criticism. The best way to accomplish that is to set up the expectation that both people need to do some changing. Here it is again:
1. Step back.
2. Put the feelings on a shelf for a moment.
3. Ask yourself, “What can I change about this situation that may create change in my partner?”