Become the Partner You Want to See
First, I acknowledge that the theme of this post does not apply to every relationship especially when abuse, infidelity and addictions are involved and perhaps it is too late in some instances. But in most situations, I believe what I am writing about in this post is quite applicable, and perhaps primary for strong marriages.
Steven Stosny in his book How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, writes: Everyone who enters an intimate relationship with some hope that it might last, would do well to understand this general principle: To get what you most want from your partner, you must first become the partner you most want to see.
Hmmmm....interesting way to think about your relationship, right? How does that work? When relationships become challenging, we usually remain more focused on how our partner is being or behaving, rather than how we (you) are being and behaving.
Two things happen when you focus too much on what you want from your partner and both are bad:
1. You will likely violate your core value, as you're really saying, "I will not be the compassionate and living person I truly am until you do what I want." (Of course, this statement assumes your core value is indeed compassion, or loving or supportive, etc.)
2. Your partner is likely to react negatively to your critical focus on him or her, even if you were not becoming less of the partner you want to be.
In other words, relationships fail when the parties become the partners they think their partners deserve!
So, according to Stosny, our best chance of changing your partner's behavior is to change what he/she reacts to in you. Your partner is likely to respond in kind to your behavior, whether it is loving, compassionate and supportive or resentful, demanding and critical. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't bring up matters in your relationship that are distressful to you. Not at all! It's the tone of how you bring them up that matters: compassionately (softly, giving benefit of the doubt) versus critically or contemptuously.
But regardless of how your partner responds, you will feel more authentic and remain true to yourself if you behave like the partner you most want to see. To paraphrase Gandhi, you have to become the change your want to see.
So resist the urge to believe that your marriage won't change until your spouse "gets with the program," The love YOU feel is much more a result of what YOU DO for your relationship, knowing how YOU can be there for your mate than what your spouse does for it. (Hmmmmm....I can hear you thinking "Are you sure about that Jim?" I hear a lot of "yes, buts!" and maybe some of them are understandable). But.......
........Consider the love you feel for your children. Is it because of everything they do for you? Is it because they're such angels? Of course not. The love you feel for your children is a result of what YOU DO for THEM. The love you feel in your marriage is a result of what YOU DO too.
So, bottom line, as Mahatma Gandhi said: You must be the change you wish to see. It's YOU changing that will have the greatest impact on YOUR EXPERIENCE of your marriage AND it's YOU changing that will be the single most important thing you can do to motivate your spouse to change. Think about it.
For further inquiries:
Check out Jim Covington, marriage counselor, at https://www.marriagecounselormanhattan.com
Phone: (917) 656- 4363