It’s Not Me Who Needs To Change

When problems come up in any relationship, partners can have very different thoughts about who’s at fault and how to solve the problem. More often than not, it’s a lot easier to see what’s obviously wrong with the one you love than with you.

The bad news? We can’t make anyone else in our lives change if they don’t want to. You can choose whether or not you want to stay, but before you take a quick exit, it might be worth it to do some self-examining. It takes two to make a successful relationship, so that means taking responsibility for your own actions. Here are few ways to have a positive influence on your relationship or marriage.

Learn about yourself.

Sometimes people come to couples therapy, and each person wants to use the hour listing the many complaints they have about their partner. Whether you’re in the counseling room or not, if you can’t shine the line back on yourself, then your partner will likely never be able to hear you.

Say that your spouse always takes a long time getting ready, and you’re sitting in the car fuming because you’re going to be late to dinner or church. You can just react to the situation and yell at them, or you can turn it back on yourself. What else has stressed you out this week? How did you learn to be so anxious about arriving early to places? You might be surprised to find that your loved one isn’t the cause of these emotions, even though you’re directing them at him or her.

Listen to your partner.

Change isn’t about winning and losing. When it becomes a contest on who has to give up a habit, neither person is likely to hear the other’s concerns. People are more likely to consider change when they feel like their own point of view has been heard by the other person.

Listening doesn’t mean that you have to give in 100% of the time. It just means that you’re modeling the behavior you’d like to see in your partner when you have a problem with them. Learning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a skill that will benefit you in any area of life, so you might as well start with the person you love the most.

Know that any positive change benefits everyone.

Often in relationships we forget that when you’re working on yourself, everyone around you can benefit. Your spouse may never change everything you don’t like about them, but if he or she sees you hard at work on your own shortcomings, then the pressure they constantly feel can be lifted.

Without this pressure, you are more likely to be heard when you have a concern. You allow the other person the space and the encouragement to be the best person that they can be as well.

So the next time your partner is driving you crazy, take a step back. Examine your own thinking, reactions, and behaviors inside the relationship and outside the relationship. Blaming only leaves everyone emotionally exhausted, so this isn’t about making you feel guilty. It’s about taking the first and most important step in keeping things equal, honest, and open with the one you love.