Have you ever watched a couple dance? I mean really dance. Waltz, foxtrot, tango. It is a beautiful synergy of leading and following. Relationships are a dance. If one partner changes a step, the other partner must follow or fear falling down. And like a dance, relationships tend to follow the same steps. We fight about the same things over and over because we consistently respond the same way every time. But what if, just once, you reacted differently? What if you changed your normal, habitual behavior and responded in a completely new way? Your partner would be forced to react differently as well. By breaking the old habits, you alone can change your relationship for the better and even fix the rockiest of situations.
So why is it so hard? What is holding you back from creating the relationship you have always wanted…all by yourself?
Why should I be the one to change?
Each of us has different expectations of what we want and need from a relationship. When those expectations are not met, we often feel hurt, resentful and, ultimately, unloved. We blame our partner for their ongoing inability to provide us with what we want and deserve. This leads to the “If/Then Syndrome.” “If he would only clean up after himself, then I would be happy.” “If she would stop nagging, I would do more.” “If he would communicate more, I would feel closer to him.” It is the ultimate relationship trap and the downfall of personal connection. The reality (and what we all sincerely know) is that we cannot change another person. No matter how hard we try. What few have realized is that if one person changes, the other person has to change by default. You can “fix” your relationship by yourself, but you have to start by changing your own behavior.
Why do I have to do all the work?
The truth is you don’t have to. It really comes down to what kind of relationship you want. Are you really sick and tired of that same old argument? Then try a new way. Instead of trying to convince your partner to change, change the pattern that instigates the fight. Even if you “know you are right” or you have impeccable reasoning for your case, choose a new way. Let’s face it, trying to convince your partner you are right has not worked so far. Change your conduct; change your input; offer a new perspective; or simply, do not react. For example, if your significant other is consistently late coming home and your normal pattern is to get irritated, withdraw in angry silence, or attack upon entry, instead try a warm and loving greeting. I am not saying this is easy. When you’re angry, it is hard to shift your emotions and be positive. But, your current pattern is not working. Change the response and you will change the behavior. After complaining that she was the only one in relationship coaching, one client finally reasoned, “I cannot change the input, but I can change the output.” Once she chose to have a nice, relaxing, peaceful evening, she changed her actions. When she noticed changes in her husband too, she finally figured out that he actually did get relationship coaching…by osmosis.
Why do I have to go first?
It is the law of reciprocation. People tend to give back the same behavior they first receive. This is true in business, sales and negotiations. The real question is what kind of wife, girlfriend or partner do you want to be? If you are consistently getting angry, hurt and upset, does this reflect the person that you are? The key is learning to change your reactions to certain situations that reflect the kind of person you would like to be, regardless of how your partner behaves. Think of it not as who goes first, but rather as a cyclical pattern or chain reaction. In the end, when you are enjoying a peaceful, loving relationship with an ongoing exchange of kindness, thoughtfulness and affection, it will not matter who went first.
Why do I have to give in?
Once again, you don’t have to. In relationship, you and your partner honestly, sincerely and genuinely both believe you are each right in your opinions and actions. This impasse can last forever while your affection dwindles. The truth is neither of you has to “give in.” Relationships are made of three entities: you, your partner and the relationship. Sometimes, we make choices for ourselves. Sometimes, we make choices for our partner. And sometimes, in order to maintain a strong, healthy long-term partnership, we make decisions and choices for the wellbeing of the relationship. This isn’t necessarily a compromise, but an actual decision to give the relationship what it needs to thrive. If your dream vacation is sunning on a tropical beach and your partner’s dream is of a snowy ski vacation, you may never convince each other of the merits of the other’s way. Since there may be no compromise, choose what is best for the relationship. Separate vacations – perhaps you on the beach with the girls and him on the slopes with the guys – may actually create a loving bond between the two of you. Or perhaps, two mini-vacations may work. The bottom line is you do not have to change your stance (or his). You simply have to change your approach in order to find the right answer for the relationship.
Often in a relationship, one partner is more motivated to work on the relationship. The myth is that if the other partner chooses not to get guidance, they do not care or are not interested in a solution. The truth is your partner often wants a solution as much as you do, however, may choose a different method than you to “work” on the relationship. Or they may sincerely not know what to do. Forcing someone to get help can do more damage than good. In fact, this can become another point of contention in the relationship.
Remember, changing your relationship alone means without your partner’s direct participation…it does not mean without help and guidance. Changing your own reactions, actions and patterns can make all the difference your relationship needs to be incredible. Think of it as creating an entirely new relationship dance.