Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” -Jim Rohn
A thriving and fulfilling relationship is what most couples want for their relationship. They start the New Year off by prioritizing time together, incorporating date nights, and paying attention to their partner’s wishes. They want their partner to know that they’re serious about making changes to improve their relationship. Yet as the reality of life sets in, deadlines get in the way or family obligations take over; the well intentioned assurances tend to be pushed aside.
How can you create lasting change when roadblocks get in the way?
- Choose. In order for change to happen a significant amount of tension is inevitable. Don’t be afraid of the tension. The stress, anxiety or chaos people experience is necessary for change to occur. This gives you the opportunity to do something about the problem and to make things better. Decide whether you’re willing to work things through (create change) or not. (If left undone, it will likely reappear at the next argument.)
- Courage. It takes courage to face problems. It also takes courage to look at your part of the ordeal. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad, wrong or flawed. It simply means that you and your partner aren’t connecting in the way that allows passion and freedom to flow. It will take courage to step out of your comfort zone, put aside your normal defensive stance, and learn a new way to get that connection back.
- Clarity. Be clear (within yourself) of what you want for the relationship. i.e. To play and have fun again, to be carefree, to have the soul mate relationship, to be able to share frustrations without being told I’m bad or wrong or just like my mother; to be loved and accepted just as I am. (Every couple I work with desire to love and to be loved unconditionally by their partner.)
- Curious. An attitude of curiosity opens the door to learning about one another. When couples are able to set aside judgment and resentment, they can learn what their partner actually thinks and feels. Ask. Don’t assume to know what the other is thinking. I often hear, “we’ve been together so many years, I know what s/he’s thinking.” But when I step in and ask if it’s accurate, the accusing partner is surprised to learn that there’s a vulnerable side they’ve never seen from their partner. Beneath the defensiveness is a side that is sensitive, hurts and also longs for closeness and connection.
- Commit to working things through. Don’t get caught up in the “he said/she said, you started it” bantering of an argument. Look instead for the meaning behind the message. What is the hurt or fear that has triggered the upset-ness? Put aside the need to be right and commit to the success of the relationship. Couples who are able to focus on the partnership becoming united, instead of (individually) winning the battle will shift the focus toward relational success.