Hint: the secret to getting him to change is to lift him up, not tear him down.
It is oh-so tempting to try to fix one thing or another about our mate, because then we would be so happy. Or, better yet, wouldn't it be so nice if your partner "cared enough" to just make the changes that would improve your relationship?
The truth is that we can't expect someone else to change; we can only change our own behavior.
As a psychologist specializing in relationships, I believe there are 3 tips for approaching the topic of change and conflict in your relationship:
1. Remember, you are part of the problem.
You and your mate act differently with each other than the perfect personas you share with the outside world. You see one another's flaws. It's possible that outsiders say your mate is fabulous, yet you know their imperfections. But, be aware that your emotions skew some of your thinking and unwillingness to look at your part in issues you think your partner starts.
Often, we aren't even aware of our own behaviors adversely affecting our relationships.
Let me be more specific: Too often, I've heard a person tell their mate about something that made them unhappy, but with a tone that's condescending, putting the other person down. Why? What purpose does that serve?
As an example, I'm reminded of many couples where the woman complains because her guy never opens up. He privately tells me that he doesn't, however, because every time he attempts to, he gets criticized.
2. If something upsets you, discuss it privately.
If you say something hurtful to the other person, it's not likely to make him or her feel all warm and fuzzy about you. So, you're not likely to get a positive response back, or any response for that matter. While you are initially upset, you're not likely to feel any better now that you've spoken up.
To make matters worse, some of you don't hesitate to bring out these issues in front of others. This is probably one of the biggest "no-nos" you can commit in relationships. Humiliating your partner in front of others is a complete breach in trust. Additionally, though you may not realize it, the other folks you're with feel very uncomfortable as well.
3. When raising a concern talk about how it makes you feel.
Being a psychologist, I realize that there are emotions behind the statements we make. You're likely angry and, under that, actually feeling hurt. The good part of being human is having emotions; the bad part of being human is having emotions. So, rather than feeling vulnerable and possibly getting hurt, we protect ourselves. Likely, the condescending tone you use is really a form of self-protection.
Though uncomfortable initially, and perhaps even a bit awkward, the way to communicate about something that's upsetting you is not to blame your partner or point a finger. Rather, objectively describe the upsetting behavior and then express the feelings it brought up in you.
Here's an example: "When you came home an hour late and didn't call, I got scared and felt like I didn't matter." Be vulnerable. Your mate will be far more receptive to hearing you and willing to respond to what's upsetting.
So, there you go: three simple steps. You can do them at any time of the year to bring to tackle the tough topic of changing behaviors in your relationship.