How much energy do you spend trying to get what you want from your partner? Think about it for a moment - how much of your thinking time is spent on what to say to your partner to get him or her to be the way you want him or her to be?
Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about how to get what we want from our partner - how to get our partner to open up, be more caring, see us, love us, pay attention to us, spend time with us, have sex with us, and so on. We spend at lot of energy trying to get what we want from our partner because we believe that if only we do it right - behave right or say the right thing - we can have control over getting our partner to change. This illusion of having control over getting another to change keeps us stuck in behavior that not only does not work to get us what we want, but drains us of the energy we could be using to learn to take loving care of ourselves.
It is very hard to accept that we can't "get" others to do what we want them to do, even if it would be good for them and for the relationship. In my counseling work with people, I frequently hear:
- "How can I get my partner to read your books?'
- "How can I get my wife to be more sexual?"
- "How can I get my husband away from the TV to spend time with me?"
- "How can I get my partner to be on time?"
- "How can I get my husband to talk with me about our problems?"
- "How can I get my wife to spend less money and write the checks into the checkbook?"
- "How can I get my partner to clean up after himself?"
- "How can I get my partner to stop being angry?"
- "How can I get my partner to stop blaming me for everything?"
Everyone wants to know, "How can I get my partner to change?" The truth is, you can't.
What you can do is take your eyes off your partner and put them on yourself. You have total control to change yourself, and no control to change your partner. The question you need to be asking yourself is, "What do I need to do for my own well-being if my partner doesn't change?"
- "Do I need to stop reacting to my partner with compliance, resistance, withdrawal, blame, lectures, explanations, nagging or anger?"
These protective, controlling ways of responding to conflict will always exacerbate the conflict and make us feel badly within. The wounded part of us believes we can get love and avoid pain with these protective behaviors, but in reality it is often these behaviors that are actually causing much of our own pain. None of these behaviors are loving to yourself or to your partner, nor are you taking personal responsibility for your own feelings and well-being when you behave in these controlling ways.
- "In what ways do I need to be more loving, caring, understanding and attentive to myself - to my own feelings?"
Do you project onto your partner the inner unhappiness that results from not taking loving care of yourself? Instead of trying to get your partner to be more loving, open and attentive, you need to focus on being open, loving, kind and attentive with yourself and with your partner.