Maybe your partner drinks too much, works too much, watches too much porn, helps family and friends too much, yells too much, criticizes you too much. Really, it's too much.
You've probably tried to get them to change. Maybe you've hinted, nagged, threatened to leave, yelled and screamed, and broken down in tears. If your relationship is like most, your partner changes for a bit and then goes back to old habits. This is getting hard to live with, isn't it? All your efforts so far aren't amounting to any real lasting changes. What are you supposed to do, just accept it?
Well, yes, in a way. Remember the old Psych 101 joke: "How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer: "Only one, but the light bulb really has to want to change." The nugget of truth in this old joke is that we can't change other people, even the ones we love. They have to want to change.
Now if you're still with me here, there are some strategic moves you can make. First, these will help reduce your stress. Second, they'll start to create an environment where your mate no longer has to rebel against you. Do you actually want to keep stirring up their rebellious, acting-out inner teenager?
Consider These Five Strategic Moves:
- I will avoid judging and criticizing you for these behaviors.
- Instead, I will do my best to learn why they are important to you. When we're both calm, I will ask you how this helps you and what it means to you. In the process, I might learn that drinking is a favorite way to relax, working long hours can manage the fear of getting fired, or fills a deep need to be useful and productive, helping mom means you are a good son or daughter, watching porn feels safe and fun, criticizing me is the way you try to get your needs met.
- I will share how these behaviors make me feel. Then I will stop. I will not ask or demand that you change them.
- I can have boundaries. I can refuse to ride with you if I think you've had too much to drink. I can say "ouch!" when you criticize me. If you cancel or "forget" our plans at the last minute and go off to help someone else, I can still go out. I can ask you to re-schedule time for us.
- I can get creative for our relationship. I can plan a non-alcoholic picnic or bike ride for us, I can schedule weekly date times and ask you to commit to them. I can crank up our intimacy a notch. I will consider your complaints and criticisms to see if there are ways I can be a better partner to you.
Pledging to bring these five moves into your relationship might not make everything perfect. However, they can start you on the path from "too much" towards "just right."
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