If you want to see a change in your relationship, look no further than the mirror.
This past weekend I found myself in a little bit of a debate with my boyfriend. It wasn’t like a full-out argument or anything like that, but it was just enough to ruffle my feathers a bit.
The truth is, I hate any kind of debates. It just doesn’t sit well in my being. All I ever want is for there to be harmony. I’d take just some simple empathetic understanding over a more intellectual debate any day. So when things got into a bit of a disagreement, I found myself getting more and more frustrated, upset, and, honestly, just sad.
Shortly after the conversation ended, he came up and asked me, “How are you feeling? Are you okay? Was I being a jerk?” This followed up with, “I’m asking because, well, I’m not good with all this emotional stuff.”
In that moment I kind of chuckled to myself a bit because he used the same exact words that I had used earlier that day when I had made a joke that I realized may have offended or hurt him. It was in that moment that I fully realized: It all starts with me.
Many of us wish to have a fulfilling relationship. We may desire to have more intimacy or a better connection. We may wish our partner was more open and honest with us. We may wish that our partner was more affectionate or more open to sharing their emotions. Many of us desire these things but we struggle to get these things to happen and can’t understand why. We wish that our partner would change. “I wish he was more honest” or “I wish he was more aware of his own emotions” is what we may tell our friends.
Though it is true that the compatibility of both people’s unique traits are a huge factor as to the success of our relationships, it is also true that modeling the behavior you desire in the relationship yourself can drastically change things for the better.
That is the mindset shift that many of us struggle to make and it keeps us in this place of suffering: That it is our own personal responsibility to model the change. We fail to take personal responsibility. We fail to realize our half of the equation and how our actions can dramatically impact the relationship.
Instead, many of us habitually focus on the external. We focus on what we are getting or not getting. “He’s not….” “She’s not…” are our common thought patterns. But what we need to do is look back at ourselves and ask: What am I not doing? How am I not allowing this to happen? We have to realize the importance of stepping up and doing the behavior we wish they would do so that we can help them develop their weak points.
Like Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What is it that you want to see in others? Whatever it is, then be it!
Here’s another example: For years I couldn’t understand why none of my boyfriends or friends would stand up and be honest about their feelings before a big “blow up” would happen. Now I realize that the reason that did it with me is because I wasn’t being open and honest with my feelings. I was off repressing all of my stuff and rather than openly sharing it with them.
As a result, they felt uncomfortable and it came out as a “blow up” rather than in a calm and collected manner. Fortunately I now know that if I want other people to do be open and honest about how they feel then I myself have to be open and honest regularly and often.
The more we express and do the thing that we wish others would do, then the more they will do it. The more that we embody what it is that we desire in others, they then feel more comfortable doing it with us.
So now it’s time to action…
(And seriously — do this! Don’t just read it or do it in your head!)
Write down a list of things that you wish you had in your relationships. What is something that you wish a partner, friend or family member would do for you? Do you wish they were more honest? More genuine? More emotionally supportive? More sensitive to your feelings? More open to talk about conflict? More vulnerable? Write down whatever comes to mind right now.
After you make your list, look at each wish and very honestly ask yourself: Am I doing this in the relationship? Am I really being genuine? Am I really being honest? Am I really being sensitive to their feelings?
Then reflect on how you can help bring more to that in the relationship. How can you be more genuine or sensitive? How can you be more supportive? Search for ways that you can better embody what it is that you would like them to do through your actions towards them.
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This article was originally published at Jennifer Twardowski, Create a Life of Love. Reprinted with permission from the author.