So, here’s an interesting thing. In just shy of 30 years of doing counselling, only once or twice have I heard a client say, “I want to learn to be a better partner.” What I do hear is, “My partner is a jerk, and s/he needs to be fixed!” In couple’s therapy, we talk about change. However, I seldom hear, “I want to learn to do things differently.” Clients are often baffled as to why their partner won’t change — they say, “If you loved me you’d do this for me.” I ask them what they are willing to change, and hear, “I’m not doing that!” They miss the irony. Each expects the other to change; neither thinks they need to change. The self-responsible person asks, “What can I do to act like the person I want my partner to be?”
I was walking through a mall, and saw a mom shaking her 8-year-old a few inches from her face and screaming, “How many times have I told you not to hit your sister?” Hmm… wonder where he learned to use physical force to make his point?
One of my clients hates it when her husband yells at her. So, she yells at him, “I hate it when you yell at me!” The woman yells at her husband because she thinks she has the right to do so, since he did. The odd part is, in a previous session, she said, “That’s it! I’m never going to yell at him again! It doesn’t work!” So I asked her about that promise.“Well, yes, I did promise, but really, anybody would have yelled over that!” Not much of a promise, eh?
The reason relationships get into trouble is often that one or both of the parties think their job is to ‘sort out’ their partner. One of my clients refers to her husband as her ‘fourth child.’ Nothing he does is right, and she endlessly tells him so.
I think the purpose of a relationship is to relate. And to do that, I have to meet my partner as my equal, not as someone I need to fix. Here’s the truth: Your partner isn’t broken, and your job is to work on yourself.
Here are five ideas to help you make that happen:
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