Taking responsibility for ones own actions is essential if the relationship is to survive. As long as others are blamed for how we are feeling and what we are thinking and doing, then little progress will be made.
It is clear that William Glasser's quote " I have noticed that happy people are constantly evaluating themselves and unhappy people are constantly evaluating others" has great relevance to any relationship. If we want to succeed in a relationship, we have to focus on self evaluation and choosing more successful behaviours we can carry out for ourselves, rather than evaluation and judgement of our partner.
Before you decide that you need to do anything about a situation, decide first if it is really important enough that it needs anything done about it at all! Does it really matter if your partner doesn't colour code the pegs when they hang out the washing?
If you choose to let it matter enough to you that you want to do more than simply accept that s/he does it differently to you, first see if you can do it yourself before you take any other action. After all, if it really matters to you, you should be happy to put in the effort to get on and do it!
If it is a bigger problem which really does impact on your ability to meet your needs, not just your wants, then negotiate fairly. Come up with something that works for both of you! Remember, if it works for you but not your partner, the relationship will be damaged.
It is clear that couples in successful relationships put the health of the relationship before the wants of the individual. Whilst it is true that we all have needs that must be met, our wants are only one of an infinite number of possible ways to meet our needs. A preparedness to give up what I want so I can better get what I need is the hallmark of a healthy, creative and mature approach to a relationship
The only person I can control is me!
This last is a critical thing to understand. The belief that if I just keep coming back to the issue often enough, long enough and hard enough, that eventually I will wear you down and win.... is the dry rot which destroys the foundation of any relationship! If your relationship is very strong to begin with, and while it is new, it may not seem to have a damaging effect. But that is the nature of dry rot, it quietly works away without you noticing......until the whole structure collapses!
Remember, if something is not working for you, you should focus on what you can do to make it better
We must have an understanding that how our partner sees things is as real to them as how we see them. We must respect and accept that is how they see it, even if we don't agree with them about it. We are then in a better position to negotiate something that works fairly for them as well as us!
Feelings and motivation
None of us knows what the other is thinking or what they are feeling. In a healthy relationship we refrain from telling our partner that we know better than them what they are thinking and feeling and what motivates their behaviour. We accept what they tell us and move on to what we are going to do so it works better for both of us.
None of us can change the past, a preparedness to focus on how we can create a new and better relationship ........rather than on how it has been, is needed in order to move forward. Certainly we can acknowledge what each believes has happened, but we need to shift quickly to jointly create a picture of how we want it to be in the future. It is a given that this joint picture must be one that works for both of us.
Changing the above behaviours is not easy to start with, because we have been practicing them for so long that we feel like they are right and so we don't even notice them! We may even have been to counselling or read self help books which encouraged us to tell our partners that what they are doing is wrong and how it is causing us unhappiness and insisted that if only they would change we would be happy! No wonder so many of us remain unhappy when we try to control our partner like that!
It takes a lot more effort to be in an unhappy relationship than it does to use the above simple yet effective approaches, and of course the more we practice them the easier they become and we have more energy as our needs are being met and our relationship thrives!
Choice Practice Institute
Riviera Counselling Service