In the search for greater love, connection, and happiness with your partner, wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a set of rules for a better relationship that you could just follow? Unfortunately, we all come from different places and have unique outlooks on the world, so it’s not quite that simple. There is one thing, however, that will set you on the path to creating the relationship and life that you are longing for: you must first decide that you want to change.
Change Begins With You
No matter what your partner is doing, or anyone else for that matter, you have the power to change your part. You can change your perception, reaction (or non-reaction), your words, and more. We all have far more power over our lives than we think. If you are consistently doing the same thing with your partner and getting the same results, then it’s time to change what you do. And once you decide that the way you’ve been living is not a reflection of who you want to be (or how you want to live), then you can become the change.
Yes, changing to become the person you want to be will take some shifting. Most of us didn’t grow up in a time where being relational was valued, and many didn’t have parents or role models to demonstrate the dynamics of a healthy relationship. That can mean a relationship with others or yourself. Further, as a child, you learned to protect yourself when certain needs weren’t met, or when you were afraid or vulnerable. This has all shaped your life until this point. It’s time to do some inner work to create the life you want.
I like to view this opportunity as a gift; once you decide to change, you can! Not everyone is willing to challenge their beliefs or step out of their comfort zone with themselves and their relationships. During this time, your partner can serve as a mirror, showing you areas that need visiting. Look at the patterns between the two of you that keep showing up. If they’re causing you or your partner pain, it’s a chance to change things. There may not be step-by-step rules for a better relationship, but there are certain principles that will help you let go of your old ways.
How to Welcome Change Into Your Relationship
Commit to learning from your mistakes. We all make mistakes in our relationships, where you reacted instead of responding, or pulled away during a tense moment. Rather than looking back on things you wish you’d done differently with shame, frustration, and anger, commit to learning from the experiences. See challenges as an opportunity to learn, get feedback, and grow.
Separate yourself from your behaviors. Just because you or your partner did something in the past doesn’t mean that it defines your relationship. We act in certain ways based on our internal model of the world and the rules we think we should live by; but this isn’t the only reality. Our actions can be a mask or shield to protect us from vulnerability. You are more than your behaviors, and so is your partner.
Here’s an example: you’re feeling super-motivated to get the house clean and organized, and are running around accomplishing things from your to-do list. All the while, your partner is resting on the couch. Are they “lazy”? From your perspective, it could seem like that. But perhaps they worked a ten hour shift, are under the weather, or they are being lazy at the moment. Whatever the reason, this behavior doesn’t make them a lazy person. Labels like this are restricting, and don’t allow us to see the whole person, nor the whole story.
You get more of what you do most often. Think about what you do consistently in your life, and the results you are getting. If you’re always thinking negatively about your partner or relationship, or telling yourself and others a negative story, you’ll get negativity back. On the contrary, if you can train yourself to see things through a lens of gratitude and compassion, you will get more love and connection in return. This isn’t about being a Pollyanna, where everything is sunshine all the time. Rather, it’s choosing how you want to feel and becoming the driver in your own life.
Choose long-term results vs short-term fixes. We live in a world where instant gratification is prioritised over the suffering of waiting. Thus, when we attempt. We find the easiest band-aid and try to tape things together. Those short-term fixes are usually you doing more (or less) of something you’re already doing. For example, yelling less. This is both superficial and reversible, making it easy to fall back into old habits.
When you take a long-term approach, you have the chance to change the operating rules you live by. It’ll take longer, but it will make a bigger impact because once you start the change, it becomes impossible to go back. With the yelling example, a long-term strategy could be to learn about anger management, take positive parenting classes, exercise more, or see a counsellor. These will take you out of your comfort zone and take time to implement, but will be far more effective at helping you yell less in the long run.
These rules will support you as you take new action to change your relationship for the better. Take back your power and take charge by quitting negativity. Choose to focus on what creates the feelings that you desire. As you turn your thoughts and feelings into appreciation and positivity, your interactions will turn to thoughtful responses. Soon you’ll find yourself responding to your partner - and life - in ways that are in alignment with who you want to be.