by guest blogger Larry James
In my years of relationship coaching I have found that if one partner wants to re-imagine, re-design and re-launch their relationship they can have a profound influence upon the other partner. First realize that your spouse may not be as frustrated and unhappy as you are, and while it works much better when both partners are working on the relationship together, you may need to make a commitment to yourself to be working on only changing you. Discover the things you might need to change in yourself before your partner will change. What you can do is take your eyes off your partner and put them on yourself. You have total control to change yourself, and no control to change your partner.
First comes conversation. Communicating how you feel about the relationship to your partner often gets their attention. Open and honest communication can sometimes create an opening for love to be rediscovered. If you have not expressed your feelings previously, share how you feel with your partner. When you are willing to change some behavior, tell your spouse about your plan to change and enlist their support. If they don't take you seriously, begin working on yourself. You don't need their permission to make changes in your own life. If he or she discloses a desire to change, don't be so quick to roll your eyes… Instead be ready to help and not hinder the process.
While sharing your love for your spouse, express your concerns and fears about the future of your marriage. If you are having doubts about your love, make a list of what you love about your partner. Sometimes it helps to remember what brought you together in the beginning. Never postpone having a conversation with your partner to identify the behaviors and face the issues that are creating the unhappiness in your relationship. As you learn to express your needs, your partner will have a better understanding of who you are. To communicate your feelings may be difficult, but you must communicate. Increase communication and see what happens.
There is a line in my romantic wedding ceremony that says, "Relationships are something that must be worked on all the time, not only when they are broken and need to be fixed. Never stop doing the things that brought you together in the first place." Another line reminds the couple, "When times call for you to be apart, may you always return to your togetherness in the same spirit of love that you are feeling in this moment." In other words, you must focus on the good that has come from being together, not the distress that comes from drifting apart.
Someone once said, "What you think about and speak about, you bring about." I believe this is true. If you're playing the blame game, always blaming your partner for the way they have made you feel, you will get more of that. First thing to remember is that no one can get your goat if they don't know where it's tied up. They or the circumstance that you are in cannot make you feel bad. You have the choice to feel the way you do at any moment in time. So wise up. Choose differently.
Begin to discover ways to renew and turn up the love that you had when you were first together. Focus on what you want your relationship to be. Let your imagination run wild. Refresh your thinking. Reduce your complaints and catch your partner doing something right, then thank them for being that way.
The frustration of your spouse's lack of follow-through on good intentions, or saying one thing and then doing another, or breaking promises can slowly erode both the emotional and physical intimacy in your marriage.
The change in a relationship must first occur in your thinking. In a new Northwestern University study, professors Hui, Bond, and Molden studied romantic couples and found that the more you think your partner is "incapable" of changing, the more your partner's sincere efforts fail to improve the relationship. Conversely, the more you believe your partner is capable of change and trying to improve, the more secure and happy you will feel in your relationship.
Personal change and growth can become issues in marriage because man and women develop at different rates. Couples change at different times in life and with different key motivators. We hope our spouses will change for the better: become more patient and kind; stop unhealthy habits; spend more time with the family; work less – or more; go to church more – or less; talk more – or less. We are all works in progress. In order for happiness to grow in a relationship, both partners have to be willing to grow and change and act in ways that make their partner happier.
What if your self-change strategy doesn't light a fire under your partner? Acceptance comes next. When partners show each other love and acceptance they respond more quickly to each other's changes. Accept that you can't change your partner. You can only change yourself and your own behavior and reactions. Changing your own behavior may sometimes encourage your partner to want to make changes.
I once had a coaching client that accepted my challenge to avoid all criticism for 30 days. She began to "compliment" him instead. Her concern was that she might not be able to find something to compliment him about. When she began paying more attention to him she found that was not the case. Her husband noticed and began to change without her asking him to change.
Consider individual relationship coaching to prevent feeling depressed or helpless, to understand your role in the conflict in your marriage, and to
You once told each other that you loved each other. Perhaps it's time to prove to them just how much you really do love them.
Copyright © 2013 - Larry James. Reprinted with permission. This article is adapted from Larry's books, "How to
Really Love the One You're With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship," "LoveNotes for Lovers:
Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing" and "Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers." Author Larry James presents
seminars nationally for singles and couples. http://www.CelebrateLove.com & http://CelebrateLove.wordpress.com