Is something about your partner driving you crazy? Have you tried to change them by complaining, nudging, cajoling, pouting? And still no change? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “physician heal thyself.” Well, the same principle applies in relationships. In order to change your partner, you have to start with yourself. Why? Because you are the only one you have control over, and when you change, oftentimes your partner will follow suit.
Here’s an example: Joe is an introvert. He doesn’t like to socialize. He would rather he and Sally just do things together without other people around. Truth be known, Joe feels very uncomfortable and fearful in social situations. Small talk is just not his thing. But what he does like is the great outdoors…fishing , nature hikes, swimming in the ocean. He would love for Sally to join him in one of these activities, but she always says no.
Sally, on the other hand, is a very sociable person. She loves dinner parties, hanging out with friends, doing activities with other people. Fishing, hiking, swimming? No way. She’s not the athletic type. Yoga in a nice comfortable studio is about as far as she goes. Sally would love for Joe to join her when there’s a party. But he steadfastly refuses.
Sally and Joe are locked into a pattern of fear and stubbornness and neither is willing to budge. Although they love each other and have other interests in common, this impasse is putting a big strain on their relationship.
So what’s the solution?
One of them needs to take the first step. It could be either one, but let’s say it’s Joe. What if, in the interest of harmony in the relationship and wanting more closeness with Sally, he gives in and goes to a party when Sally asks? Although awkward, he does his best to be as pleasant and into the evening as possible. If Joe were to do this, Sally would be surprised for sure, and most likely very appreciative of Joe’s effort. This in turn could encourage her to go for a swim the next time Joe asks. Then there is a domino effect: you did this for me; I’ll do that for you.
It may surprise you, but oftentimes this works. One person stretches beyond their limits, and the other is so grateful they are willing to stretch as well. Result? They live a bigger life both individually and together. Win-win.
Changing yourself in order to change your partner is a simple solution to a common problem. Simple, yes. Easy, no since fear is involved and both partners have to go beyond their fear. But if there is goodwill in the relationship, the desire to please the other becomes the impetus for change.
Is this a problem in your relationship? If so, I hope you will be the one to initiate the change. Both you and your partner will be happier as a result. Guaranteed!
Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can buy it on Kindle from Amazon websites worldwide, such as amazon.com