Stop trying, or hoping to, change your partner. You can’t “change” your partner. All you can expect is a change in your partner’s behavior, not an actual change in your partner’s nature. Personality, yours and your partner’s, is in your cells. It’s in your DNA. We are all born with a temperament, or personality. What we do with our personality is what is changeable.
However, you can change something very important: the way you and your partner perceive and behave toward each other. AND, if you want your partner’s behavior to change, you have to change your perceptions and your behavior. In fact, the partner complaining the most about relationship dynamics probably has to be the first to make changes!
So, if you’ve been frustrated because your partner “always responds to you in the same way,” you have to do or say something differently. It will be feel unfamiliar to you at first. It will probably be uncomfortable. But, whatever you’ve been doing hasn’t worked. You haven’t gotten the response you want. Perhaps your personality and upbringing prevent you from being a flexible communicator. All you have to do is decide it’s really important for your relationship to change, and then take responsibility for changing it – by what you do! Expanding skill in what and how you communicate can make that happen.
Of course, the best option is for both partners to come together for relationship counseling. Success is more likely when both partners are committed to the same goals.
Learning how to communicate in new ways, in the presence of each other, is the most effective way to make relationship progress, as you might imagine.
Also, being together in counseling allows each partner to correct inaccurate assumptions about each other’s point of view, feelings, wants or needs. Such frankness is finally possible when complaining stops and opening up to real awarenes of the other begins. These are often transformational moments. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen couples re-ignite the desire to “be there” for each other, and to build a more trusting, respectful future together, when complaining stops long enough to make room for honest dialogue.
But, to buttress awareness, for the sake of the relationship, each often needs more effective skill in verbal and nonverbal communication. That’s where Therapeutic Acting (TA) comes in. Through TA, I guide partners into a new “relationship vocabulary.” I do this by prompting verbal (scripting) and nonverbal (display) communication behaviors that they’ve not used before. “Tuned-in” statements and “tuned-in” responses underscored by congruent nonverbal behavior generate honest, earnest and weighty communication – maybe for the first time.
So, for a better understanding of each other, clarity in communication, and goal sharing (whatever the goals), try Therapeutic Acting for Couples (TA-C). You’ll learn what’s really “there” in your relationship and what you can do with it!
I’m going to use some simple scripts to show you what I mean.
Scene 1 (which may repeated several times each week)
You: I wish, when you washed the dishes, you actually made them clean.
Partner: You should be glad I do the dishes at all. I’m pretty busy, you know.
You: I am glad you do them. It’s just that I have to do them over again, because they’re not really clean.
Partner: I do the best I can! You’re never satisfied.
You: Why don’t we do the dishes together. I’ll wash, you dry. We’re both busy. It should take ½ the time.
Or, if one does dishes while the other is with the kids:
You: You know how fussy I am about the dishes. How about if I put the ones that still don’t seem clean to me, over to the side, on the counter, so you can see later what I mean? If you see what I mean, would you re-do them, please? And, if you think they’re okay the way they are, just put them away, and I won’t fuss. OK?
You: I’ve got an idea for the dishes that don’t seem clean to me. I’m going to put them in a different place in the cupboard. Those will be the ones for you. OK?
You may not like any of the script options I’ve just offered, but, I’m sure you’ll agree that your partner would be surprised if those words came out of your mouth!
The dialogue and dynamic between you would change – at least for a short time. During that time, you’d each have an opportunity to see the other slightly differently. A number of small changes like that can lead to big changes overall.
Each of you needs to feel heard. Each of you needs to feel the other is considering your needs. Someone needs to start, even if it’s difficult. Otherwise, nothing will change – and, certainly, not your partner!