I want to talk today about how you can think about your relationship in a way that can actually lead to some meaningful change.
As a relationship therapist, very often clients come to me (and it’s perfectly understandable that they would) quite focused on what they’re unhappy with about their relationship, and specifically the ways in which they’re unhappy with their partner. The idea is, “If only my partner would change in these ways, I would be happy, and our relationship would be good.”
The problem with that perspective is that it doesn’t actually set up an effective environment for change. Rethinking that stance is absolutely the most effective thing you can do to set your relationship therapy, counselling, or coaching up for success.
This is what I would recommend that you do. (This exercise comes directly from Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson, who are the founders of the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy, which is the primary model that I practice.) The question I want you to ask yourself is “What kind of a relationship do I want to create?”
Ask yourself that. When you’re thinking about the kind of relationship you would like to create, think about what you would feel like in that relationship. For instance, “I would look forward to coming home.” So imagine yourself coming home, and you’re excited to walk in the door and see your partner. Now consider other aspects of the relationship you want to create. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Specifically, what would you be doing? If you were watching your relationship as a movie, how would it be unfolding?
I want to stress that you are an active creator and an active participant in the kind of relationship that you have. You have choices, and you make a million decisions every day, about how you respond or react, how you engage or disengage, and how you connect or disconnect. You’re in charge of your part of that.
Now, I’m not saying that your partner’s perfect. Your partner is probably not perfect, and they have things that they can change about themselves too. But the problem is, the only person I can change is myself, so if I think my happiness is dependent on my partner changing, I’m dooming myself to wait around: “When is my partner going to get around to the change that I want?” That is just not an effective way to tackle your own happiness project.
So, ask yourself: what kind of relationship do you want to create? Then I want you to ask yourself, in the relationship that I want to create, how am I showing up? So if you were watching a movie of the relationship that you want to be in, what would you be doing? How would you be responding? How would you be interacting with your partner, how would you be connecting with your partner, and yourself, and maybe with your kids, your home, your family? What is that relationship? What does it feel like? And who are you in it?
Now the rubber’s going to meet the road, because my third question for you is this: How far are you from being that person right now? This is such an important question to ask yourself, because again, your happiness project depends upon it. It depends upon you figuring out who you want to be and how you can show up differently in your relationship, and then making moves towards becoming more the person you want to be in your relationship.
It’s going to change your relationship, I swear to you. And if it doesn’t, if your partner is just a complete disaster, you can always decide to leave them later on down the road. But until you have made the changes that you can make to be the person that you want to be in your relationship, you really can’t blame it on your partner, or at least, you can’t blame it entirely on your partner.
That’s because you exist in a relationship system in which you and your partner are constantly reading each other. Many times every single day you probably look at your partner and read them: Is my partner having a good day or a bad day? Am I in trouble? Does my partner love me? Is my partner into me? Is my partner mad at me? We do that all the time, often subconsciously, and then we respond or react to whatever we’re perceiving. If what we’re imagining or perceiving seems to be negative, or we imagine it might be negative, we tend to respond or react negatively. Then, this negativity bounces between us, because your partner is reading you just like you’re reading them, which creates a downward spiral which you both contribute to.
What I want to let you know is that you could actually create an upward vibe between the two of you. Your partner may or may not go along with the ride, but you can do your part in showing up the way that you want to show up in your relationship.
I’m going to recap these three questions for you, because they’re super important:
- What kind of relationship do I want to create?
- How am I showing up in that relationship? Who am I in the relationship I want to have?
- How far am I from that now?
Ask yourself these questions, and start to try and get yourself positioned to make change in an effective way. In my next vlog, I’m going to talk about how you can actually come up with some meaningful action steps. But this is the first step: envision the positive thing that you want to move towards, rather than obsessing about the negative thing you might have now, get clear on who you are in that positive thing, and then figure out how far away you are from that now. Be honest!
Thanks for your hard work! This is going to make a difference, and I will be back soon to talk about goals.