Why Should I be the One to Change
By Michele Weiner-Davis of Divorce Busting
really mad at your partner. You've explained your point of view a million
times. S/he never listens. You can't believe that a person can be so insensitive.
So, you wait. You're convinced that eventually s/he will have to see the
light; that you're right and s/he's wrong. In the meantime, there's silence.
But the tension is so thick in your house, you can cut it with a knife.
You hate the distance, but there's nothing you can do about it because
you're mad. You're really mad.
try to make yourself feel better by getting involved in other things. Sometimes
this even works. But you wake up every morning facing the fact that nothing's
changed at all. A feeling of dissatisfaction permeates everything you do.
From time to time, you ask yourself, "Is there something I should do differently,?"
but you quickly dismiss this thought because you know that, in your heart
of hearts, you're not the one to blame. So the distance between you and
your partner persists.
any of this sound familiar? Have you and your partner been so angry with
each other that you've gone your separate ways and stopped interacting
with each other? Have you convinced yourself that, until s/he initiates
making up, there will be no peace in your house? If so, I have few things
I want to tell you.
are wasting precious energy holding on to your anger. It's exhausting to
feel resentment day in and day out. It takes a toll on your body and soul.
It's bad for your health and hard on your spirit. It's awful for your relationship.
Anger imprisons you. It casts a gray cloud over your days. It prevents
you from feeling real joy in any part of your life. Each day you drown
yourself in resentment is another day lost out of your life. What a waste!
have worked with so many people who live in quiet desperation because they
are utterly convinced that their way of seeing things is right and their
partner's is wrong. They spend a lifetime trying to get their partners
to share their views. I hear, "I'll change if s/he changes," a philosophy
that ultimately leads to a stalemate. There are many variations of this
position. For example, "I'd be nicer to her, if she were nicer to me,"
or "I'd be more physical and affectionate if he were more communicative
with me," or "I'd be more considerate and tell her about my plans if she
wouldn't hound me all the time about what I do." You get the picture… "I'll
be different if you start being different first." Trust me when I tell
you that this can be a very, very long wait.
a much better way to view things when you and your partner get stuck like
this. I've been working with couples for years and I've learned a lot about
how change occurs in relationships. It's like a chain reaction. If one
person changes, the other one does too. It really doesn't matter who starts
first. It's simply a matter of tipping over the first domino. Change is
reciprocal. Let me give you an example.
worked with a woman who was very distressed about her husband's long hours
at work. She felt they spent very little time together as a couple and
that he was of little help at home. This infuriated her. Every evening
when he returned for work, her anger got the best of her and she criticized
him for bailing out on her. Inevitably, the evening would be ruined. The
last thing he wanted to do after a long day at work was to deal with problems
the moment in walked in the door. Although she understood this, she was
so hurt and angry about his long absences that she felt her anger was justified.
She wanted a suggestion from me about how to get her husband to be more
attentive and loving. She was at her wit's end.
told her that I could completely understand why she was frustrated and
that, if I were in her shoes, I would feel exactly the same way. However,
I wondered if she could imagine how her husband might feel about her nightly
barrage of complaints. "He probably wishes he didn't have to come home,"
she said. "Precisely," I thought to myself, and I knew she was ready to
switch gears. I suggested that she try an experiment. "Tonight when he
comes home, surprise him with an affectionate greeting. Don't complain,
just tell him you're happy to see him. Do something kind or thoughtful
that you haven't done in a long time…even if you don't feel like it." "You
mean like fixing him his favorite meal or giving him a warm hug? I used
to do that a lot." "That's exactly what I mean," I told her, and we discussed
other things she might do as well. She agreed to give it a try.
weeks later she returned to my office and told me about the results of
first night after I talked with you I met him at the door and, without
a word, gave him a huge hug. He looked astounded, but curious. I made him
his favorite pasta dish, which was heavy on the garlic, so he smelled the
aroma the moment he walked in. Immediately, he commented on it and looked
pleased. We had a great evening together, the first in months. I was so
pleased and surprised by his positive reaction that I felt motivated to
keep being 'the new me.' Since then things between us have been so much
better, it's amazing. He's come home earlier and he's even calling me from
work just to say hello. I can't believe the change in him. I'm so much
happier this way."
moral of this story is obvious. When one partner changes, the other partner
changes too. It's a law of relationships. If you aren't getting what you
need or want from your loved one, instead of trying to convince him or
her to change, why not change your approach to the situation? Why not be
more pragmatic? If what you're doing (talking to your partner about the
error of his/her ways) hasn't been working, no matter how sterling your
logic, you're not going to get very far. Be more flexible and creative.
Be more strategic. Spend more time trying to figure out what might work
as opposed to being hell bent on driving your point home. You might be
pleasantly surprised. Remember, insanity has been defined as doing the
same old thing over and over and expecting different results.
life is short. We only have one go-around. Make your relationship the best
it can possibly be. Stop waiting for your partner to change in order for
things to be better. When you decide to change first, it will be the beginning
of a solution avalanche. Try it, you'll like it!