Most people in relationships will try to change if their partner nags, yells, threatens divorce, or refuses to speak for a week. They’ll change for a short time but they won’t really change because they resent you and they resent how mean you are to them. They don’t think of what they could/should be doing to foster a good relationship. That would require taking responsibility for the problem which they can’t do because they, in my example, don’t have a problem. You have the problem. You can change yourself.
A different way to look at change is to think of your partner as someone who wants to please you (even if you don’t believe it) and approach your partner as if he/she were your best friend.
Isn’t it interesting how nice we are to friends and how rudely we can behave toward our partner because we have rationalized to ourselves that they deserve it.
Then think of something you can offer your partner by way of change. For instance, if you are very unhappy about your partner turning into a couch potato to watch ball games all day on Sundays, and you feel lonely and uncared for, try offering something before you ask for change.
Here is an example of an offering:
You: “I know you really like to watch football all day on Sundays and I can understand what a relief it is for you to enjoy yourself after working all week. I miss you though. If I fix you snacks and don’t pester you to do things while you’re watching your favorite game on Sunday, will you watch just one game and then do something with me? I want us to be close and have some fun with each other before we have to go back to work.”
Partner: “You want me to do something with you (looking like you just hit him with a two by four because you aren’t nagging or complaining but inviting)?”
You: “Yes.” And then you wait. If he responds sarcastically DO NOT ENGAGE! Change doesn’t happen all at once and he is used to the old way. Simply repeat that you miss him and want to spend some time with him.
Partner: “O.K. If you get me some snacks I’ll just watch one game.” This is where the urge to run into the kitchen and find a frying pan to smack him with comes into play. I don’t recommend it unless you like jail. “What do you want to do?”
You: And this is also important because you have to have thought of something to do that you like but you know he/she also likes. It can’t be going shopping with you unless he/she likes shopping. And you can’t say you don’t know and ask him to come up with something. You’re lonely for his company and this is a way to get it. If you just want to have a fight then do what you usually do. “I was thinking we could leave the kids with (you fill that in) and go have some Mexican food or go down to the waterfront and see what they’re catching (or take a walk or go for a bike ride or whatever it is that you like too and you know he likes).”
Partner: “O.K. But I want to watch the whole game and I don’t want to have to wait for you to get ready when the game’s over.”
You:” (Now seriously contemplating causing him/her great bodily harm) O.K. It’s a deal. I’m really looking forward to it.”
As you’re reading this you probably think the entire thing is pretty much nonsense because your partner is the one who is being insensitive to you and who needs to make the changes. The problem is that we can’t change other people. We can only change ourselves and hope that by making positive change in ourselves we can create a positive response in our partners, which will lead to your partner making a change based on what they want, not what you want them to want.
It takes courage to initiate positive contact when you feel neglected, lonely, or angry. It’s also the way to a better relationship and isn’t that what you really want more than being right?
This is just one small example. You can think of many examples for many different situations. What you’re doing is assuming your partner loves you and hasn’t realized you’re lonely for him/her, and you’re giving your partner a chance to meet your needs without having to fire up his/her crystal ball.
Try it if you really want to see what changing yourself can do for a relationship.