Thrive As A Couple or Suffer Alone As Individuals
Alright, so here’s a simple idea, with big implications. By the way, this idea came to me by way of my friend and colleague, Dr Peter Pearson, co-founder along with Dr. Ellyn Bader, of the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA.
Alright, so here’s the deal:
You can thrive together as a couple, or you can suffer alone as individuals.
This does not mean giving up your individuality. In fact, it means just the opposite: It means enjoying the responsibility for the fact you ARE a separate person, with your own emotional, behavior and intellectual parts. Focus your attention on yourself, instead of your partner when you want to break patterns that create and reinforce distance between the two of you.
But here’s the catch–this is easier said than done. Why?
Because we are taught throughout our lives that the source of our difficulties is someone other than ourselves.
As a result, most of us enter our significant relationships believing that if our significant other would change, we would be happier.
There’s more than a bit of irony in all of this: If both of you are finger pointing, hoping the other will change, or trying to force or demand the other change, why not simplify things: Point the finger at yourself, and you will probably see the same stuff your partner has been complaining about!
Plus, you’ll cut the workload by about 50%.
Take charge of altering your own behavior, managing your own feelings, and adjusting your own thinking.
Why? Because it works! And it works because the only person of the couple you can change is YOU!
Most of you have probably noticed the defensiveness, frustration and anger both you and your partner experience. Well, now you know why.
So, here’s some tips on how you can turn this around:
1. Discuss and describe the pattern(s) you see that are driving you nuts.
2. Take a risk to admit the role you play in keeping the pattern alive.
3. Next, describe for each other the new pattern you want to create.
4. Share with each other the specific personal difficulties each of you may encounter in the process of creating your new pattern of interaction.
5. Cut each other some slack along the way–reward progress with recognition, and be empathic toward the other during moments of regression.
Remember, a little empathy goes a long way.
These five steps exemplify what couples do when they work together toward strengthening their connection.
Change always involves risk–the risk that there will be little backslides along the way.
After all, change is not easy, or you would have done it long ago.
Try this–I think you will like it.
Wishing you a satisfying relationship,
Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT
©2010 All rights reserved Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT & CounselorLink.com