Working on your relationship- by yourself
*This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037
You can create a successful relationship- even if you must do it alone
Conflicts can be expected to arise in even the strongest of relationships. Two people who attempt to create a relationship always bring their own issues, backgrounds, expectations, personalities, and inner difficulties into the interplay that occurs between them. It is not at all unusual that the two people might find themselves, at times, in a deadlock. They see no way to break the impasse and to recapture the spirit of good will that they once had and would like to have again. Each party’s personal conflicts come into play and stifle the communication, sharing and love that seem necessary for harmonious interaction. Rather than confronting our own part in the problem, we may resort to blaming our partner- “If only she (or he) would change, then we could be happy.”
While it is ideal for the two partners to agree mutually that there is a problem that needs to be confronted and to show an equal amount of motivation in solving the problem in relationship therapy, this goal is not always achievable. The reality of the situation is that one of the partners may not be ready to work on the problem- and the reason for this may be perfectly valid. For example, one partner may fear that working on the relationship could bring up other problems. Or one of the partners may feel inadequate in talking about relationship issues and may have fears of being attacked if he or she were to try relationship therapy (although this is, in reality, a highly unlikely event). Or perhaps the partner feels unable to make the changes which have been called for in the past. Commonly, one of the partners just doesn’t see that there is a problem, therefore fails to see his or her contribution to the difficulties. Whatever the reason, there are times when one partner is simply not ready to work mutually on the relationship. But this does not mean the relationship is doomed. Rather than condemning our partner for his or her inability to work on the relationship, it is far more productive to show respect for our partner’s view and to take matters for bettering the relationship into our own hands. There is a great deal that one partner, acting alone, can do to create a relationship which is happier and more fulfilling for both parties.
Think of a relationship as a system with two parts which strives to achieve balance. It can be compared to a seesaw. When one of the partners makes a shift, the other partners has to make a comparable shift to maintain the balance. This often works negatively. For example, if Chris reminds Michael to take out the trash, Michael, feeling controlled, might back off and stop communicating. In turn, Chris then criticizes Michael even further for breaking off communication- and Michael retreats even further. A balance is achieved in this case with a pattern of blame and withdrawal. How can the balance shift in a more positive direction? Chris might decide to stop reminding Michael to take out the trash. In fact, Chris starts taking out the trash. Michael does not feel controlled in this case and has no need to break off communication. Showing appreciation to Chris for doing his chore, Michael starts taking out the trash. Both parties win in this case, and a positive balance is achieved in the relationship.