Working on self-improvement is always difficult because we would rather work on someone else’s behavior or issues rather than on our own. This is common thinking; you are not alone; it just doesn’t work. This is particularly true in partner relationships. In relationship consulting, one partner is always ahead of the other in wanting something to change. It is usually the partner who pays more attention to the emotional state of the relationship, that is, the one who is usually seeking and asking for more communication, closeness, sharing and intimacy. Let’s call this member of the couple the change seeker.

You are more likely to see the “change seeker” bring the partner into a consulting session and, unwittingly, ask the consultant to join with him/her to help get this “recalcitrant” to change. Well, I don’t need to tell you what a waste of time and money that process will be. Basically, to change anything dealing with a relationship, principle is: “you, the change seeker, has to go first.” “What? You must be joking” – you say to me, with upset and consternation. “I’m here because I see what my partner is doing wrong; it is driving me crazy; and I came here to have you fix him/her.” I say, “your partner says that things are OK; you’re just a little demanding and too emotional. He/she doesn’t know why all of a sudden you’re so unhappy.

Unfortunately, one person’s OK is the other’s terrible. You have probably been arguing over this for quite some time and, finally decided, let’s get some help. But, if your partner wouldn’t change something about his/her behavior for you, why would he/she change any behavior because you bring him/her to me, a total stranger. No one taught us principle about change, which is, the person who wants things to be different (change) has to go first, take charge, be the leader. Most likely, it is going to be you.

This is the same principle whether you are acting individually or in a relationship. As an individual, if you want to exercise more or eat less, you have to take charge and make the change to your life style. Go to the gym; eat better meals, no snacking Again, it always starts with you. If you want something to be different (changed), you have to begin the process. But, more than likely, in your personal relationships, you have been focused and concentrating on the other person’s behavior to be different not yours. What has to change? YOU!  I know that you don’t like hearing that; I promise you it is the only way. Remember, insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.Please try something different.

This is what I would like to suggest. Examine, investigate and understand the part you play, in what is causing the relationship to be stuck or not working as well as you think it could. I’d like you to look at the following statements, which are what I hear from both sexes whom come to consult with me.

“Why don’t you ever share with me what’s happening with you? No, I don’t mean your golf score; how about what you are feeling?”

“What happened to our date nights? You began using them to corner me in the restaurant with a hundred things I was doing wrong…well, is that worse than you expecting to have sex just because it was called a date night?”

“I’m tired of picking up after you, you’re worse than the kids.”

“Why can’t you get the kids off their phones so we can have a meal together!”

“You have to tell your mother that she can’t keep coming over all the time. I know she’s lonely now, but she’s just too much?”

“If you don’t get better grades, you can’t use the car and you’re grounded for life!”

These complaints are of the common variety; they usually get more embedded in the relationship and lead to other more serious problems. Notice how there is always someone wanting the other person to change their behavior – as if one is right and the other is wrong. Never a good way to think about change. So why doesn’t that person pick up the clothes as asked?  Why is it one person’s job to control the kids’ use of cell phones?  These are the surface problems. As a consultant, I call them the smoke that alerts you to the fact that a fire is brewing beneath the surface, but you have to find the fire. The real issue (the tug of war) lies deeper; if you don’t uncover what is causing the fire to burn in the first place, it will only reappear in another form later on in life.

Your assignment if you are willing to accept one, is to look at one of your situations that fits the bill of the examples above.  Do something different, you make a change in how you view and approach it. If you get stuck, send me an email. I’ll be glad to provide a little different perspective on what’s happening. Let’s talk more about this article online at.

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