Have you ever caught yourself saying these words? “The problem is you’re doing this” or “you’re doing that.” We’ve all done it! We all want change in our relationships, but we have to look for change in the right place. And, it starts with us. Change in your relationship starts when we stop the blame game and see our own role in our chronic unhealthy patterns.
Unhappiness and disconnection often lead us down a path of asking what’s wrong in our relationship.
We start looking at our needs first and focus on what isn’t working for us and how we are feeling. We put the responsibility for our happiness all on our partner and begin blaming them for why we are not satisfied.
We want answers, we want connection, and sometimes as we continue to search, we grow more resentful. I don’t have all of the answers, but dissecting our partner and putting the blame on them isn’t it. We do that because we are trying to attach meaning outside of ourselves to explain why things aren’t working.
Instead of asking “what am I doing to make our relationship better?” we end up blaming our partner for all that feels wrong. Why? We’re hardwired to protect ourselves – our feelings, our perceptions, our egos – but, if you want to create sustainable change in your partnership, you need to change how you go about “changing” your relationship.
Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
To create change in your relationship, the first thing to do minimize the blame game.
Relationship Change 101
Here’s one of the biggest mistakes folks make when entering therapy: they want the therapist to side with them! They go in wanting to change their partner. What ends up happening is the walls come up, and the conversation doesn’t go anywhere. I see it happen in sessions all the time.
In any relationship, whatever the problem, there is a dynamic that exists between two people. The truth is one person contributes to that dynamic as much as their partner does. What that means is that change starts with us. When I work with couples, this is where we start – relationship change 101. To change your relationship, you have to take a step back and self-examine.
How to Change Your Relationship
Relationship change starts with you! This doesn’t mean that your partner doesn’t have shortcomings or faults. I’m not letting your partner off the hook for their part. And, yes, there are times when the issues can sit on one side more than the other. What I am talking about is where ‘you’ begin in the process of creating change.
The first step to solving any problem in a relationship is to ask yourself, “what is it that I’m doing that keeps this cycle going between the two of us? And, what can I do differently?”
Here’s a quick guide to focusing on creating lasting change. When the tape in your head is set on repeat, and you find yourself blaming, pause for 3 minutes, close your eyes and ask yourself these 3 questions:
- How do I react to my partner in conflict?
- What do I say to my partner during conflict?
- How do I behave when I want things to change?
The moment you start to change – how you react, what you say, how you behave – that’s where real sustainable change begins. When you do that consistently, there’s a good chance your partner is going to respond to you differently.
So often, the cycle of ‘it’s not me, it’s you’ creates a defensive reaction from our partner that perpetuates relationship dysfunction and deepens the disconnection. In essence, the thing we desire most is what we push away. We want connection, we want communication, and we are often the ones in the relationship building the highest walls.
When we begin to focus on our own reactions, defense mechanisms and intentions, we have a better shot at getting our needs met. The goal is to build a stronger relationship through mutual understanding and communication.
The next time you find yourself blaming your partner for what isn’t working. Pause…ask yourself, “Do I want unresolved conflict or real relationship change?” If you want conflict, do nothing. Blame your partner. If you want sustainable change in your relationship, be willing to look at yourself, your actions, your words, your intentions. Notice how when you do this, your partner changes the way they relate to you.