An email I received recently went something like this:
“Sometimes I put in my best and yet it seems I must be trying too hard to make the relationship work because whatever I do it still doesn’t seem to be going the way I want it to. Why?”
I hear this so often and yet I still say to clients when they call that if they want to do couples counselling and only one person in the couple is motivated then they should come to speak with me anyway. My argument is that as they change themselves the other party to the couple only has one of three choices. And whatever choice they make as you change they will make a choice.
The three possible ways they can go are these:
They will either attempt to hold onto their position more aggressively, abandon the relationship and find someone else in a vain attempt to recreate what they once had with you, or join you in taking your relationship to a better place.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
When you enter into a relationship you go into it with all your own values and beliefs brought with you from your earlier life’s experiences. Unconsciously you attempt to create similar experiences to reconfirm what it is you already believe.
And guess what? Your partner is doing exactly the same thing. So, for example, if you grew up believing that men, or women, were not capable of performing a certain task, for example, taking care of children or managing paying the household bills, then that is what you will decide is how it will be for all of your possible partners. And guess what else? They will probably live up to your expectations. So both of you take comfort, in a very unhealthy way, in having your beliefs confirmed.
So when you decide that this is really not the way you want to be in your relationship and attempt to change it your partner is likely to feel very “uncomfortable”. So instead of acknowledging that maybe something in the relationship needs to change and then doing something about it he, or she, will attempt to find some way back to the status quo even if this is not working for them either.
If the discomfort becomes too great they may even abandon the relationship altogether. They, once again go in search of their “soul mate” who will fulfil all their expectations and create with them the fairy tale ending of “happy ever after”.
Of course “happy ever after” doesn’t exist without some effort. It only exists in the culture you as a couple create for yourselves and happens best when you each take the good things from your values and beliefs and blend them to build a system that truly works for both of you.
Let me illustrate this by an example. Samantha and Sam came from very different families. She lived in a house ruled by her father and he came from a house ruled by his mother. Both Samantha and Sam decided that they wanted to have an equal relationship in the family they were now creating. They spent hours in conversation deciding how they would create this, each helping the other when they noticed each other slipping into old patterns.
Eventually, and with some help along the way, they were able to free themselves of their old beliefs and consequently modelled for their children a whole new value system.
Samantha and Sam truly discovered “happy ever after” and used each other as their way of creating that instead of holding fiercely to their old patterns or abandoning their relationship at the first sign of distress.
So what this has to do with the topic of this post is that before you decide to abandon your relationship have a think about whether there is something in you that needs changing and if so is that enough to elicit the change you need in your partner? But don’t make this decision alone. Discuss this with your partner. Their response will let you know what you need now to do.
Oh and by the way – You can never try too hard to make a relationship work. Just make the commitment to do it and know that if the time comes for you to stop trying you will know it in your heart.
So until next time – Relate with Love