Relationship Help Quick Tip
Part of what the mind does is travel, and often those travels take us to imagining our hoped-for futures—how things ought to be.
This is especially true when it comes to our marriage or relationship. We often imagine having a particular type of relationship (let’s call this your relationship ideal): the positive feelings you’ll feel because of your relationship, the lifestyle you’ll live, the sense of connection and the activities you’ll enjoy together, the quality of life you will experience…
And we often envision a particular type of person that we want to share our lives with (let’s call this your spouse-partner ideal), someone you imagine will make your life emotionally fulfilling and meaningful, someone eager to share his/her kindness, love, support, compassion, sense of adventure, humor, passion…
What we often fail to imagine, however, is the kind of partner/spouse we’d like to be (let’s call this your self-as-partner ideal)—the specific spousal-partner attributes and behaviors you’d like to consistently manifest in the marriage/relationship, traits that reflect your deepest values and ideals, the best YOU possible.
Failure to envision your self-as-partner ideal often occurs because we tend to place the responsibility for our own spousal/partner behavior on our partner’s shoulders. In other words, you believe that your partner’s actions/behaviors are the ultimate factor in determining the type of partner you can be. So as long as s/he lives up to your spouse-partner ideal, then the best you will emerge and everything will work out itself out in the relationship.
This position backfires because it places all the power and responsibility for your behavior onto your spouse/partner—making you a passive victim to his/her whims, moods, behaviors and decisions. Not a good idea.
Relationship Help Questions:
While the impact our spouse’s/partner’s behavior has on us is undeniable (and often profound), is it possible to try to live up to your own self-as-partner ideals even when your partner is acting in ways that don’t support these ideals?
Can you be a change-agent for a better relationship/marriage by embracing and living your ideals, even when it might feel like your partner is undermining your efforts?
This is clearly a tall order and it’s easier said than done, but here’s a challenge I’d like you to consider (and for all of us to consider!):
The next time your partner is having a bad day, or week, or has been overly defensive for what feels like an eternity, reflect upon the ideals you value most as a spouse/partner and let those ideals guide your behavior (rather than letting your partner’s behavior guide your behavior). Whether or not your new mindset is immediately noticed or appreciated by your partner, you will benefit from making a habit of using your own ideals as a relationship yardstick. And in the long run, the odds are that your relationship will, too.
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Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro