© Steve Roberts - All Rights reserved. www.WhatWorksForCouples.com
You have a choice right now. It's about your perspective and your sense of empowerment.
You can perceive the title of this article as a shaming statement that says there is something really wrong with you, so, shame on you. Therefore, you must feel bad about yourself.
Or, you can feel empowered by this title because you know that the ability to make your life as you want it is in your hands. You are the source of all the choices that have put you in a place of discomfort, pain, or misery. You have also made the choices that brought to you joy, enlightenment, and serenity. You have the Choice to make things better for yourself by making better choices.
I receive many questions each week from people who would truly like to improve their lives. One of the main themes is (my summary), "How can I change my partner, my friend, my parents, or my world so that they will love me appropriately, do what I want, or do what is good for them?"
The questions come out of pain and disastisfaction, and from situations that cry out for change. However, these questions all assume that the solution will be arrived at when other people change.
This is the same problem I face with couples doing marriage therapy. We almost always have to go through several sessions of the "Blame Game" before we can get down to business. It's "he said" and "she said" ad nauseum. She says he should change, and he says she should change.
But finally, we start to break through to a key question, "If your partner doesn't change, what will YOU do, how will YOU think, and how will YOU take charge of yourself from here on?"
"And, how will you do that with justice, fairness, respect, self containment, and belief in your inner sense of direction regardless of your partner's attempts to change you back?"
A fear at this point is that if you take good care of yourself then your partner may leave you. This leaving could be through silence, hostility, finding someone else, or physically leaving entirely. The good news is that this rarely happens in a severe way. Usually, your partner will try ingenious ways to trick you back into the old behaviors. And, you will fall for it many times.
If the leave taking actually happens then we have a much more serious problem going on with your relationship and simple "self-help" is not going to fix the problem. Professional counseling is required.
Another fear is that you don't know what good self-care is and that you will make a mistake, creating unnecessary problems and pain.
If this is true for you, then educate yourself about it. And then, trust your sense for what is respectful treatment of others and treat yourself the same way. It's really not so complicated.
(And finally, feeling guilty about self-care sabotages this whole thing over and over. We think we are being "selfish" rather than practicing self-care. I'm not going to try to cover this one today. It will take another whole article to address. Let me just say that this argument against self-care doesn't hold up too well.)
The further good news is if I can help one person in a couple start to choose this perspective of self choice and self empowerment, then the partner is usually effected in a positive light. We then move on to stage two of couples therapy where we can actually work on couple problems.
This can work for you, too. YOU are the problem. Not that other person. The sooner you accept your responsibility to treat yourself well regardless of what the other does the sooner you might have a chance of the other person actually changing.
You get to be responsible for you, not for your partner. You get to make the choices for how you will behave, not how the other behaves. You get to perceive this as a choice of empowerment... Or you can see it as just another sign of what you can't do. The choice is up to you...
But I want you to know something. And that is that I believe in you.
After all my experiences of helping many, many other people grow in this way, I really do believe in your ability to change yourself for the better. I believe you have the strength, the courage, and the inner conviction to make it happen for you. Because, if you are the problem, you are also the solution.
-- Steve Roberts is an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist who shares tips and real life relationship secrets from over 20 years of practice. Married 27 years to Pam, his partner in Life and profession, he has personally known the peaks and valleys of the couple experience.
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