What’s the habit or behavioral pattern that your partner has that you wish they would stop? Can you stop them? What will it take to stop them? In the next few minutes I will give you a short answer and useful answer to getting your partner to stop any repetitive behavior.
This is inspired by Elevate Your Relationship Group member questions and the conversations I have with my clients frequently.
If I am being honest and quick with a response, you cannot get anyone else to change. There is really no way you can make another person change if they are unwilling. We fool ourselves into believing that we have that power to change others or that for some reason there’s a skill or threat that would make us better at changing others. In fact, we use a lot of tactics in our relationship that create external motivation for our partners to make changes – but, after some time the change doesn’t last because their intrinsic motivation wasn’t a part of the equation.
That was my short answer. Here is my useful answer. One of my most useful discoveries in working with addiction was that ‘the opposite of addiction is always connection.’ This provided a window into a successful approach to sobriety, and on a greater scale, this was a clue for me to so many other relationship scenarios. What I recognized is that no matter what the addiction looks like, real connection changes behaviors. Although this does not create an answer for ‘how do I get my partner to change?’, it does create a situation where there is a foundation and opportunity to change.
In order to create connection to others you must be connected to yourself. You cannot be connected to yourself while you are paying attention to how others are not helping you or while trying to get others to see you.
So, the first task is for you to develop a pattern of connection to yourself. This is not easily done because the world around us frequently teaches us a belief that ‘someone must do something for us to be okay.’ Start with routines and behaviors that abandon your focus on others and increase your focus on how you eat, sleep, exercise, and create a spiritual practice. How does your body feel? What’s the sequence in your body in certain interactions. How do you approach others? What is the source of your motivation? Pay attention to you, connect and care for you.
The second task, is to lead with interaction in your relationship, that has the intention only to get closer and see your partner. In this task you will be dropping your need for your partner to be or do anything. That includes reciprocation of your connection or compassion. When this happens, your partner no longer has to battle you. As people, when we battle the correct things (ourselves and our pains) we do some amazing things. But, the goal cannot be your partner’s change. In fact, the most important part will be the inner peace you feel from moving in a way that is not based on the emotions, behaviors or energy of another person.
Live this way and you will create a pattern of life that experiences healthy, loving relationships.