by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute
Systems Theory 101 states that a change in one part of the system leads to changes in other parts of the system. In other words, change is like a chain reaction. One spouse tips over the first domino, then the other one changes. When a spouse who is dissatisfied in the relationship decides to change their method of getting through to their partner, they aren’t doing “all the work.” Assuming responsibility for creating positive change in life isn’t working harder, it’s working smarter.
You don’t have to mention to your spouse that you are working on yourself. But the difference will be noticed and appreciated. Be patient, the process can take a while.
Accept that successful marriage takes work.
Anything worthwhile takes work. There is probably nothing wrong if you find yourself struggling. You may need some tools, but don’t give up just because you’re having a rough time.
Notice what you are contributing to the problem.
Notice your patterns. Too often, we are fixated on what the other is doing wrong or not doing, that we forget about what we might be doing. Maybe, just maybe, it is you who starts many of the fights. Or you have unusually high expectations.
By becoming aware of these patterns, you will realize how much power you really do hold in the relationship’s well-being. This will get you out of that feeling of discouragement that it won’t get any better until the other changes. It’s actually very empowering.
Fully accept your partner.
Let go. Make peace with those traits that annoy you in your partner; it will reduce frictions and boost your overall happiness. Not everything will be perfect or go the way you think is best.
Sometimes, you have to put aside your pride. Or maybe even laugh about it, “that’s just who s/he is.”
Start by addressing one area.
A small one; so you can see improvements quickly. And then another small one. The more small shifts you can appreciate and notice, the more encouraged you will feel and this alone will bring new energy and vitality to your relationship!
You fly off the handle too quickly? When you catch yourself getting angry, count until ten. Do you tend to interrupt your spouse midsentence? Hone your listening skills.
Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Reflect about what is working well. What is it that you are doing when your spouse is acting loving and considerate? Do more of that.
What are you doing that pushes his buttons. Or, what is it that you nag about? Just stop doing that. Either let it go, or experiment with other ways to address it.
Get vulnerable. Be the first to open up about the state of your marriage.
One of you has to go first. Apologize first. Be vulnerable first. Yield first. Forgive first. Why not let that person be you? It also shows your commitment to really improving the relationship.
“There’s been something on my mind for a while now. I don’t want to live with all this fighting. I’ve been thinking about what I have been contributing to the issue. Can we discuss this together?”
Trust the process. When you change, people notice. It may take a while for them to learn new responses. They might be used to always distrusting your words, it might take a while to see that you are genuine.