We really, really don’t like to be told what to do. Imagine your partner telling you to change your wardrobe in some small way – changing the color of your nails or not wearing that belt again. Admit it, even though it’s a small request, your reaction is to resist it. Come to think of it, we learn to say no before we learn to say yes!
Resistance is even greater when we ask our partner to make larger changes or greater sacrifices. We simply do not like to be told what to do. So how can you ever get your partner to change for you? Try to remember back to a time when your partner made a change or sacrifice for you. What was different then?
I’m guessing that you recalled a time when you were each giving abundantly to each other. You trusted that your partner cared for you and it felt good to express that caring in return – even by making changes or sacrificing something you wanted. What has changed?
Requests for change no longer occur in the context of a caring relationship, they now sound like demands couched in disapproval. Love becomes conditional as demands feel cold – I’ll do this only if you do that. Chore lists are divided, bank accounts separated, and a chill of emotional separation covers discussions of change.
The only way to recover the spirit of openness to change that you once had is to recover the trust and caring that was once present in your relationship. Instead of thinking about how your partner could improve, think about a small effort you could make to express caring to your partner. Improve your listening skills, speak in a softer more vulnerable way, or reach out to softly touch your partner. Notice the effect that this small action has on your own feelings. Do you feel warmer or does this feel dangerous?
If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, perhaps this is a sign of how disconnected you have become as a couple. Perhaps it is time to confront the disconnection and begin rebuilding the connection that was once there. It is unrealistic to think you can achieve this overnight, but you can begin today.