Why is it that we spend a good portion of our youth seeking out a person, a partner, that can tolerate us at least, and that we are in love with at best, and then decide we need to ‘fix’ them? There are a lot of reasons, I suspect, but understanding why isn’t why I’m taking on this topic today. The hard truth is I’ve done it, I’ve seen friends do it, I’ve seen older couples do it… and as far as I can tell, it isn’t good for anybody. So, here are the 4 things you might be doing that are killing your relationship – and a few ideas on how to correct them.
1. You don’t take care of yourself – We live in a culture of martyrdom. Sacrifice yourself in every possible way and you will be rewarded. Regardless of where this idea started, I’d like to postulate that it’s just flat out wrong. Putting our needs behind those of every other person in our lives does little more than leave us stressed out, unhealthy, fat, tired, and cranky.
* Preferred response – Put yourself first, seriously. I know everybody says it, but it’s really that important. Make time for exercise, at least 30 minutes a day or two and a half hours a week. BONUS: Take your child or partner along. The benefits of exercise are vast – physically, emotionally, psychologically and in almost every other way. Eat well. Packing your schedule so full that you don’t have time for a healthy meal is stressful and likely leads to unhealthy (and sometimes expensive!) food choices. These things compound over time and lead to a myriad of health issues. If you must, drop an activity and make healthy eating a priority for yourself. Your whole family will probably benefit.
Overall, being a better you means being a better and happier partner, parent, employee, friend, daughter or son… a better you literally means a better world. Put. Yourself. FIRST.
2. You focus on what’s wrong – It’s easily done. We often are looking for what’s wrong – sometimes in the noble effort of identifying areas that need our attention. While, when reserved for self-analysis it can be valuable, it very quickly becomes a slippery slope and soon we can’t see much else – especially when it comes to our partners. First we think they need to be more sociable, a little more responsible with their money, a lot more affectionate with us… and eventually we see them as fat, lazy, angry, broke, and bad lovers.
* Preferred response – Focus on the good. Even if your partner really is overweight, unmotivated, deeply sad – and they might very well be – there are probably a lot of good things about them too. Maybe he or she is kind, funny, attentive. Maybe they work hard, honor their family, or are fiercely loyal. Maybe they’re creative, brave, intelligent… No matter how much “bad” there is, there’s good too. Train your brain to see these things MOST – in your partner and in yourself. It sometimes takes awhile, but it can be done. (Personally, I’ve been working on this one so long, I wrote a book about it. I’m even considering a small tattoo on my inside wrist.) Focus on the GOOD.
3. You don’t love yourself – Yes, I know, another cliche… it is true though. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t have a successful relationship. Not because you’re incapable of it, but because if you don’t love yourself, you are invariably looking for your partner to give you EVERYTHING you need, and it just isn’t possible. No matter how much or how often your partner validates you, if you don’t love yourself, you will always be plagued with insecurity and jealousy… and there’s no bigger turn-off than that. Not only that, expecting your partner to make you feel loved means you will always be dependent on getting that love and validation from outside of yourself – and what kind of terrible, vulnerable, needy position does that leave you in?
* Preferred response – Teach yourself to love yourself. It’s unromantic, I know, but it works. Loving yourself is a trick of the mind, just like anything else. Beautiful people don’t love themselves because they are beautiful, they are beautiful because they love themselves. No amount of ‘skinny’ or ‘smart’ or ‘funny’ will ever be enough if you don’t love who you are. The good news is, you can train your mind to see your value, and therefore all the wonderful things about you to love. It’s the same thing you do when you are falling in love… we just don’t often give ourselves the opportunity to do it for ourselves. Think about it; when you’ve first met someone you are attracted to, you spend a good portion of your time wandering over all their wonderful qualities in your mind. Do that for yourself.
When you catch yourself feeling unloved – especially if you are wishing your partner would do or say certain things to make you feel loved – stop yourself. Remind yourself of several of your wonderful qualities. Teach yourself to LOVE yourself. You’ll be happier, and so will your partner. BONUS: Everything your partner does do to make you feel loved will be all the sweeter because it won’t be filling a hole, it will be adding topping!
4. You parent your partner – We all have our issues. There are always things that we know we need to work on. It’s just SO much easier to see what other people need to work on. The truth, though, is that we aren’t here to change each other. Acting as though we are implies that we know what’s better for the people around us than they do. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably don’t want to be ‘changed’ by our partners either – we’d rather do it ourselves.
Yes, there are probably things you’d like your partner to change about their habits. (If there are things you’d like to change about who your partner truly IS, it might be time to re-consider if they are the right partner for you.) Your partner may or may not agree that those habits need changing. Either way, they likely won’t approach any change they’re considering exactly the same way you would. This is the beauty of a relationship, and of our whole beautiful world; we’re different. We do things differently.
* Preferred response – When you find yourself trying to ‘help’ your partner manage his or her life, bite your tongue and look within. What issues do YOU have that need to be addressed? How can you spend your time, thoughts, and energy working on yourself? In staying out of your partner’s “issues” (unless asked for help, of course), you are empowering him or her to take charge of ALL aspects of their own lives. And, in turn you spend your time, thoughts, and energy making changes that will truly have an impact… because they’re YOUR changes. We can’t change anyone else, so we might as well get on to the business of improving ourselves.
Ultimately, we chose our partners for a reason, and – in my personal opinion – we chose them in part because our subconscious or our souls or whatever – wanted to learn from them. Trying to make the people we profess to love into our perfect partners changes their role in our lives from ‘teacher’ to ‘student’, or worse yet, ‘child’. If we train ourselves to see the value in our partners, focus on the good in them, in our relationships, and in ourselves, we will likely be happier, healthier, and likely even learn something wonderful along the way.
Real love is letting our partners go, letting them be who they really are – and that means letting go of our desire or efforts to control anything or anyone but ourselves, every single day.