“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Sounds simple enough, right? If only we all abided by this simple rule. Couple after couple comes into my office looking for solutions to their relationship issues. This always, without fail, requires effort and a willingness to change for both partners. Yet time and again, when myself or a partner points out the other partner’s wrongdoing or need for improvement, the typical reply is “yeah, but my partner does this, this, and this.” Too many times we try to turn “relationship issues” into mudslinging fights or the blame game. How much stronger would your relationship be if, instead of figuring out how to blame your partner for everything, you thought about what you could do differently to create change in the relationship?
I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. Moving from a “he said, she said” mentality to owning your own behavior takes a certain level of vulnerability that many partners aren’t quite ready to endure. Worrying more about yourself and what you’re doing leaves the door open for your partner to continue blaming you, leaving you as the problem and they’re off the hook.
Part of being a Marriage and Family Therapist is a belief in systems theory, which states that if one part of the system (family) changes, the rest of the parts can’t help but change in some way. I once had a couple who was struggling with their new roles as parents of a newborn child. The wife was feeling overwhelmed and overworked, and the husband was claiming that he was working overtime to help provide for his family. In speaking with the husband individually, he pointed out that the thing his wife complained about the most was putting her to bed, claiming she always cried for her and never for him. He decided to try his best to put their daughter to bed as often as he could. The wife not only noticed this, but was so overjoyed that she started doing nice things for him in return.
The main deterrent to following the golden rule? Anger and resentment. If you’ve just met someone, it’s easy to think about what they want and how you can provide those things. However, if you’ve been married for 15 years and haven’t really connected for the last 5 years, it’s not so easy. Oftentimes the resentment builds massive walls over time that need to be brought down, brick by brick. I think it’s important to realize, however, that the wall doesn’t have to disappear in order to make progress. The wall can remain, but if bricks are being removed, then progress is being made and the relationship is being repaired.
The healthiest relationships I witness are ones in which both individuals puts the needs of their partner in front of their own. I can’t tell you what a joy it is to see two people come together and fight for each other instead of against each other. Relationships are such a wonderful source of support and assurance when partners take a team approach. Although it always takes two to make a relationship work, someone has to take the first step. Why wait for someone else to change? Only you can control your actions and behaviors. I often wonder how golden many relationships could be if individual partners simply followed the golden rule.
To strengthen your relationship today, contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.