Pull Your Relationship From The Brink: Part 2
Last week I began this article series by discussing two immutable laws of saving/mastering a relationship. I had intended the previous article to be a one-part deal. However, there is just a lot more that needs to be said on this topic.
The relationship field is not a fun one to be in. The work is rewarding, but it comes with interacting with deeply troubled individuals or relationships. In the worst cases, there is abuse (emotionally and/or physically) and the consequences for mistakes and missteps are not to be taken lightly. There are children’s lives and futures at stake, as well as the physical, emotional and mental well-being of the spouses in question.
In last week’s article, I highlighted the need for personal responsibility and not punishing one’s partner. The concepts are simple, and are relational laws that are violated obsessively by partners in conflict. The same relational laws that partners violate, they take with them when approaching a counselor, therapist or coach.
With that said, please take a moment to join me in continuing with the lesson from last week.
It is more than a virtue. It is actually a meta-ability or meta-trait that is straightforward to hone. It is at the heart of Emotional Intelligence and many more concepts or theories. For further understanding, please consider it analogous to impulse control and delayed gratification.
Amazingly, we find that when relationships are thriving, this trait is abundantly present. When relationships are starving, patience is nowhere to be found. Again, it is one of those core principles, often taken for granted, that the average adult has never come to terms with.
Before I explain the significance in modern romantic relationships, let me explain what sparked my curiosity into patience. There was an experiment called “The Marshmallow Experiment” that was conducted for decades, beginning in the 1960’s. They took children, isolated them, and told them that they could have one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows if they could wait until the researcher returned, which was in 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, the child could have one or two marshmallows in their stomach.
While it may seem trivial, as we are talking about a piece of white puffy sugar, the underlying ability to control emotional impulses leads into every other aspect of life. In fact, as I had mentioned, the researchers tracked these children for over 40 years. The differences between the children who had jumped on the immediate gratification of a single marshmallow and those that waited 15 minutes are dramatic. The children that were patient had dramatically higher SAT scores, have healthier bodies, better careers/income, and better social abilities.
I want you to pause reading this article for a moment and consider what impulse control means for you and your romantic relationship. Yes, I am serious; take a quick moment to ponder the ramifications for patience, but also when it succeeded and when it failed.
If you are like me, the anecdotes don’t end. I don’t have the word count to explain every externality here, but I will highlight two.
The threat of a breakup.
Statistically speaking, it is inconsequential how many relationships don’t encounter the voiced threat of breaking up. This means that I am speaking to countless individuals, in relationships, that have most likely overcame the threat before, and might even be reading this article because of that very threat.
Without impulse control, the one that was threatened does what? They immediately jump on that statement, either by holding them to it (anger) or by taking it in very seriously (sadness). What I constantly remind those I consult with is that they need to interject some logic into their minds. “Wait a minute. Hold on.” Stop the emotional impulse from being electrical impulses to the body’s muscles. Most likely there is blame on each side for the current predicament. It doesn’t excuse the threatening of ending a relationship, but it does explain it. Relationships that are less than perfect (100% of relationships) go through these moments. A partner that has impulse control will analyze the statement, self-reflect, and then analyze the situation. Remember, impulse control means success in life.
To seek a relationship expert or not (right now).
This is a funny one. It is also one of the reasons I am critical of marriage counseling. If you are new to my articles, you have yet to see just who I am. I am a relationship coach, which is simply a different approach than counseling. I realized that I had no power to change others. The only way in which I could get positive benefits in my romantic or professional relationships, would be to focus entirely on changing myself. You will see evidence of this when you read part 1 of this article series. The heart of this explains why marriage counseling doesn’t work.
What normally happens is that an individual will find that their claimed needs are not being met by their spouse. They tell their partner that they need this need to be met. When the need continues to be unmet, this person then removes their love from their partner. Usually around the same time, there can be a threat to end the relationship or the threat of marriage counseling. Notice I said threat.
The one that is claiming that their needs are not being met will be taking the position of the plaintiff, and their partner as the defendant. The counselor will be taking the place as the judge. It is helpful to consider the counselor the referee, as well. The couple goes into the session and the plaintiff explains why his partner is being a bad husband or wife. The defendant then voices all of the things that the plaintiff does wrong. The plaintiff tends to take a righteous and authoritative stance, while the defendant is left frustrated. Unfortunately, the counselor will sometimes take sides.
Now, any person that thinks this arrangement will save their marriage is once, twice, and three times a fool. Arguments don’t save marriages. Punishment doesn’t save marriages. Being responsible to the relationship and offering love does. This is why it is so critical to employ a patient approach. Any relationship that is going to behave like my cursory example is doomed to fail. This is the reason I took the personal responsibility approach in my own life, and it is the core of my coaching and writings.
Saving a relationship is most likely going to take a long time. Chances are, spouses do not have the personal abilities to be able to walk into a marriage counselor’s office and actually proactively work on their relationship, putting bitterness aside. Often, bitterness erupts, instead. In the final article of this series I will further expound on what is needed to save a relationship. That said, I need to give some point advice on how to approach positive change, especially when one’s partner is not game.
1. Become a great husband/wife.
It does not matter how much one’s partner does not meet any objective standard of a spouse. What matters is that there is unconditional love in the relationship, which is something to look forward to. If the plaintiff just removes their love, when they feel a need is not met, then they are purposefully committing a relationship crime, while their partner might be doing it out of weakness, or entirely unknowingly.
2. Be delicate.
It might take months to get one’s partner to the table. Is it not worth it? You see, if one drags their partner to a relationship expert, none of it will be genuine. The effort we put in leads to better results down the road (2 marshmallows vs. 1). Being a great husband/wife to a slacking spouse is not reward for their bad or failing behavior. It is a reward to the one being great. It also is being responsible to the relationship and choosing to not sabotage it by acting out of fairness or equality.
3. Master oneself.
My journey was one that faced countless roadblocks. I faced incredible relationship challenges, fears and anxiety. I stopped trying to control the world around me, and focused inward. In the years that followed, my life has become immeasurably better. I am rewarded by a career that I chose, and the ability to handle any relationship obstacle that comes my way. I urge others to expend the energy that they normally expend to change their partner, and instead change themselves. Surrendering to life doesn’t mean rolling over. It doesn’t even mean that one has to stop trying to better the relationship. It only means that we have to exert control where we actually have sway. When individuals stop trying to change others, and focus on themselves, they actually do become a force of change. It is like gravity. When we change who we are, the world around us is forced to change.
Stay tuned for part 3.