Why can’t you get through to your partner?
You’re in a relatively long-term relationship, and things just aren’t getting better. They were great at first, but not have stalled out. What exactly are you to do? You have tried being nice. You have tried beating sense into each other. You have tried arguing. Months or years have gone by and the situation seems to be at an impasse. While this is a common narrative, it doesn’t have to be perpetually so. There are ways to get improvement in your relationship, assuming you use expert advice. Generally speaking, expert advice is that which does not come naturally to you. We aren’t born with strong logic and critical thinking skills, meaning that our emotions tend to lead the way. It made sense when there were lions and bears (adaptive), but the context has changed and the same impulses do us little good when met with an upset partner.
I created the 3-phase approach to saving a relationship from a solid understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. It is what I guide couples through when coaching them. The 3-phase approach is basically a guided effort meant to elicit positive change in one’s relationship. The typical couple skips straight to phase 2 or 3 but in an altered fashion. The more direct approaches to instigate change tend to be more hit or miss, meaning that they are best saved for later. There is a basic reality that underscores the 3-phase approach.
Look back at just about every relational argument you have ever had. You have a complaint and bring it forth to your partner. Soon after, your partner finds something wrong that you have done, neglecting to directly comment on your complaint. If you are good at managing your emotions, you try to keep the topic from spiraling out of control by continuing to talk about the one complaint that you had. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and you feel that you have to drop the complaint or battle it out with your partner. The typical couple employs this type of arguing, but let us not assume that people are inherently bad for doing this. It is normal but does get in the way of enjoying a fruitful relationship. The “why” is because individuals don’t like to feel or look inconsistent or wrong. It also threatens their emotional well-being.
Basically, you are in a situation similar to tit-for-tat. If you have a complaint, your partner will bring up one of theirs. Even if you agree that you were wrong and are sorry, there is often no reciprocity on the other side. Instead of fighting against this reality, we must embrace it. We accept this as a challenge and adapt to it. The principles needed to master this reality are the backbone of my 3-phase approach to saving a relationship. Now, this is most pronounced in phase 1, which requires you to work your tail off to make a number of self-improvements while loving your partner unconditionally. This gets challenged by some individuals due to the apparent lack of fairness, but we can either have a fair relationship or a happy one. You decide.
When we employ phase 1, you work to address your partner’s concerns, while being proactive to do the same for pitfalls that you find in an objective analysis. Every concern that you address is removing ammo from the chamber of your partner’s argument pistol. Because your partner also has an inherent desire for fairness, not having large concerns to “point out” is going to make it dramatically easier for them to hear what you have to say. Then, we have must make sure to make bringing up your concerns as frictionless as possible. This requires time and patience, which is another thing that will not feel entirely natural to you. I am sure you have a number of complaints, which is fine, but this will require months to resolve fully.
You might be pondering about what would happen if your partner didn’t ever address your concerns. Those are valid questions to have, which is why there is a 2nd and 3rd phase to this approach. Explaining the other phases will be the topic of a future post, but what can be said now is that escalating in the phases entails being more direct with your partner. Done correctly, we remove any objective reason for your partner to not reciprocate the love back. By no means should one “expect” any particular result from the very first phase. Each relationship is different and the longer the couple has disconnected, the longer results will tend to take.
If you want to know more about how to employ this strategy, contact me directly.