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Blue Personal Objects

Couple Science Blog

Revamp Your Relationship Today: The Power of Shifting Your Focus

"Ugh, if only my partner would ____ , everything would be perfect!" Does this sentiment sound familiar? It's a go-to lament for many couples diving into couples coaching. Partner A usually points fingers at Partner B, blaming their quirks and habits for the relationship's woes. Over time, these minor irritations build into full-blown resentments, sidelining any appreciation that was once there.

Ironically, most couples entering counseling zoom in on what their partners need to fix. It's a rare gem who steps up to say, "Here's what I can do better."

Enter the Gottman Institute of Seattle, Washington, where Drs. John and Julie Gottman have decoded the dynamics that make or break relationships. Accepting your partner's influence is a cornerstone of conflict management, according to their extensive research.

Holding onto the notion that your partner must change, however, is a dead-end street. Why? Because the more you try to control someone, the more they dig in their heels.

Ever insisted your partner should be tidier and faced resistance?

It's easy to interpret their messy ways as willful disobedience. But when you dig deeper, you often find that they've tried and failed to meet your standards. This failure leads to a phenomenon called learned helplessness: "Why bother trying? I'll never get it right, and they'll never appreciate my efforts."

Now, consider that maybe you're part of the problem. Sometimes, the Partner A's of the world are doling out criticisms without even realizing how harsh they sound. In fact, I worked with a couple where Partner B had given their best effort multiple times, only to hear they were doing it "all wrong" or "at the wrong time."

If you find yourself justifying criticisms because you think you're "right," pause for a moment. This mindset rarely encourages your partner to change and often has the opposite effect.

So what's the key to relationship harmony? Surprisingly, it's simple: In couples coaching, turn the lens inward.

Focus on being the best partner you can be.

Imagine the impact if both of you do the same!

You can't puppeteer someone else's actions, but you have full control over your own.

When both partners take it upon themselves to be the best they can be, a

miraculous phenomenon occurs: the relationship flourishes.

Instead of fruitlessly trying to change your partner, focus on the one thing you can control—yourself. By each person dedicating effort toward self-improvement, the relationship inherently elevates.

In this way, the path to a more fulfilling partnership is paved not by external changes in your significant other, but by internal changes in each of you.

Kathleen Anderson LMHC LLC

copyright 2022 all rights reserved

Dr. John Gottman on accepting influence and expressing appreciation.


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