What will it take to get your partner to see things your way? When will she or he begin to change?
If you’ve been waiting for them to see things your way, if only s/he would simply stop doing this or start doing that, if only they would fulfill the potential you see or once saw in them…. You probably know where I’m going: this is a fantasy.
While you complain, blame, rage, or quietly simmer with resentment, you’ve put yourself and your relationship on hold. The longer you wait or quietly hope for your partner to do the work, the more you invite feelings of powerlessness, passivity, despair, even rage. Your partner feels this, and you polarize. You are in a loop.
Before you approach your partner with your issue, ask yourself: Is my partner ready to hear this? Is this the right time? Can I stick to one issue without unleashing the litany of disappointments I’ve chosen to store up to this point? Ask your partner, “Is this a good time to talk?”
Do not do this while driving, or eating, or watching TV. And try not to bring up your issue while things are hot. Instead, wait until things are cool, while things are either going well or at least the environment feels neutral. This may sound contradictory: why ruin a good vibe?
The right time to bring something up is when both of you are open and ready, in a place of non-defensiveness. This does not mean your partner can put you off indefinitely. So if not now, when? Set a time, and stick to it.
Once you are both ready, it is time to reveal yourself. This does not mean telling your partner that s/he is driving you crazy; it does not involve name-calling, and does not involve blaming. When you blame, you play the victim card, and it’s a throwaway. Instead, get clear on your issue and the way it affects you emotionally.
You have the opportunity to reveal yourself in a new way, to share a new aspect of yourself with your partner so that s/he may, or may not, understand this part of you, get closer to you, trust you more, empathize with you, or check into their behavior as it affects you. Go as deeply into the nuances of your experience as you can. Go into it with courage and without expectation. At the very least you end up speaking your truth, creating much needed space within yourself.
It’s easy to acknowledge that we are different from our partners. The next dimension is to tolerate the open and truthful expression of our differences. This can be anxiety-provoking. It’s normal to feel this, even better to name it. What is your worst fear? Often we fear that if we reveal ourselves fully, we are open to being rejected, or abandoned. We fear this for good reason, because in a variety of forms it has already happened at some early point in our life history.
Get to know yourself emotionally, cultivate a relationship to your hurt parts. The healthier and stronger you are as an individual, and the more tuned into your wounds and the impact on you of your family history; and beyond this: the more respect and compassion you have for your own suffering, the better prepared you are to hold onto yourself as you take the risk of strengthening your relationship by declaring your unique needs as an individual.
Whether or not your partner or anyone else can meet your needs is a different question. The important thing here is to own them. From there you are on the path to taking care of yourself and, in the process, your relationship.
Derron Santin, M.F.T.
2471 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
The office is located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, near Fillmore street.
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