When You Want Change In A Relationship: Orlando Marriage Therapist Shares How To Take Steps In The Right Direction
When couples first get together, in the early rush of hormones and attraction we are often willing to overlook annoying habits or personality traits in our partner. The proverbial rose-colored glasses are on. Over time, life together becomes more routine. We are less willing to be accommodating and tolerant. The glow is replaced by a more critical assessment of the relationship – what feels wonderful, what we want more of, what is missing, what feels annoying, what bugs us.
It is healthy to express our needs and wants in the relationship. We expect both partners to be able to talk to each other and how to be heard. Therapists often teach couples how to ask for what they want and express their needs appropriately and. These communication skills are essential in keeping the relationship happy and fulfilling for both.
Personality differences or early habits are often the cause of irritations. For example, I may been an only child and had my own bathroom when I was growing up. I am used to leaving my worn clothes in the bathroom after a shower and collecting them later. You may have grown up always taking your clothes out of the bathroom right away. It annoys you each time you go into the bathroom after I have showered and see my clothes hanging on the hook. How do we handle this difference?
If you tell me that it annoys you, I can start taking them out of the bathroom immediately. You don’t have to mutter angrily under your breath every morning when you see my clothes in the bathroom, and this irritant in our relationship is resolved. Similarly, if we are dividing up the chores in the house and you love grocery shopping but hate to cook, we can divide up the responsibilities accordingly. This is only possible if we can talk about it and know how to approach each other.
It is very important to note that there are two caveats in asking for what you want in your relationship:
- Understand that when you ask for what you want from your partner, it is a request. It is not a demand. Your partner always has the right to say no. Expecting anything else is wishful thinking – you will be disappointed. You can ask nicely, you can sweeten the pot, you can negotiate. However, you cannot demand compliance.
- Understand the limits of what is possible: Realistically, you cannot change your partner. The only person you can change is yourself. So if the dirty clothes remain in the bathroom after you have asked for them to removed, you can continue to seethe and fume about it. Or you can change how you perceive it by placing it in a larger context. You can tell yourself “That’s not a big deal in the scheme of things. I can live with it, because I love this person and I can handle small frustrations. Do I wish s/he would take out the clothes? Yes. Is it worth fighting about every day? No. ”
It can be helpful to think about the Serenity Prayer comes in. It states “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Used widely to help people deal with their addictions, it is also very applicable in romantic relationships. There are limits to the changes you can request in the relationship. Some of what you want might not be possible. Your partner might be basically untidy. They just might not be the type who is ever going to be outgoing and fun-loving like you are. Or they might never be verbally expressive and tell you how much you mean to them. It is your task to be wise enough to know what is possible and what is not, and have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change.
If you are finding yourself in frequent battles with your partner about little things, it is wise to resolve them as early as possible in the relationship. If you both are not able to work them out on your own, seek brief help from a professional. A few sessions of couples counseling and therapy can be very useful in teaching you both how to approach each other, how to negotiate and how to understand each other better. We’re here to help.
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