Relationship Counselling for One
Are you struggling in your intimate relationship? Have you tried to drag your partner to counselling – but no go? We often have a pretty clear idea of what he could change, or what she could do so much better! But, if our partner does not want to seek help, how can we work on our relationship? What can we do if we are arguing often, if our fights seem to have no solutions, or even if we keep having the same disagreements?
I’ll never forget Kristin (not her real name), who answered the phone at a small, but busy, doctor’s office. She engaged in a daily battle of wills with the people who phoned for appointments and information. She could often be heard raising her voice in impatience, and was sometimes outright rude. Her employer decided to send her to a workshop called How to Deal with Difficult People.
When Kristin returned from the course she was asked, “How did it go?” She replied, “It was pretty much useless. They didn’t tell me how to deal with difficult people, they just gave me a bunch of tips on how to change my own behaviour and attitude!”
When we have conflict with others, one of the things we may want to do is to look at our own role, and take responsibility for change (instead of insisting that others are to blame).
If we want change, and are willing to try some things that empower us, and improve our relationship, Relationship Counselling for One (RCO) may be the ticket! Now, I’m not claiming that RCO works for relationships where there exists verbal and physical abuse, mental illness, or alcohol/drug misuse. But, in a relationship that is faltering, in one where there is still basic civility, RCO can create a dramatic difference. Some people are surprised to see that change can occur quite rapidly.
How does that happen?
Susan Page, author of Why Talking is Not Enough: 8 Loving Actions That Will Transform Your Marriage, believes that the foundation of change is to:
1. Adopt a spirit of goodwill (believe the best of your partner).
The rest of the steps are built upon that:
2. Give Up Problem Solving (give up discussing a perpetual problem for 2 weeks and see if anything shifts).
3. Act “As If” (act as if things are already the way you would like them to be).
4. Practice Restraint (avoid negative, critical, and demanding comments, and try not being defensive).
5. Balance Giving and Taking (instead of comparing what you each give to the relationship, give 100% to your partner and take 100% for yourself). This is my favourite suggestion, because it pretty much turned my usual way of looking at “fairness” upside down!
6. Act on Your Own (do things by yourself when they are really important to you).
7. Practice Acceptance (practice accepting something you don’t like in your partner).
8. Practice Compassion (practice compassion for yourself and for your partner. Move from judgment to compassion).
Acting on your own may feel as if you are taking on all of the work in making your relationship or marriage better, but as Page points out, it is useful to think of it as providing leadership, and a way to experiment with seeing what works. If your partner does not respond to the difference in your attitude in a positive way, maybe you will re-evaluate whether the relationship is worth keeping.
What I took away from this book was that real change can occur in a relationship, even when only one of us is actively working toward it. It’s not always easy to change what we have done for years – it’s likely that you have heard the definition of insanity, often attributed to Albert Einstein, but most probably from a book by author Rita Mae Brown, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." So, try something different – and watch what happens!
Have you ever changed your behaviour to see what happens with someone else?
Which step appeals to you the most? the least?
Would it surprise you to learn that about 70% of people who go (to marriage counselling for one) are women?