change. I see it all the time in my private practice.
feels like I can’t breathe.”
friends over every weekend,”
Alicia reflects. “He doesn’t consider my needs and I feel
for who they are. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John
Gottman says, “People can
change only if they feel that they are basically liked and accepted the way
they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are
unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect
of the things you appreciate about them, and share those things with them. Be
genuinely interested in learning about why they see or do something different
than you, and be open to respecting and even celebrating what makes each of you
tolerated in a relationship, like abuse, addiction, or infidelity. These
behaviors should be addressed in a loving and direct way with the help of a
professional. Even in those cases, it is possible to accept the person even if
you do not accept their behavior.
realize is that they aren’t really
arguing about the amount of time they spend together. The underlying issue in
their marriage is that neither partner is able to express their needs in a
meant to each of them. By talking about this in my office, Ben finally
understood Alicia’s fear of
being alone. His understanding led him to carve out time to spend together on
that vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand. In other words, intimacy can
only occur when partners are vulnerable enough to share their deepest hopes,
fears, and dreams without judgment.
examining your own? Blaming your partner can feel good in the moment because
you want your partner to change, but it’s
dangerous because it can lead to anger and resentment.
thousands of couples in his lab for over 40 years, Dr. Gottman discovered a
simple truth: all couples argue. The difference between the couples that stay
together and the ones who divorce is the way they repair after conflict. The
masters of relationships take responsibility for their role in the issue and
change their own behavior.
couples that don’t repair
those hurts end up with festering wounds that grow bigger day by day, the
month, and the year until they finally break the couple apart. Repair is
absolutely crucial in any kind of relationship, particularly intimate
to change. Instead of trying to fix them, these can change your relationship
for the better.
change their partner. In Marriage Rules, Dr. Harriet Lerner writes, “If you don’t change your part in a stuck pattern, no change will
occur. Change comes from the bottom up: that is from the person who is in the
most pain, or who has the least power, or who has lost or compromised too much
in the relationship.”
opportunity to work together to come up with a solution. You’re no longer on the same team. Instead, focus on the
issues at hand to meet both of your needs.
frustration, so speak in “I” statements and focus on expressing your
feelings in a vulnerable way that invites your partner to understand your pain,
rather than pushes them away.
partner feel. Apologize to your partner by taking responsibility for the
problem, even just a small piece, and this will validate their feelings,
promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on.
criticizing your partner is one of The Four Horsemen that predicts divorce. It
is different from offering a critique or voicing a complaint. A criticism
attacks the core of a person’s
character while a complaint focuses on a specific behavior.
of the doubt and consider that they are both doing the best they can. In The
Science of Trust, Dr. Gottman advises couples to talk about their feelings in
terms of a positive need, instead of what they do not need. By being good
friends, you can build a healthy bond that will help you repair and navigate
challenging moments together instead of believing you want your partner to
world. Gandhi advises us, “If
we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a
man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards
him.” I believe this to be true in
relationships as well.
wish to see in your relationship.