When we initially started dating our spouse or partner, we probably viewed them through rose-colored glasses. We may have overlooked shortcomings because we were so in love with them. They could do no wrong. They were good-looking. They were smart and interesting. Over time, we realized that this person was human just like everyone else; and this means they have negative attributes. We may have found ourselves getting in more fights and losing romantic interest in them all together. How can we fix this?
Unfortunately, we rarely use introspection to challenge our preconceived notions of what a relationship is supposed to be like. We set too high of expectations for others and too low of expectations for ourselves. Read ahead to learn what we can do to change that.
Anatomy of a Troubled Relationship
When we first meet someone that we like, we want to make a good first impression. We only show our good qualities and may even exaggerate them to a degree. We hide our negative attributes because we are afraid that the other person won’t accept us. While this is normal to a degree, it is not a good idea to be inauthentic early on in a relationship. It only makes the disappointment worse once the other person finds out that we are not perfect.
When we feel disappointed in our spouse, we react in anger and frustration. We feel like they are ignoring us, so we ignore them. We see them glance at another woman, and so we glance at another man. They don’t clean the dishes, so we don’t either. We feel justified in this behavior because they are doing it to us. An eye for an eye. Unfortunately, this only prolongs the underlying problem and does not solve anything.
How We Can Change Them Through Unconditional Love
We may have to take the initiative to change a floundering relationship, even if we feel they have wronged us. If we continue to wait for them to change while we continue to respond negatively to everything that they do, we aren’t going to get very far. This is probably the first and hardest step.
We must learn to love our spouse or partner unconditionally, despite their flaws. Doing so requires us to look inward and consider our shortcomings. Do we do things that upset the other person? Do we justify them because of the other person’s bad behavior?
The goal is to love our partner unconditionally. Unconditional love is different than romantic love. Romantic love is based on emotions and sexual attraction, which are fleeting and fluctuate depending on our emotions. Unconditional love is a choice, and it’s a hard one. However, you’ll find that with practice and discipline, the other person will begin to react differently to you.
So how can you practice unconditional love? Here are some top tips.
· Stop Negative Comments –It will be difficult at first to stop reacting negatively, especially if that is how we have operated for quite some time. It is sometimes better to stay silent if you feel like you are going to say something mean. This requires the other person to stop and think about what they’ve said.
· Create Rules of Engagement – Decide how you are going to have arguments with your spouse. Write down a list of rules, and ask your spouse what their rules are. Potential answers include not raising voices, no nasty comments, listening to the other person before speaking. Consider signing a contract with the other person.
· Stay in the Sufficiency Room – Our partner has good and bad attributes. We tend to only see the bad and forget about the good. Make a list of all of the good and bad qualities they have and try to focus on the good. Consider burning the Deficiency list, and make a concerted effort to not remain in that room for long.
· Be Honest – A lot of anger and resentment stems from not letting our feelings show. Perhaps our spouse has hurt us and we have held it in for years. Talk to your spouse about what’s going on with you. Say it in an assertive, yet kind way. This will clear the air and eliminate the passive-aggressive atmosphere in the house.
· Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated – Even if your spouse doesn’t treat you the way you want to be treated right now, you can choose to treat them differently. We don’t understand why we should have to be the ones who do this. The thing is, they probably aren’t going to initiate it. But if we do, then they start reacting to us better. It’s hard but incredibly rewarding.
· Talk to Someone – Talking to a therapist can be enormously beneficial to overcome hurts and hang-ups. Ask your partner if they would consider going to therapy, and make a commitment to do so. Research a marriage therapist who is qualified in couples’ therapy.
Do you struggle with anger or frustration towards your partner? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our staff members would be happy to set up an appointment for you.