“Want a Better Relationship? Change YOUR Behavior!”

happy couple walking in the forest

I remember reading many years ago Dr. Phil McGraw’s second book, “Relationship Rescue”.  This was a book about how to heal a troubled relationship or marriage.   I always try to stay up on different points of view regarding relationships since it’s a major part of my therapy practice.  I remember reading the introduction which spelled out the premise of the entire book. It was simply this: the focus of improving your relationship lies with you and not your significant other. You need to change your behavior to improve it.  
I’m sure this approach raised more than just a few eyebrows at the time but it’s still very relevant and a good way to improve any relationship.  Too many times, in my practice, clients play the “blame game” and, although many times it’s justified, it does’t contribute to solving the problem.  Taking personal responsibility for your relationship means putting your ego aside, accepting your part in the problem—as well as the solution—and being willing to consistently implement it.   If your relationship or marriage is worth saving, then it’s definitely worth the work involved to save it. 

Usually, a relationship’s demise starts with a lot of arguing and fighting.  Below are 5 things that you can do to prevent this as well as help get your relationship back on track.

1. Stay calm no matter how upset or unreasonable your mate gets.  Getting as upset as your significant other does no good when an argument starts. It only make things worse.  Someone has to take the high road and be rational when this occurs. It’s also easier to de-escalate the argument when you stay calm and when both parties are calm it’s easier to resolve a disagreement. 

2. Admit when you’re wrong. This can be hard to do—especially when the issue is a gray area.  Don’t worry about your mate’s culpability in the argument, just take responsibility  that you were wrong and admit it fully.  This goes a long way in gaining trust with them. 

3. Take a time out.  Sometimes, simply deciding not to engage in an argument is the best course of action. If a disagreement comes up and you’re tired after a long day at work, walking away is a good choice. Just make sure you don’t alienate your mate and discount them in the process.  Putting up a wall is never a good idea.

4.  Make amends for past faults.  Apologizing for past behavior and attempting to change that behavior will go a long way in building trust and endearment.  Something like, “I know I neglected you a bit too much because of my softball games over the summer and I’m truly sorry for that. I promise that won’t happen again.”.  The key here is to stay true to your promise. Nothing hurts relationships more than broken promises. 

5. Communicate.This is probably the biggest reason that relationships and marriages fail.  If you don’t learn to communicate early in your relationship, it’s more likely the relationship won’t work.  It’s critical that you let your partner know how you’re feeling without blame or criticism. Use phrases like, “When you do_______, it makes me feel like______.” Or, “It makes me sad when you__________”.  This kind of language lets your partner know how you feel without blaming them or making them feel threatened. 

Relationships take compromise, setting aside your own agenda sometimes and making your mate a priority.  Admittedly, the above ideas are not always easy. But if you’re serious about making an honest effort to save your marriage, they’re definitely worth it.