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Today’s post is from Kim Olver, author of Secrets of Happy Couples. Kim is also one of our experts at the Love & Sex Summit.
Sometimes in a very difficult relationship, it is important to be clear on the options available. Kim shares some thoughts on this below.
In every unhappy relationship, you always have at least three options and sometimes more—you can change it, accept it, or leave it.
Most people begin by trying to change it.
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People instinctively think the easiest way to change an unhappy relationship is to label the source of the unhappiness and ask their partner to change whatever he or she is doing to cause that unhappiness. In some cases, this can work. If I am unhappy because my husband spends too much time on Facebook and I ask him to stop and he closes his account never to use Facebook again, then my problem is solved.
The challenge is things don’t usually work out that way.
When you identify your partner’s behavior as the problem and ask him or her to stop, you are usually asking your partner to give up a behavior he or she enjoys and that meets your partner’s needs somehow. Even when your partner loves you and wants to please you, giving up a behavior that’s working is very difficult and often doesn’t happen consistently.
So, you’ve tried to get your partner to change by asking nicely and got nowhere so now it’s time to bring out the big guns.
Now you try to get what you want by using the Destructive Relationship Habits of complaining, blaming, criticizing, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing or rewarding to control. These behaviors are your best attempt to get your partner to do what you want even if it’s not what he or she wants to do.
These behaviors might work or they might not. If they work, then you might think you’ve won but in essence what you’ve really accomplished is an erosion of the foundation of your relationship.
Whenever you engage Destructive Relationship Habits trying to get your partner to do something he or she doesn’t want to do, you hurt your relationship even more.
Another way to change things is to look at changing yourself so you can better manage the reality of your relationship.
Let’s say your husband is a workaholic and you hate sitting at home alone at night waiting for him to come home.
You can change the situation by finding activities to engage in so you aren’t just waiting.
The second option is accepting. This is a wonderful way to find inner peace in the midst of relationship turmoil. Do you know the Serenity Prayer?
It says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” I make a slight modification so it reads, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that person is me.”
If there is something bothering you about your partner, it’s a pretty good bet you aren’t spending much time thinking about what you appreciate and love about your partner.
Most of your focus and energy is directed toward what you don’t like.
In order to accept, you’ll want to shift your focus to all things you love and appreciate about your partner. Once you are able to do that, then it becomes easier to accept the thing you don’t like because it’s balanced by all the things you do like.
Then you begin to tell yourself that with all those positives, you wouldn’t want to wish to change these one or two negatives because changing one thing could potentially change everything.
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You begin to look at what you don’t like as an opportunity for growth. You look harder for the lesson or the gift in your partner’s behavior and accept it as actually good for you.
You give up all anger, resentment and frustration and actually experience the serenity of acceptance.
The final option is leaving. I generally ask people to reserve this option for when safety is an issue or when they’ve been unsuccessful at changing things and you don’t want to or find themselves unable to accept things.
When these conditions exist, it’s time to think about leaving.
People can leave their relationships mentally or physically. Physically leaving involves separation or divorce.
Mental leaving involves a disconnection from the relationship in terms of time, energy, attention, and commitment. Some people, because of religious or other reasons, do not believe in divorce. When this is the case, separation or mental leaving may be the best option.
When you are faced with major relationship decisions such as these, it is a good idea to seek the professional objectivity of a counselor or coach to help you sort through your choices of changing, accepting, or leaving.
If you know that your relationship is worth building and rebuilding, than I invite you to check out The Winning At Romance – Love & Sex Summit at home – where 10 experts help you think differently and take action for a marriage that sizzles with goodness.
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