October 24th, 2011 @ menstuff
Clients often come for counselling at Menstuff to discuss challenges that they are having in their relationship. These problems can vary from lack of communication, feeling like they’re not being heard, feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility, not sure the relationship is going anywhere, or a raft of other reasons.
Often an unhealthy pattern has developed. And, given the nature of relationships, it is not uncommon for emotion to be involved – often large amounts of emotions. And we usually think that the other person needs to change something in order for things to improve.
An unhealthy pattern often plays out like this:
Your partner does something —> You react to what they do —> You do something —> Your partner reacts to what you do —> Your partner does something … etc.
When stress or anxiety levels increase within a relationship it can often be hard to figure out what is causing the situation, or more importantly how to change it. Often a power play can develop and perhaps neither party wants to show any weakness or be seen to be wrong.
However, trying to figure out who is right or who is wrong is not likely to solve the situation – as it’s often not as black and white as that.
While there may be a number of ways to move forward, from my experience a simple technique can often make a huge difference.
The technique is to Break the Cycle.
When an unhealthy pattern exists (as described above), one of the simplest ways to change the situation is to break the cycle. Instead of trying to get your partner to change something, YOU can actually be the one to make a change. The pattern above exists only because both parties are reacting to each other. By changing your behaviour you can actually initiate a change in the entire situation.
Think about how this unhealthy pattern plays out in your relationship and think about how you typically react. Then, next time, try to not react, or try to respond completely differently. If you’re successful in doing this then you’re also natually inviting your partner not to react in the way that they may typically react to your behaviour – because you won’t be behaving in the way that they expected.
And, don’t be surprised if you find it hard to change your behaviour, or it it takes a number of attempts. Given we’re so used to our patterns it naturally can be hard to change them. It’s important to keep working at it.
Once you’re successful you’ll realise that you have the power within yourself to change your relationship dynamic on your own.
Footnote: If implementing these steps is hard, or if you feel that you’re not making progress, then it may be worth considering individual or couples counseling to obtain additional professional support.