Iím not exactly sure of the answers, but I know we all have moments when we wish for just a little more. Wanting your partner to be more romantic, more understanding, a better listener, more adventurous, have a better job, have the same hobbies Ė the list goes on and is unique to each pair.
Sometimes we go as far as asking our partner to do these things for us, to make changes. Of course, our partners do the same to us. Thereís a give and take.
Every couple makes small changes to accommodate the other half. But, how do you know when youíve gone too far? I mean, when does that push and pull become a strip and seize?
Think of these changes as a house. When touring it, you fall in love and purchase the home. Slowly, you begin to make small changes. A different shade of paint, a bathroom remodel, new furniture, and before you know it, youíre looking at a completely different house.
Maybe it was outdated. Maybe it wasnít efficient. Or maybe, we are just never satisfied.
For beginners, I think we all have to determine the intentions of our requests. This is where your intuition can guide you in the right direction. When I want my husband to stay at home with me rather than participate in one of his own hobbies, I realize pretty quickly that I just donít want to sit at home alone.
And sometimes, thatís OK. When it becomes a habit, however, your partner will likely feel suffocated. When that happens, other building blocks of the relationship begin to crumble.
As you study those intentions, explore whether or not the issue resides in you. For instance, rather than convincing Cory to stay at home so Iím not bored, maybe I should get a hobby of my own.
Now, the world is not black and white. Cory makes plenty of compromises to make our relationship work Ė but his interests shouldnít be some of them. After all, why would I paint over a brilliant color? Those interests are what shape and define him.
Itís also unfair to rely on your partner for everything. While of course, everyone should be able to lean on their spouse or significant other for support and empathy, maybe some problems can be shared with friends or family, especially if your biggest issue is that your partner isnít sensitive enough or a good listener. Donít set them up for failure.
Taking the initiative isnít a bad thing, either. Instead of complaining about a lackluster relationship with few adventures and little romance, why not serve some up on your own? Sometimes, we expect things from our partners that theyíre not sure how to provide. Teach your partner how to support you. Donít assume he or she knows how.
Study yourself as you make requests of your partner for change. If you are able to determine that what youíre asking for is for the benefit of the relationship, and not just so you are not inconvenienced or jealous, itís probably OK to discuss.
Maybe the problem is causing a lot of emotional distress and the balance of the relationship is off. In that case, be honest about your feelings.
If the issue does require change, be patient with your partner. When I ask something different or new of Cory, I typically have to remind him and encourage him for a while. Old habits are difficult to break.
Now, sometimes, our issues with our spouses are really just displaced feelings. There have been plenty of times Iíve come home from work after a stressful day and snapped at Cory about being better at cleaning the house or doing the laundry.
Is there some truth in this? Yes. Is it the real issue in these moments? No.
If this can be the case with small problems, like cleaning, then it can also be in the bigger circumstances as well. Always wanting something better out of your partner may be a reflection of your own insecurities or perceived shortcomings.
And thatís OK Ė we just have be aware of it so it doesnít damage the foundation of the relationship.
Letís go back to that house. Imagine it has termites or mold. Would you ignore the problems and continue about your life? Or would you fix them? The same applies to our individual issues Ė we have to be vigilant or weíll have huge problems to fix later on.
Pushing against your partnerís natural personality is draining, too. All of that wasted energy could be directed somewhere else, where it can be productive. Rather than trying to force your partner to like the same things you do, why not make new friends or become more involved in social groups with similar hobbies?
Taking some of that pressure off of your partner can do wonders for a relationship. Maybe he or she isnít attending exercise class, yoga or book club with you, but there is more energy and sparkle in the other interests you do share. Or maybe the time apart, experiencing different activities, is refreshing and renewing, naturally improving the dynamic of the relationship.
So, if you make the decision to be more patient and tolerant of some of your partnerís differences, how do you cope with those negative feelings?
When Cory is busy with his favorite hobbies, or watching his strange TV shows, I use the time to develop my own interests. I keep myself entertained and fulfilled. And sometimes, I do a little compromising of my own and accompany him.
Itís OK to acknowledge feeling jealous, frustrated or jilted, but donít allow it to ruin your partnerís experiences.
What if itís the other way around, though? How do you respond if your partner is excessively wanting you to change or to be different? How much is too much?
Maybe every couple draws their own line and finds their own balance. That doesnít make it any easier to know when youíre losing yourself within a relationship, though. I think the best way to tell is to trust your intuition Ė it will tell you stories if you just listen.
When you start to feel like youíre giving up too much for your partner, you probably are. When you start to feel like your losing your friends, hobbies or interests because of your relationship, you probably are. Be honest and open about how much youíre willing to compromise, and stick with it.
I canít imagine any person feeling happy that way, and an angry or resentful partner is not the makings of a good relationship.
As couples, I think we all have to remember what attracted us to our mates in the first place. Did we once find those habits or interests endearing or sweet? Probably. Just like we were once satisfied with the color of the carpet or the shape of the light fixtures in our homes. We were captivated enough to buy the houses after all.
So, before we invest all of this time and energy into changing our partners to better suit us, maybe we should make sure thereís something to fix in the first place.
Because at one time, our partners were exactly what we wanted.
Published: June 28, 2012