You know the old adage, you can’t try and change the person you love? That is true, we have to figure out how to love them exactly where and how they are. And that is hard and sometimes leaves us feeling trapped and dis-empowered (aka, unhappy). BUT, what we can absolutely do is try and change the relationship.
First stop, is to improve ourselves. We need to be skillful around our emotions and behavior if we want to improve our relationship. We need to hold ourselves to the same high standards that we are holding the other person. And we need to be compassionate with ourselves, in the same way that we need to be compassionate with the other person. We are all doing our best.
Second stop is to look at the relationship like a living breathing BEING, and think about how we need to nurture it and treat it — how to think about it, how to speak about it, how to act towards it, what boundaries to set around it… the relationship itself is something that we can absolutely change and improve. And while it takes two people to make any relationship healthy, it is a dynamic situation that by one person shifting, it makes the relationship shift, and it gives the other person the opportunity to shift with it.
1. The relationship needs to be based on trust and respect. If it isn’t, start there. Make that a boundary — it isn’t ever “ok” to think, speak or act in a way that isn’t based on trust and respect. Validation of each other’s feelings is a key part of respecting one another.
2. Focus on the commitment to the relationship.
3. Be gentle and easy with the relationship (and with the person!). Think of it like a bridge that needs to take a lot of wear and tear as it holds up all that it needs to hold up. We want to care for the bridge. We do not want to blow up the bridge.
4. Focus on what the other person is doing RIGHT with the relationship. Reward that. That is the strengthening of the relationship.
5. Share deeply and authentically: bravely share the scary stuff, and mindfully share the joyful stuff. That is the relationship BEING how it is meant to be — if it is only the shallow logistics of life, not the richness of living, the relationship won’t be fulfilling.
Focusing on improving the relationship, caring for the relationship, loving the relationship is the key to getting the relationship that we want — and gives space for the other person to rise to the occasion.