Many of my clients are in relationships where they are unhappy. Maybe their partner invalidates them, or they have disagreements on how they want to spend their time, or they fight about their children, finances, in-laws, etc…Whatever the problem they are having, a lot of these women end up in therapy by themselves and they can’t get their partner on board for couples therapy. Does this mean that they’re destined for unhappiness unless their partner changes or they leave the relationship? It doesn’t have to be the case. Of course, if it’s an emotionally or physically abusive relationship I would encourage you to work on getting out of the relationship. But many times, there is a lot that can be done individually to improve the relationship. Here are some things you can try:
- Give your partner TIME to change
- Internal change takes time. Often times the things that we want are partner to change are longstanding habits or personality qualities. For example, if your partner doesn’t help out around the house as much as you’d like, it’s probably because he/she was never used to being active in household chores. It’s not that they don’t want to change, it’s that they are having difficulty implementing the habit change. Try tapping in to empathy for your partner and give them the benefit of the doubt that they want to change but are struggling vs thinking that they are just “lazy” or that they don’t love you enough to make the effort.
- Evaluate how much criticism versus positive reinforcement there is in your relationship
- There is a big difference between nagging and assertiveness. While I’m a huge belieiver in assertiveness in relaitonships, I think there is a fine line between being assertive and repeating the same thing over and over to your partner without any results. Criticism of your partner usually only leads to defensiveness and arguments. Spend some time evaluating how much of your dialogue with your partner is spent criticizing versus expressing gratitude and appreciation. If it’s more criticism than appreciation, that’s a shift you have control over.
- Remember why you chose your partner to begin with
- When you are in a long-term relationship and there are a lot of problems, it’s easy to lose sight of why you fell in love with them in the first place. But in doing so, It will help you tap in to the feelings of compassion and admiration you had for your partner and in turn help you to reduce feelings of hostility or blame.
- Take responsibility for your own mental health
- Last but definitely not least, invest time and energy in to yourself, whether that be therapy, exercise, meditation, spending more time with friends/family. If you’re in a negative relationship that you feel like cannot change, realize that you can still live a happy life despite your partner. By engaging in self-care you are taking control over your mental state which is empowering and liberating.
If your relationship is a stressor for you, know that there is hope for happiness even if your partner isn’t on board with improving your relationship. I’d love to help you find out more about how.