Do you and your partner have the same argument time and time again? Are you tired enough of doing it that way to try doing something else?
You can probably predict the situations that set your argument in motion. Maybe it always happens when your parents visit, or when your partner drinks, or takes up a new interest. Maybe you're thinking that if you just avoid those situations, everything will be hunky-dory.
That might even be practical if the situation is simple and easy to control. But often it's not. After all, are you really going to tell your parents to stop visiting you? When it's to do with what someone else wants, or how they act, you can't change it.
You can't change your relationship on your own. You need to involve your partner. Sometimes that can be tricky. It's easy to give your partner the impression that you see them as the 'problem', as not good enough, or as unlovable as they are. Lots of people find that distressing rather than motivating. If your partner feels hurt and defensive then you aren't going to get a lot of co-operation.
'Problems' often get in between partners in a relationship. One strategy is for partners to get together to gang up on the 'problem' instead. The role your partner plays in your 'problem' arguments is only part of the picture. You play a role too.
Seeing that you both contribute makes a good start at ejecting that 'problem' from its cosy spot in the middle. It helps to establish that you are allies. Get clear that you are working together on this because you both want things to be different. You each have hopes for yourselves. You're not just wanting to make things better for your partner. You have a stake in this for yourself.
Pool the information you have. What are each of you aware of about the pattern? Describe your own behaviour. What steps do you go through? What are you feeling at each step? Looking from the outside, what do you notice about your partner's behaviour? What do you think they are thinking and feeling?
You don't need to justify yourselves, or correct each other. You're not deciding on one interpretation of the pattern. Together you're building a rich, detailed understanding of it. You may be surprised by some of your partner's feelings and their take on your behaviour.
Just letting each other know your feelings, hopes and fears changes things. In the next argument you'll notice some of the feelings your partner described. That might change how you respond. The same thing will be happening for them. Little changes maybe, but you've started the process. Notice the changes and congratulate each other. The more attention you pay to your progress, the more progress you'll make.
If you're tired of the blame game, you can try out being a team instead. The 'problem' is something you developed together. Together, you can create something else, something that works.
Interview: Peter Alexander
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