Improving Relationships – Requires Taking Action
Depending on the severity of the imbalance in your relationship, you may want to seek help from a couple’s counselor. Some men see a desire for counseling as weakness, an inability to solve personal problems on your own, but this is not true at all! A counselor is not there to solve problems for you because you can’t — couple’s therapists and marriage counselors act as an impartial third party, and they are trained to help you focus on the root causes of a problem and mediate to make sure you are both clear about each other’s point of view. In cases where you and your partner just don’t seem to be able to see eye to eye, a counselor can be very helpful. Fortunately, there are also steps you can take on your own to begin regaining balance. Using these steps, you can make your partner aware of the problem and open up the lines of communication about the issue, so you can both tackle the problem together. The following are three of the earliest and easiest steps you can take to start moving in the right direction. These steps to improving your relationship are SPEAK, ACT, and RESPOND:
SPEAK — Talk to your partner! This is the first and most important step. The two of you need to sit down together and discuss, with complete honesty, how both of you currently see the relationship, and where you expect/want it to go. A good idea could be to write a list of problem areas and clearly address each one. By comparing notes on certain aspects of your relationship where you feel there are problems, you can find out where you and your partner differ, and begin working on finding a middle ground for those areas that is fair and acceptable to both of you. Remember that your partner may not be aware that you are unhappy, so avoid making any accusations or placing the blame, but it is equally important that you make sure she understands that this is something which needs to be addressed. Do not try to be overbearing or force the issue, but be firm and clear about what your problem is, and what steps you want to take to address it.
ACT – Do not validate your partner’s expectations of submissive behavior. When there is an imbalance of power, often the person with less control unknowingly encourages it through their words and actions. If you give your partner all your time and attention day after day and don’t say anything, it is only natural that she will start to assume you don’t have problem with this pattern. Stand up for yourself. Say things like, “No, I think we spent too much money last month, so I don’t think we should eat out tonight,” or, “You said you would take out the garbage; I did it last week and we agreed that this week was your turn.” Don’t allow yourself to be talked into things that your aren’t comfortable with, or give in just to avoid a fuss. If you want to be treated like an equal, you have to stand up for yourself — your opinion matters just as much as your partner’s. You should make it clear to your partner that you are willing to compromise, but that she has to do the same. Remember that this only does any good after step one, so that your partner knows how you feel.
RESPOND — When your partner says or does something that you feel is an unfair assumption or shows disrespect, note it right away. Like all bad habits, a pattern of inequality is much easier to stop if you point it out when it is happening. By reacting to a specific incident, you make your partner more aware of what she is doing. This could mean saying something like, “When you assume things without discussing it with me like that, it makes me feel that you don’t care what I think,” or, “I think that having some time to myself, to do things I enjoy, is important. I wouldn’t try to stop you from having any free time, and I think you should respect me enough to do the same.” Again, this will only be effective after you have talked to your partner. And don’t forget that the reverse of this rule is true as well! When your partner does something considerate or respectful, make sure to let him or her know right away. Positive reinforcement is important if you want to create positive change, and this will help your partner recognize what you want.
SPEAK, act, and RESPOND are the three simplest steps that you can make in correcting your relationship, and when practiced daily they can make a big difference. SPEAK to your partner — maintain open channels of communication and use them regularly, so your partner knows where you stand and how you feel. The old adage goes that people will treat you the way you let them, so act like an equal and break negative patterns. And when your partner does something wrong, or something right, make sure to RESPOND immediately to help stop or reinforce that particular behavior. By having a clear goal for your relationship, and making it clear to your partner as well, can start mending your relationship. Remember that you don’t have to live up to any stereotypes, and that you deserve to be treated fairly and with the same respect you give. By having the confidence to address problems and work toward finite goals, you and your partner can work together for a more balanced and mutually satisfying relationship.