Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash
Change begins with you
So, do you ever feel like if your partner would just stop doing this, things would be so much better? I hear this often, I may or may not have felt this myself. I will be honest, later. The reality is to make changes in a relationship we have to look within ourselves and start there.
It was Jake’s Idea!
I have told you that the later part of our engagement and the beginning of our marriage was the more rough patch of our relationship. We got into marriage counseling pretty quickly, more proactively. It was Jakes idea!
We got in with a counselor who was trained in Gottman, which is what I was looking for and he was open to it. I remember the first session, I (we) was upset with what we needed to do. Our Therapist asked us, “What will things look like when things are better in your relationship?” I responded with, “When things are better in our relationship he will do X,Y and Z.” She totally cut me off, which isn’t a bad thing, but she said, “What will things look like for you, what will you look like when things have changed.”
I totally wasn’t feeling it in the moment, it totally forced me to look at that and what changes I needed to make. It took the responsibility off of Jake to make those changes for things to look better between the both of us.
I was able to start working on myself, and he did as well. Things ultimately got better between us within a few months. We look back on that time now a few years later, and things feel so opposite now, in a good way.
How is this affecting you and what are you doing to contribute to it?
This comes up a lot with my own clients when they want to spend the majority of their sessions talking about what their partner is doing wrong or hurtful.
Sometimes I will interrupt my clients and ask them, “How is this affecting you?” and if I have a really good relationship with my client, I will ask the hard question, “Do you think you might be doing anything unknowingly that is contributing to this dynamic?”
I don’t want the entire session to be venting about your partner. Venting is sometimes necessary; especially with a safe person such as a therapist who doesn’t know your partner and won’t cloud their judgement regarding your partner.
Normal things in Healthy Relationships
I am absolutely not talking about either characterological or pathological issues that come up in relationships; domestic violence, addictions, long standing behavior that gets in the way of healthy relationships. I am not talking about those things.
I am talking about normal things that usually come up in most relationships that are fixable that will lead to a healthy relationship. The other mentioned things are fixable, however, they require very professional help and long term care.
No, I cannot DIagnose Your Partner.
Some clients come to sessions looking for a diagnosis for their partners. As a therapist, you have to be very careful with this.
I usually say, “well, I am only hearing one side of this or one persepctive and I don’t know your partner.” You cannot diagnose your partner nor can your therapist diagnose them, unless they know them.
So that is another thing that I see that comes up in our sessions that clients really struggle with, the idea that change begins with our spouse.
It is all about Self Awareness
Something we can work on is having a lot of self awareness, but self awareness without falling apart.
That is a phrase from this type of therapy called Radically Open DBT, basically a way of cultivating openness that we can hear disconfirming feedback from someone without shutting down, without going into don’t hurt me mode, or without getting defensive.
That doesn’t mean that someone who gives us disconfirming feedback is correct, I think that this is apart of the openness. Not falling apart is being able to have the openness to hear the disconfirming feedback. To just mull over to see if there is any truth to it.
I am really big on self awareness and think that we need to have some openness in order to be willing to look at ourselves. I am assuming that you are listening to this podcast that you have some openness and are ahead of the game as in looking at “change begins with you.”
Journey through Journaling
I recommend, throughout this process, to begin journaling. And simply journal about your feelings. An incident happens with you and your partner, write out factually what has happened, and then write your emotions you are experiencing.
You can write out thoughts not your assumptions. Thoughts of what you are experiencing. What does this conversation/feeling/situation remind you of? Was there a past conversation that you had and maybe with another person? If you felt this sense of disappointment in another point in your life?
Just look at a button or trigger that this pushed. When has this come up in the past? Thinking of other relationships or time before your partner. Is there a correlation? Then write out about what you need emotionally. I need a sense of stability, safety, etc.
I wanted Calm and Joy
Going back to my early therapy sessions in my marriage, I was needing a sense of emotional stability and safety. My husband didn’t make me feel unsafe. It was more this picture of not wanting tension or conflict at home. I wanted to come home, go out to dinner and talk about our days and laugh.
This all goes together, my husband had lost his job a few months before we got married, I expanded my practice and was working a lot more hours and making less money and I had to adjust too.
I also totalled my car, one crazy afternoon with heavy rain and the water came up really quick. It ruined the engine. My husband cautioned me not to drive through it. It was the worst possible year money wise.
It wasn’t so much the marriage stuff just all this other stuff. I wanted to come home to calm and joy. It wasn’t my husband needing to do X,Y,Z just my own emotional needs.
You don’t have to have a journal, but make memos on your phone so that we can gain some insight on this journey of Change begins with YOU.
Help in the meantime:
YouTube channel BWBL playlist
Gottman Institute Blog