Sometimes when I am approached about a troubled relationship, there’s only one person doing the approaching. They feel like things are going wrong, but their partner either doesn’t seem to notice or isn’t willing to try to fix things.
Invariably, this leads them to two questions:
- Is it worth working on a relationship if you’re the only one doing the working?
- Why do they have to be the one to start things?
Let’s tackle the second question first. If you feel like you’re the only one trying while your significant other just sits around like a lump, it can be incredibly frustrating. You may feel a great sense of injustice or unfairness about the situation, and that’s totally understandable.
But here’s the real question that you have to ask yourself: Do you want things to get better? Because while you can’t control the actions of your partner, you can control what you do. Someone has to start the ball rolling if things are ever going to change – why not you?
Change Leads to More Change
A question that is implicit in “why do I have to be the one to go first?” is “why am I the only one putting work into this relationship?” Thinking this way, however, is not just wrong-headed, but wrong in general – and goes a long way towards answering the first question.
When one person learns how to improve their relationship by changing the way they interact with their partner, it causes a domino effect. Your partner will start doing things differently simply because you are doing things in a new way and they are reacting to you – it’s just human nature.
Imagine, for example, that your partner always forgets to do the dishes. In the past, your reaction has been to get mad. To say things like, “Why can’t you ever remember?” or “All I ask for is a little help around here!” Not surprisingly, they respond by getting defensive, which makes you even angrier. Ultimately, you end up in a fight.
Now let’s pretend you react to the unwashed dishes in a different way. When you notice them, all you say is, “Could you please finish washing the dishes from dinner?” Chances are, your partner’s reaction will be much better, and you are far less likely to end up in a fight.
In other words, by changing what you say and do in a contentious situation, you can alter your significant other’s reactions – they will be changing, too. Over time, these changes will only grow and expand, improving the relationship for both of you.
If You Do Nothing, That’s Exactly What Will Happen: Nothing
In the end, it comes down to this: someone has to start the process. If you’re willing to do this, don’t hesitate because it doesn’t seem fair. Remember, you will be helping to change things for the better – better for your partner and better for you.
Getting caught up in who needs to instigate change is a pointless exercise that leads only to inaction. And what does doing nothing lead to? More of the same frustrations that caused you to seek out help in the first place.
The secret of how to save a marriage is pretty simple when you boil it down: take action. Obviously, this is no guarantee that your relationship will be saved, but if you don’t do anything when there are clear problems, it is absolutely far more likely to fail. If you want to put your relationship back on track, reach out to a Michele-Weiner Davis and/or Gottman-trained relationship coach today, and start behaving like the new you.