As I listen to friends talk about their relationships, eventually, the conversation turns to our partner’s shortcomings. How they didn’t hold up their end of the relationship bargain in some way: through what they said, what they didn’t do, or how they didn’t show up for us. All of our partners let us down in some ways at some times. After all, they are human just like us.
It can be difficult to figure out how to improve our relationships. Especially when we are focused on the part in the relationship that we can’t control and where we have minimal influence: our partner’s behavior. In truth, we can only control what we bring to the table. Instead of listing your partner’s faults, it might give you better ideas for fixing things when you focus more on your own contributions. You can change these. Of course, personal change is harder than letting our partners know how they let us down.
When your feel like your partner has let you down, think about what you did just prior to and in response to their behavior. Notice if you gave them feedback that might have made them feel criticized or defensive. Look at whether they felt like you were disconnected or didn’t care about them. Identify how you responded to them. They may realize that there are no real consequences because you will pick up the slack or bail them out when they let things slide. Listening to your complaints may feel like a small price to pay when they don't follow through with an agreement.
Some ways that you can improve the relationship without their help:
We like to think of our partner’s choices as occurring in a vacuum. However, you need to be fair about what you are contributing. This is where you can have the biggest impact to change the relationship. I am not suggesting that you become a slave to the relationship. One of the most powerful things you can do is know where you draw the line and enforce it without making idle threats.
It still counts as having a good relationship if you initiate kindness and generosity. Most times, our partners will respond to your love by being loving. And isn’t that all we really want? To be in a loving relationship?
Cheri Timko is the creator of Synergy Coaching, an online community helping committed couples have great relationships. Learn more about how to get involved in this movement of couples who don't just want to stay together but want to thrive together here.