Even the best relationships can feel like hard work sometimes. They’re rewarding yes, but goodness they can require patience, persistence and skill to stay happy, harmonious and connected.
If we’re lucky, our partner is willing to ride the ups and downs with us, sharing the love and joy and sticking with us through the hurt and frustration. If we’re really lucky, our partner is willing to do as much as we are to make our relationship the best it can be.
But what do you do when it feels like your partner isn’t making an effort?
- Maybe your partner thinks things are fine just as they are.
- Maybe your partner isn’t great at talking and keeps ‘putting his head in the sand’ when it comes to challenges.
- Maybe, you keep agreeing that you need to ‘do something’ but it never seems to happen.
In relationships it’s not unusual for one person to be more interested in looking at the issues that are arising in the relationship, than the other. In my experience, one partner can often feel criticised or judged when all you’re trying to do is get things out into the open and make things better. Although getting help to improve your relationship is common and beneficial, some people can feel uncomfortable or like something is wrong with them for seeking help.
Even if it seems like your partner isn’t making the same effort you are, you still have the opportunity – and the power – to make your relationship happier, more connected and loving.
Great relationships start with ourselves.
Your actions, your love, your effort can make a big difference to your relationship – even if it feels like your partner isn’t as open to ‘working on things’ are you are.
Here’s what you can do to make your relationship more connected and loving:
1. Take responsibility for your own emotions
It’s easy to blame our partner for making us feel certain negative emotions, but the truth is our emotions are our responsibility.
We can’t blame someone else for how we feel.
Yes, someone else can do or say something that triggers these emotions to come out, but we feel emotions because of thoughts or beliefs that are inside of us.
When we are willing to fully feel, embody and accept the emotions within us, the entire situation in which they arose can lose its ‘charge’. For example, I realise that sometimes underneath my feeling anger towards my partner is a feeling of not being good enough. If I didn’t have a deep belief of not being good enough – I wouldn’t have anger triggered in me. When I can see and accept that, I stop being angry towards him.
Taking responsibility means you can allow yourself to be vulnerable and no longer blame your partner for what you are feeling. In taking responsibility for your emotions, you’re less likely to react and more likely to act in a way that builds a harmonious connection between you.
2. Refuse to continue the cycles
Couples in therapy often tell me they often have the same arguments over and over again. This is because they are stuck in a habitual cycle.
Our behaviour triggers a reaction in our partner which in turn triggers a reaction in us – and vice-versa. When we’re not conscious of what’s going on, we continue to repeat these cycles.
Recognising these patterns and changing your behaviour breaks the cycle. When you choose to act differently, you give your partner an opportunity to react differently also.
Even simply stopping in a moment of emotion, be it anger, sadness or hurt, can open up a space for both you and your partner where mutual understanding can arise naturally.
3. Consider what might be going on for your partner
A person’s behaviour always makes sense when we understand more about what is going on under the surface for them. When we consider what may be happening for someone else, we’re more able to treat them compassionately.
Take some time to consider what might be going on for your partner. Consider their childhood and how their early emotional development may affect how they manage situations now. Consider if they have something going on at work, or with their family that may be causing them stress. Consider how they may be interpreting your actions or behaviours.
And have compassion for what might be happening for them that even they may not be aware of.
4. Check your communication
Much of my work as a Relationship Therapist is helping couples understand each other better. The words and tone we use make a big difference to how someone listening to us responds.
Often we think we’re being clear, but our partner may hear something different to what we’re actually saying. Changing the way we say something can make a big difference to how our partner hears us.
Of course if we have emotion behind what we’re saying, it may come out a little less clear than we’d like. Acknowledging and accepting your own emotions before you speak can also help with this. If we say something with underlying anger, blame or defensiveness our partner is unlikely to be very open to listening. But if we have first been willing to see and feel our core emotions, our tone and words will be much easier for our partner to hear.
5. See someone on your own
Evidence shows that seeing a therapist or coach by yourself can make a big difference to your relationship. Here’s why:
- Therapy gives you support so that you can show up more fully and generously for your partner.
- It helps you see more clearly and deeply is going on for you and helps you take responsibility for your own emotions
- Good therapy helps you find better ways of communicating with your partner so that discussions don’t turn into arguments.
- Good therapy supports you in being independently happy and confident, which can really help your partner too.
Your partner may be more willing to work on your relationship with you (and perhaps even attend therapy) if they can begin to feel that your relationship is becoming more harmonious and loving due to the effort that you’re putting in.
If you think therapy might be beneficial for you or your relationship, you can find out more about what it involves here. And if you’re wondering how to approach your partner about getting help, you’ll really benefit from this article.