Building Your Accountability Muscles
People have this fantasy that “if only” their partner was kind, or respectful or caring or … (fill in the blank), their relationship would be great; this is not how relationships work. The idea that your relationship would be fine or easy “if only” your partner…, is a convenient way of taking the responsibility of creating a healthy relationship off of yourself. Chances are your partner is thinking the same thing about you – if only you would…
She said: “You never talk, it’s like I’m living alone!”
He said: “I would talk if you weren’t nagging all the time. Did you ever think of that?!”
She said: “Well, if you did something around here, I wouldn’t have to nag. Did YOU ever think of that?!”
…and on and on they go with little, if any, resolution to many exquisitely described problems.
To create the relationships you want, you have to be consciously working them in new ways. This requires that you look at your part FIRST, and when you’ve changed you, THEN, you look at your partner’s part. For example if your partner is treating you poorly, are you putting up with it, treating him/her poorly back, setting limits around it or just complaining about it?
If you are behaving in any of these ways, then it’s time to change your part of this equation. …if you want to change the game, you need to change your moves. Complaining about or constantly trying to get your partner to change their moves will keep you stuck. The truth is you have no control of your partner—or anyone else for that matter. Fortunately though, you do have total control of you. Start focusing on the easier, more doable change in your relationships. Focus on you.
Start by listening. Listen to your partner’s complaints with an open mind. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have x-ray vision when it comes to your partner’s flaws yet your partner is legally blind when it comes to seeing yours. Their complaints are the key to your fault lines (or edges as I call them). Pay attention to them, get curious about them and take in the truth about the complaints. Hold yourself in warm regard while you take in these complaints. Remember we all have our edges—it doesn’t make us bad, it just makes us human. Be courageous and listen.
Next, pay attention to what drives you crazy about your partner…and then look at your reactions. How are you addressing or not addressing this issue? How are your responses to this behavior not serving you? Don’t rationalize your reactions—just note them.
When it comes to changing relationships the worst thing we can do is blame our behaviors on the behaviors of others. Blaming keeps us stuck and resentful. If you truly want things to change then get clarity about your part in the system and take action to change your responses. Changing your side of things will force a change in the dance between you and your partner. Start here first.
Challenge: For the next week get quiet, watch and listen. Pay attention to what you see in yourself and what you’re hearing from others. Listen and watch for common themes and/or patterns in particular. Once you have clarity choose one small thing you will work on.