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Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

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Are you happy with your relationship right now? With your communication, your sex life, your shared household/parenting duties, your connection overall?

Chances are, if you are like most people, the answer is probably no. It is normal to have things in your relationship that you wish were different—whether we are talking vastly different (“I want her to stop drinking”) or mildly different (“I wish he wouldn’t always make me the bad guy with the kids.”) And, the good news is that most relationship problems can be fixed, provided that you are willing to do the work involved.

But here’s where the problem lies: We tend to expect change to come from the outside. It’s as if we are waiting for a fairy godmother to fix our problems. Or more accurately put, we are waiting for our PARTNER to start Bibbity Bobbity Booing. For example, once I met a young woman who desperately wanted to save her marriage. She had two young kids and was pregnant with her third, and she knew things were near a breaking point. But when I suggested therapy, she angrily said, “No.” When I inquired “Why?” she told me: “Oh, so I can be the one to do all the work again? I will make the phone call? I will set it all up? I will be the one to make the change? No way. His legs aren’t broken.”

And that was that. And that, indeed, is many couples’ issues in a nutshell. We would rather sacrifice love, peace and our very family unit because darn it, it’s not our turn!

That’s a valid way to feel. It’s absolutely okay to get angry when there is disparity in your relationship, and to voice your disapproval and take steps to rectify that disparity. But most of us get hung up on that first step. We keep voicing it and voicing it and voicing it—and in return, our partner does the same—but clear, simple action steps aren’t made, such as (“Let’s take a parenting class together so we can work better as a team” or “Let’s agree to no work phone calls on Sunday.”) Instead, we tend to resort to tactics like manipulation, silent treatments, and sarcastic remarks, all while internally what we are really thinking is: ‘Please love me. Please accept me. Please say that we are going to be okay.”

So what’s the solution? My prescription is simple: Go to your partner. And say: “I love you. I accept you. We are going to be okay.” Stop waiting for your partner to hand you the things you need. Live your life as though they have already done so. Believe that the gifts have already been given. Believe that your partner’s heart is open to you. Vibrate at the highest possible frequency—gratitude—and see how it changes the way your partner responds to you.

This does not mean that you should stay in a broken relationship or allow yourself to be a doormat. No way. In fact, if you are in a place of deep unconditional love, you would be unable to stay in a broken relationship, because your love for yourself would prevent you from accepting abuse or maltreatment. That’s the secret: Like the woman in my above story, you might think “Why should I do all the work! Why should I put myself out there and make the first move? I wasn’t the only one who was wrong,” but what she didn’t realize was this: She was only punishing herself. She was punishing herself with bitterness, emptiness, and loneliness. The universe was offering the potential to have love, but she couldn’t accept because her hands were balled into fists.

We all want better relationships, but how many of us are willing to change to make that happen? How many of us are willing to be the first to say “I’m sorry”? To be the one who says “I know you are hurting—can I give you a hug”?

Because, at the end of the day, no matter what your partner replies—no matter if your marriage survives or not—making the choice to offer love will never be the wrong choice. You will never lay on your deathbed thinking “Man, I wish I would have held more grudges” or “I never should have forgiven him for buying 2% milk.”

Nothing changes if nothing changes. But, everything can change if you can change.