Whenever couples come to therapy, it is inevitable that both partners will have requests for their partner to change. When conflict happens, couples want to see changes in the relationship and in each other. But, when you are requesting changes from your partner, have you considered that you might be setting your partner up for failure? Check out these questions to see if you are setting your partner up for failure so that you can take action to make the changes that both you and your partner want.
1. Do You Question Whether Your Partner Is Being Genuine?
This one comes up A TON! When you ask your partner to make a change, or to fill some need that you have, do you then question whether they are being genuine when they actually do the action? Oftentimes, women (sometimes men too) will state a need that they have, but then once their partner tries to fill this need, they question whether their partner is being genuine in the act. If your partner is taking it upon themselves to engage in an action/change that you requested, then don’t question whether they are being genuine.
In order for long-term changes in the relationship to happen, both you and your partner have to be open to expressing the needs that you have, but also accepting when your partner tries to make the changes you have requested. Otherwise, if they are “in trouble” for not doing the action, but also “in trouble” for when they try to do the action, they are not going to want to keep trying. So, remind yourself that if your partner is making changes that you requested, they are doing it out of love and care for you. They don’t have to take actions when you request it, but when they do, appreciate it.
2. Are You Only Looking For Things to Fix?
When couples come into therapy, couples tend to focus on the things that they want to “fix” in the relationship or in their partner. Although it is important to find the things that are not working well for your relationship, it is also important to recognize when your partner is making efforts or showing some strength to support you and your relationship together. If your partner feels that they are constantly being critiqued, then it is natural for them to question whether they can ever do anything good enough. Take the time to recognize when your partner is making efforts (even if it’s not 100%) and notice when they are doing something that resonates well for you. Overtime, this will help shift the focus of your relationship to be more positive.
3. What Are You Contributing to Change?
No one likes to feel that they are the sole responsibility for conflict. And in every relationship, it takes two people to start an argument. Do you own up to your part in the conflict? Or, does your partner only hear that there is something wrong with them? In any situation, you have contributed to the conflict that happened in your relationship. Let your partner know that you have made mistakes too, identify what parts you are going to work towards, and actually put forth effort! If your partner feels that the two of you are in this together, it helps create lasting motivation to work towards change. Conversely, if your partner does not hear you being accountable for your part in the conflict, they are not likely to keep trying. No one wants to work towards change alone.
So, what did you discover? Are you setting your partner up for failure? If you are, there is a way to set up both you and your partner for success instead. Remember: when your partner acts on your requests, they are doing it out of love and care; your partner wants to hear the things that they are doing right, not just the things that you are looking to fix in them; and, once you take accountability for your part in the conflict and work towards change, your partner will see that the two of you are in this together.
Amanda Cummins is an associate therapist with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She focuses on working with couples in distress as well as families and children in transitions. As a Denver Native, Amanda enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her family.