I have a confession to make. If you visited my mind, you would hear me blaming others for my unhappiness. I am thinking I would be happier if only I could get my kids to do this or my spouse to not do that.
Shocking I know to find out I am human too. I hope you find reassurance in my confession. Even relationship and personal growth gurus occasionally struggle with blaming others and shirking responsibility.
I know I’m not the only one that blames others for their own unhappiness in a relationship. I don’t like to stay in blame, because it prevents me from finding another way to think or relate. Let’s not simply wait for others to change, let’s do our part to live happier, more connected lives and relationships.
Redefine Marriage as a Personal Growth Adventure
When couples come to my office, I hear them attempt to find yet one more way to convince their partner to meet their needs. I know most marriage counselors encourage this kind of discussion, but I find it is just another way to (sometimes unintentionally) avoid taking responsibility for their part in the relationship.
Instead of finding another way to work on your spouse, I’m proposing something unique – working on your self. In other words, working on managing your own emotions, thoughts, and interactions with your spouse. In doing so, we redefine marriage as an adventure where you get an opportunity to define and grow yourself with each interaction with our spouse.
“Marriage is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Dr. Corey Allen, Simple Marriage Manifesto
Adventures can be fun and interesting. On your journey you will encounter challenges and take risks. And if you allow yourself to view marriage from a new perspective, it will push you out of your comfort zone. When you view marriage as a personal growth adventure, it’s easier to take the challenge and enjoy the journey.
Growing Self as Way to Enjoy Marriage More
When you embrace the challenge of growing yourself (instead of your spouse), you will put less pressure on the relationship to keep you calm and happy. With less pressure, it is easier to connect intimately and enjoy each other’s company.
Turn the pressure into motivation to be the best mate you can be – interaction by interaction. On your personal growth adventure, cultivate three things in yourself:
1. Self-Awareness: Identify Your Part in Co-created Problems (Observe your positive and negative interactions with your spouse. What do you think your part is in the co-created distance and/or conflict?)
2. Self-Responsibility: Take Responsibility for Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions (We all have the tendency to either put all the blame on ourselves or the other person. Instead of shifting the blame back and forth, own just your part.)
3. Self-Directed: Become less Regulated by Others’ Reactions (How do you let your spouse’s reactions get under your skin less? Start to see your spouse as separate from you. Instead of fixing or avoiding your spouse, care curiously.)
The adventure of growing your self in never done, but you can learn to enjoy the journey. You will have many opportunities to work on yourself, especially in important relationships. If you fall in love with enjoying the adventure of growing yourself, you will enjoy the adventure of your life.
Maybe you aren’t trying to enjoy your marriage more, but cope with your marriage ending. Read about 3 Important Ways to Cope When Marriage Ends.
Photo credit: “The future is yours” by Nattu