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A Pitfall of Improving Your Relationship

You are motivated to have the healthiest relationship you can with your partner. Your commitment to your own transformation and growth contributes to a strong foundation for your relationship.  However, sometimes this goes astray and your personal work gets mixed up with your partner's personal work.

In your enthusiasm you might unconsciously assign yourself as your partner's life coach, therapist, or self-improvement director.  You find yourself giving advice about how he or she could do better self-care.  You hear yourself frequently giving feedback about how he or she could have handled some situation in a more conscious way.

If this is happening, you might hear your partner saying one or more of the following:

"I'm never enough for you."

"I can't be myself with you."

"You don't accept me."

"You're always judging me."

"You don't think I know how to take care of myself."

"You don't trust me."

"You're always raising the bar in our relationship and not telling me you've set some new standard."

"I have to do everything your way."

"I'm not good enough for you."

"You're more evolved than I am."

Anxiety is often behind your attempts to coach or counsel your partner.  Anxiety tends to lead to a frantic mind that looks externally for relief.  Anxiety often gives rise to thoughts like "if only my partner would... then things would be better."

When you find yourself thinking about how your partner should have done this or that or could be doing more self-improvement, take a breath and notice if you feel anxiety.  Sometimes it's subtle and hanging in the background.  Sometimes it's so constant you have stopped noticing it. 

Take a deep breath and just let yourself notice.  Unnoticed anxiety continuously gives you the message that something is wrong and you should do something different.  When you stop and just observe anxiety you can consciously notice if there really is anything wrong or anything you need to do differently.

If there really is something you want to tend to, start with yourself.  As you go over a situation in your mind or in your journal start by asking what you would have liked to do differently had you been more aware at the time.  Formulate a do-able request for yourself regarding the needs in the situation. 

Then ask yourself if more needs could be met by checking in with your partner's experience of the situation and sharing your own.  From a vulnerable and shared connection with your partner you may have some specific request of him or her to better meet your needs.  This is very different from offering advice or feedback.  You are taking responsibility for yourself and your needs rather than directing your partner's growth.

This week each time you have the impulse to give advice or feedback to your partner challenge yourself to instead share what you learned and want to do differently regarding that situation. If you are worried about your partner's well-being, express your caring rather than giving advice or directives.

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Trapped in Reactive Thinking

1 Response

  1. Aug 18, 2010

    I've struggled with this one a lot and recently had a breakthrough with it. There was a great deal of underlying anxiety like you mention. For me there was this basic fear thought of "If my partner is not doing the kind of work that I'm doing, is that really OK?". It was this fear that if we weren't on the same path, going in the same direction, then we would lose each other somehow. I was continually torn between "her direction" and "my direction". Realizing that *we can both be ourselves and nothing bad will happen* has freed up so much space and ease in me about this.

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