This is round two in my “Best Relationship Advice” series. If you haven’t checked out my first post, which was focused on the best relationship advice that offered you quick wins, you can finish up here and then mosey on over to that one.
Today, I’m going to teach you five philosophies or mindsets. These are the tried-and-true ways of thinking that have helped my clients move from disconnected, resentful and frustrated with their partner to emotionally close, at ease and happy with their main person.
Philosophy #1: Focus on Being of Service
So, I was talking to a client the other day and she was complaining about her husband leaving his hair in the sink again after he shaved.
“He does this all the time and it makes me crazy!” she said. “He rinses out most of it but there’s always some he leaves behind and, no matter how much I ask, he just never really pays enough attention.”
This is when I said something revolutionary to her: “Why don’t you just do it for him?”
Seeing the annoyed and shocked look on her face, I followed up with: “This is clearly something he struggles with for whatever reason. What if you just decided that you’d rinse the sink as a service to him? As a way of showing you love and support him?”
Think about it: this is such a small thing. Just give the sink an extra rinse once a day (or however often he shaves) and do it with a sense of love, instead of annoyance. Do it with the inner thinking of: “I love my man, and this is a small thing I can do to support him and me. It’s really nothing that takes literally seconds and will add to the well-being of our relationship.”
So many things we get upset about can be avoided with this simple philosophy. It’s a change in focus. It’s leaving the “but it’s not fair” attitude behind and moving toward being of service.
Generally, there’s a “tone” in relationships around fairness and what’s “right.”
This focus creates frustration, high expectations, anger and, most damaging, controlling behavior. Yes, there are responsibilities and tasks that need to happen in a relationship, but I want you to stop and take a minute and think about what’s most important in your world.
If you really think about it, your relationship with your partner is the most important one you have. I can tell you that, if it were to go away, you’d feel that pain very acutely and your life would likely turn upside down. So, why the struggle?
Think about how much you love your person. Think about how good it can feel to do something because it’s helping and supporting them. This is the shift in thinking from “I’m not his maid” or “She’s taking advantage of me,” to feeling like their teammate and biggest support.
Instead of focusing on what’s fair or right, I want you to focus on patience and kindness. I want you to set an intention of loving service. From this mindset, you’ll be more self-aware, relaxed and thoughtful. Your relationship will transform.
When you’re in a state of what’s “fair” you’re in a controlling mind frame. When the people around you feel like you’re trying to control them, they act passive aggressively (or just plain aggressively), get defensive, ignore you, or any number of other behaviors you don’t like. If you think about it, when someone is trying to control you, you probably act just like they do.
Stop focusing on being right and start focusing on being supportive. There’s no 50/50 – there’s just doing more of what you’re good at and what’s more important to you.
Do what you’re good at graciously and with a generous spirit.
Philosophy #2: Feelings Aren’t Facts
Feelings aren’t some out-of-control mystery. Just because you feel something, doesn’t mean it’s true. If you feel a certain way about your partner, it’s because you’re thinking certain thoughts about your partner. You feel the way you think.
If you want to feel differently about your partner, you need to choose a better-feeling thought. And you need to do it over and over again. “We’re never going to change” needs to become “we’ve made changes before and we can make them again.”
The other thing with feelings is that you need to watch the momentum. You don’t want to think crappy thoughts about your partner while you’re apart all day and then try to think good thoughts when you see them again at 6:00pm.
If you had a car at the top of a big hill and it started to roll, would you want to stop it at the bottom, or as close to the top as possible? At the top, of course, before it gains momentum. It’s the same with any negative thoughts you’re having about your relationship. You need to stop the momentum as soon as it starts if you want to make changes and start feeling better about your partner.
Philosophy #3: Your Partner Shouldn’t Make You Happy
You heard me: Your partner shouldn’t make you happy. You should make you happy. In fact, you’re the only one who can make you happy. Everything else is just a temporary fix.
It’s so common to say things like “She drives me crazy” or “He made me so mad” because, despite all the stuff we know, we still think it’s possible for other people to “make” us feel things. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” But really this line should be: “No one can make you feel without your consent.” In other words, other people do what they do, but our reactions are our own responsibility. It’s not their “fault” that we’re angry, sad, lonely or impatient.
Because we tend towards this way of thinking, the next logical step is to think that our partner could (or should) make us happy. You never want to look at something outside of yourself to make you feel happy. This includes things like food, drugs and alcohol, buying new things, social media or video games; and it certainly includes your partner. Other than a brief, momentary gain, none of these things do the trick. Expecting others (especially your partner) to be the source of your happiness is one of the most common ways we look outside of ourselves to “fix” or elevate our mood.
You do this even though you know, in your heart of hearts, that it’s wrong. You know you shouldn’t look to your partner, or anyone else for that matter, to make you happy but it’s so hard not to fall into the trap. You also know that your partner’s bad mood shouldn’t affect you, yet it so often does.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Your partner comes home and is in a bad mood and suddenly your own mood is completely changed. You start to focus on how they’re feeling and, before you know it, it’s completely affected how you’re feeling.
It’s time to take 100% responsibility in your life and relationship and figure out what you need to feel satisfied, confident, peaceful and content in your life. It’s an inside job, so stop giving it to people outside the company.
Philosophy #4: Focus on Unconditional Acceptance vs Unconditional Love
When I meet with individuals or couples, it’s generally clear that there’s love. In fact, I would say they often unconditionally love one another. What’s getting in the way of feeling emotionally close and connected is that they don’t unconditionally accept one another.
We can know we’re unconditionally loved all day long but, if we don’t feel accepted, we don’t feel loved. You know this is true because you’ve experienced it yourself.
There were times during your growing up years (and maybe even now) when you knew deep down that your parents loved you, but you were feeling misunderstood and alone. You knew the love was there on an intellectual level, but you weren’t feeling it on a heart level so this left you with bad or negative feelings.
I don’t want you to love your partner despite certain things. I want you to love them because of those particular things. You’ve got to accept the whole package, not just the parts you deem OK.
Here’s a newsflash: If you’re feeling resentful, angry, irritated or frustrated you’re not accepting something about your partner.
Not accepting certain behaviors is different than accepting your partner! If you don’t like the fact that your partner is someone who likes to process longer than you do, that’s a problem. The fact that your partner takes longer than you to process is something I do need you to embrace because it’s about honoring the kind of person your partner is.
However, if your partner takes so long to process that they avoid making decisions with you altogether, that’s a behavior you don’t need to accept. This is where it gets sticky. If your partner is doing something you don’t like or disagree with, how do you remain accepting?
You remain accepting of the person, not the behavior.
You don’t judge or criticize but ask questions to get to the “why” of your partner’s actions or words. You seek to understand.
When partners feel consistently judged or not accepted, they stop sharing and taking risks in the relationship. They start to hide things and conceal. It starts to become me versus you. This is when competition really starts to breed.
Stop trying to change your partner. You can change the circumstances of your relationship without changing who they are. Criticizing, picking, sarcasm and judgment are all part of tolerating something and not embracing it
Philosophy #5: Work on Yourself and Stop Comparing
From now on, whenever you start focusing on your partner and what they’re not doing or comparing it to what you’re doing, immediately stop and focus on what you’re doing only.
Focusing on your partner is your canary in a coal mine. It’s your wakeup call to pay attention to yourself; To think of what you’re thinking and doing, because that’s the only thing you can control!! I know, it sucks to hear that again and again from me, but trying to control others, especially your partner, is a path to misery.
Do you know what you can control? Your reactions to your partner. Your thoughts about your partner. Your feelings about your partner. Yes, all of these are things you can control, so that’s the only place your focus needs to be.
Here’s what I want you to do whenever you notice yourself focusing on your partner.
Stop and ask yourself the following questions:
- “What am I feeling right now?”
- “What thought or belief am I having right now that’s making me feel this way?”
- “What else could be true? What’s a better-feeling thought I could have right now?”
- How do I want to feel in my relationship?
- “What’s one thing I could do or think to create that feeling in my relationship?”
Then do that one thing!