Have you ever felt like you and your spouse have the same arguments over and over? Or maybe you argue in the same way, but the topic of conflict changes. Either way, it can be extremely frustrating to keep doing the same thing over and over that doesn't seem to be working! Human behavior tends to be repetitive. That means that we have a tendency to repeat the same patterns of relating to others unless there is a conscious, decided effort to create change. The good news is that new patterns can be created if a couple is willing to put in some work to get there. Here are some tips to help create change in your relationship.
- Get to know yourself. Our tendency in conflict is to focus on our partner and what he/she is doing wrong, which is understandable because we are hurting. Unfortunately, if we stay in that mental space, it keeps us stuck. Instead, focus on yourself. How do you show you are angry or hurt? How do you respond when your spouse vocalizes their own thoughts and feelings? What would you like to see change in your own behavior?
- Own your own stuff. Once you see your role in the relationship pattern, take responsibility for it. This may entail explaining your new insights to your partner and telling them about the changes you would like to make. It may also mean asking for forgiveness for any hurt that you may have created.
- Work together to make new patterns. Help each other to identify certain situations or phrases that may trigger each other to fall back into old ways. Give each other the space to "take breaks" from a conflict to calm down and refocus.
In a perfect world, these 3 tips would save the day and immediately create a whole new climate in your relationship. Unfortunately, we are not perfect people and this is not a perfect world. For some, only one member of the couple is willing to make change. This can be sad, frustrating, and create feelings of hopelessness. But, there is hope, small and steady changes can make a powerful difference. Changing your expectations and perspective can also be freeing. For others, it may seem you take 2 steps forward into new patterns, and then 3 steps back. Changing lifelong patterns is challenging. It will take significant effort and grace to keep on track. I assure you, the end result of having a more safe, functional marriage is truly worth the work.