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  • Writer's picturedrmollybarrow

How to Make Change in Your Relationship

Updated: Oct 5, 2019

Have you had it? Are you tired of the same routine that is increasingly stressful and less fun? Have you talked about making a change but another month passes and nothing changed at all? Here is how you can make some big changes that will put back the time, fun and intimacy in your strained relationship. These ten tips on Change-Talk will help transform your warring partner into a willing and involved team player.

The I Statement. If you start out with "You" we have already lost! Say, "I want..." You must decide what is most important to you, right now. Focus on only one subject. The quickest way to become ineffective is to dilute your message. If you ask for multiple things all at once, you are definitely not going to get them, and then you start a pattern of failure. Your partner stops paying attention. Spreading your demands all over the map renders you powerless and ineffective. The important thing is that you establish a pattern of getting what you want and especially getting what you need. Say, "I want a change in the quality of our relationship." Who can argue with that!

2. Make an Appointment.

Next, agree on a quiet time early in the day when you and your partner are able to talk uninterrupted for at least an hour. This is a time to discuss and listen, maybe with a third party, like a counselor, trusted friend or family member. The third person, acting as a mediator, can help keep it more of a discussion and less of a fight.

3. It's Your Fault. As you each discuss the problem, somebody's feelings may get hurt. The more frightened the dog, the more likely it will bite you, so be prepared to get nipped. Exploring the un-chartered waters of your relationship is scary and threatening. Cut your partner some slack and be compassionate, even while he or she is acting ridiculous.

4. It's All My Fault. Avoid letting one person take on all the blame for a current situation or the discussion will mire down in self-pity and guilt-inducing wailing. If you are willing to split the blame then you can move forward and the discussion will progress.

5. Anger and Tears.

Loud "barking" may occur. As you or your partner get close to revealing dark, hidden, secret fears and insecurities, you may defensively lose your temper. This is when that third party can divert and calm things down. Fear changes to anger very quickly. Try to stay focused on talking to your frightened Beloved's inner child and just ignore the obnoxious, angry, foot-stomping façade that is hurling accusations.

6. Stroke and be patient.

As you take turns freaking out, also take turns steadying each other. Give reassurances that you believe in them, love them, respect them and want them so that they can get control of their runaway emotions. Only then can you get back to talking about the subject that you want to discuss. This is where most couples give up and never allow their partner to work through their terrifying anxiety about making a change. Their idea of change may include a fear that the relationship might get worse, rather than better. This stubbornness may be misdirected love for you, and although annoying, is also sweet. Remember that it takes great courage to make changes in what you care about the most.

7. Let it rest. After the hour of emotional bombing of each other, reason and logic now have an opportunity to surface. Watch for that brief moment when your partner sees it from your side. When that happens, both of you take a break and let the ideas cook and rise like yeast bread. If you touch it too soon it will collapse! Agree to a second time to talk more and leave it alone, or you will have to start from scratch all over again.

8. No cheating. Couples can approach huge conflict and change by allowing Change-Talk to run its bumpy course without trying to skip or shorten the steps. Once the ideas have been fully stated, listened to, emotionally reacted to and then pondered on alone and undisturbed, a satisfying resolution is just around the bend.

9. Know your Matchline Gap. The key is to understand that you and your partner have different capacities to give and receive in the relationship called the Matchline Gap. When the Gap is large, people must work harder to keep a relationship balanced. If you are more capable in the relationship, then the responsibility for establishing and maintaining that balance is mostly up to you. Everyone deserves love and happiness.

10. List your relationships' priorities. There are your needs and your partner's needs. Your relationship, a third and separate entity, has needs too! Both of you must nurture your relationship. Even a great relationship will die if ignored - just like a like a lovely flower. Ask yourself if you are starving your relationship of time, energy, resources and laughter. Give your partner a chance to catch up to wherever you are with Change-Talk and then commit to goals and restructuring that will allow you, your partner and your relationship to thrive.

  • Dr. Molly Barrow earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor and educator in private practice. She is the author of the Malia & Teacup children's books, Matchlines for Singles; and Step Parenting Essentials. Dr. Barrow is a relationship expert helping individuals, couples, families, and co-workers improve their relationships and communication skills. Her commentary and advice column, quotes, radio show, interviews, films, and articles are enjoyed worldwide in O Magazine, Psychology Today,, Parenting, Morning Blend,, Progressive Radio Network, New York Times, My Suicide film, KTLA documentary, PBS News, Newsday, and Women’s Health.

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