Lessons Learned: The Secrets of a Happy Marriage (change yourself first)
Change yourself first:
Tolerance is a good temporary tool to have in our relationship toolbox, but it is not one we want to constantly depend on over the long haul. White knuckled, teeth gritting tolerance eventually saps our energy and we will likely ultimately collapse under its weight. And even as we are simply tolerating another person or a part of their behavior, the relationship will not really grow or prosper. Settling just for tolerance can lead to the booby prize depicted in this picture and caption of “I’m right and you’re wrong, but I’ll try to put up with you.”
It has been said that a flaw in many marriages is the so-called “good” partner who is really only tolerant, who only endures. Polite neutrality softens no heart, invites no mighty change. A dull and lifeless commitment wonders, “How long must I wait for this person to change?” An active loyal commitment asks, “What can I do to touch the heart of my companion?”
Asking myself such a loving question will lead to seeing things from a new perspective. I often find as I seek a better understanding of others and their behaviors that it is me that is out of alignment rather than the other person. I can then take accountability for my own feelings and build a better relationship through my unilateral changes and actions.
But sometimes our partners are, indeed, out of alignment. What then? The long-term answers are to learn how to influence our loved ones appropriately without controlling; and to develop charity in our relationship that leads to the ability to love and delight in our partners just the way they are. Those discussions will be left for our Couples Retreats.For now we can focus simply on changing the ONLY thing that is within our power to change: Ourselves.
This is a powerfully liberating principle. As we end the ceaseless examination and judgment of others; as we realize that our attempts to control or force change in others is doomed to failure and will simply erode the trust of the relationship, we are freed up to put down the magnifying glass and instead pick up the mirror.
The truth is that relationships are reflective and we will find that if we want our partner to treat us with greater respect and tenderness, we get to treat them in that fashion. If we want our loved ones to be more enthusiastic about the relationship, we get to exhibit our own heartfelt enthusiasm. In almost every case we will find that our attitudes and actions will be reflected back to us by our relationships (whether negative or positive).
When I made the decision many years ago to cease in my attempts to manipulate, control, and change others it was as if chains had been unlocked and lifted from me. Focusing on my own self-improvement and then bringing that better self into my marriage every day has been the key to building a great relationship with Margo. Margo then reflects back to me (while adding her own light and service) what I offer to her and it creates an ever ascending and joyful spiral as opposed to the death spiral experienced by many relationships where the partners are simply pridefully waiting for the other to change.
Free yourself from such misery and direct your time and energy to where it can actually do some good. Get off the “Spouse Improvement Plan” and focus on the “Self Improvement Commitment.”
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