Offering relationship help to couples as I do every day, I'm often asked what are the biggest relationship issues couples encounter.
Folks especially want to know which ones can be fixed, which ones take a lot of work to fix, and which ones are simply impossible to fix.
In my blog, I'm all about giving you insights on many specific issues, skills, strategies and solutions to improve your relationship. So, today, I'm going to share a really simple change you can make that will make a HUGE improvement in your relationship immediately.
(And, no, it is not about your intimate life!)
Recently, I was working with a professional couple, both very successful in the medical and business worlds. The man, a self-made wealthy entrepreneur, complained that he had to tell his wife what to do and keep at her until she did it. Even, then, it was not done well enough, or to his standards. He was frustrated with, as he put it, "living with a child."
The wife, a very competent medical professional to whom people entrusted their lives, felt she could never please her husband. Nothing she did was ever good enough, right, or in time it seemed. So, sometimes she just stopped trying. Other times, she tried harder. But nothing was ever enough so things only got worse.
With my new clients, I often go through a series of slides to help couples understand the foundations of healthy, mutually-supportive relationships. As we went through what I call my "Relational Climate Values," they realized they were missing a few. That was important to recognize and something we definitely had to work on. But the big news for them turned out to be the slide that simply says:
Do Not Parent Your Partner.
When couples start telling each other what to do and how to do it, troubles are lurking. Sure, sometimes you ask for advice or help. Then, you receive it. That's appropriate. That's mutual. That's supportive.
Assuming the other person needs or wants your help, input or rescuing, and acting on that assumption IS the problem.
When you are parenting your partner, all the rebelliousness, the irritation, the "how-dare-you's" of childhood and teen years get triggered in your partner. They rebel. They may say--or, at least, think:
"What's up with you? Do you think I'm addled, stupid, incompetent, or been kept in a box all my life? Leave me alone. I can do this."
Not good for any relationship, work or home!
So, imagine the relief my professional couple felt when the man realized that he was treating his wife as an incompetent kid, and began to respect her for who she is: a competent professional who does things in different ways and on different timelines than he does. She DOES NOT need his vigilance, supervision, or incessant judgment ! She got to where she is in life without him. Does he really think she needs him to take it from here? NO!
Once we got through a few sessions of working out what NOT parenting your partner looks, feels and sounds like, they were laughing, holding hands and renewed in their commitment to each other and their child.
You can learn from their experience. You and your partner are different people with different backgrounds, skills, abilities and ideas.
Collaboration is what is required: making the team strong by helping one another, contributing your strengths. If you think that your partner is weak, thoughtless, dumb or incapable--if you REALLY think that--you need to re-think your relationship entirely.
But, if you can offer the one that you love respect, consideration, interest and the willingness to truly collaborate in life, you will give up trying to parent them. That is the ONE HUGE THING THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP IMMEDIATELY.
If you need help, I'm always here to talk to. You can book time to talk from wherever you are in the world by going to THIS LINK. We'll talk via Zoom video.