“If Only You Would...”
Updated: Jul 4
In case you missed my last post:
In the last few weeks, I've introduced Terry Real’s Five Losing Strategies for getting what you want in your relationship. A concept that Real details in his bestselling book, The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work. Each week I explore one of these “Losing Strategies” and what so often drives us to employ them despite their destructive consequences. If you missed my previous posts or would like a quick primer, check out my free, downloadable infographic on the losing strategies, as well as one that introduces their more savvy counterparts, The Five Winning Strategies for Getting What You Want in Your Relationship.
At first blush, the idea of Losing Strategy number two, “Controlling Your Partner,” may bring to mind images of Lifetime Movie boyfriends gone bad. But the Losing Strategy of “Controlling Your Partner” doesn’t have to look anything like Mother May I Sleep with Danger in order to be destructive to your relationship.
Any time that you do or say something in an attempt to get your partner to do or to be something different from what they are doing now you’re exercising the losing strategy of control. The insidious thing about the most common and subtle forms of control is that you may feel completely self-righteous in employing it. “Getting” your partner to do something “for their own good” or to start treating you like they “used to” can feel like a righteous, or even, benevolent act. And when this perspective is paired with the pain of “the crunch” it can feel like the best way to get what we long for from our partner is to get them to change.
The problem with this strategy is that no one likes to be controlled, or, if the control is employed less overtly, manipulated. This is one strategy that can sometimes deceive us into thinking it’s working, at least for a time. We may have a highly conflict avoidant or highly compliant partner who chooses to “go along to get along.” But almost universally over the long term these partners either rebel or become deeply resentful, neither of which is any good for intimacy.
So, does this leave you stuck just accepting things that you don’t like about your partner or your relationship? Sometimes, yes. You will have disappointments, you will have unmet needs, you will have things about your partner that you would ideally like to be different. And you will have to come to terms with these disappointments and whether your relationship is worth the pain of living with them. But as you gain higher levels of relational skills you will also learn new methods to address these issues in a healthy and respectful way. These skills will make you more adept at dealing with these disappointments and also may help your partner to shift their own behavior – if they choose to.
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The relationship you wish for is possible, but sometimes skills and tools aren’t enough to get you there. Most of us have times in our lives when we need help to rebuild the passion and connection in our relationships. If this is where you are - reach out. I can help.