How To Change Yourself and Reinvest In Your Current Relationship - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 8, 2017

How To Change Yourself and Reinvest In Your Current Relationship

When couples, married or not, are together for a long time, the freshness, excitement and romance fade into a familiarity.

At first, it’s a comfortable familiarity of knowing the other person. After time, though, it can feel stale.  Instead of noting his smiles, her cute antics — as you did at the beginning — you now see blotches of irritation.

“When it’s an overcast day, it encourages my overcast thoughts, especially about Burton,” muses Margaret.

“When things are slow at work or I have any free time, I think about all the ways he annoys me.  I get to wondering if maybe I should leave.”

Thomas expresses the same hesitation using a different weather reference.  “You’d think on days as gloriously sunny as today, I’d have gloriously sunny thoughts about my life.

Well, I do about work, the kids, even my car; I always have great thoughts about golf. But when I think about Tonika, my thoughts are far from sunny.

We’ve been together for so long, there’s no spark in our lives. It’s especially on sunny days I think how good I could feel if I were with someone else.”

Do you have similar grumbles, on overcast or sunny days?

Do you brood:  I deserve more; I’m not getting any younger; my life is passing me by; it’s time to think about change?

If so, remember that leaving and starting over is only one type of change.  Before taking such a dramatic step, take a close look at yourself.

Have you put too many expectations on your partner to fill your needs?  Do you have your own interests or do you rely on your partner to be your social director?

Do you spend time with your own friends?  Do you do things with your free time that is satisfying?  Is there something besides your work and children that gives your life meaning?

Sometimes, when people’s personal lives have become dull they blame their spouses or partners.  Is the boredom you feel really your spouse’s fault, or have you dropped the responsibility for your own life?

Do you blame your spouse for not doing something different?  Do you need your spouse to make some changes in order for your life to improve?

If you really want change, think instead what you can do differently – other than leave.  It only takes one person doing something different in a relationship to ensure a different outcome; one change starts a series of changes.

I tell Margaret, “Pick one thing about Burton that bothers you.  To be successful with this, don’t start with your biggest gripe.”

“Well, his sloppiness.”

“Can you narrow that down? What one thing about his sloppiness do you wish were different?

“He leaves newspapers all over the living room; he never throws them away.”

“Fine. Assume that will never change.  Now, what can you live with about his newspapers?”

“If he at least sacked them or threw them away when he was through, but he won’t do that.”

“You’ve gone back to thinking about what he won’t do.  However, that might give you a clue as to what you can do.”

“What do you mean?  Like I want him to stack them so I could do it?  No thanks.  I’ve told him a hundred times to get a box and put it next to his chair so he can just drop the papers in when he’s finished reading.  But nooooo,” she sarcastically drawls it out, “he won’t do it.”

“You have a choice; you can continue complaining, you can leave, or you can use your own suggestion of the box and eliminate the problem.  What’s more important?”

“That would be one way to clear up the mess, but I’m sick of cleaning up after him.”

I sympathize with her, but then add, “You don’t have to do it.  But you do have to realize this is your choice.

You can choose to hold out for the principle, he cleans up after himself, or you can eliminate the stress you feel each time you see him drop the paper on the floor.

I’m not making a value judgment which is a wiser decision; I’m just reminding you this is your choice.”

Margaret reluctantly responds.  “I see what you mean, but it doesn’t seem fair.”

“This isn’t about fairness; it’s about helping you feel less angry about his being sloppy.”

“I think I see what you’re getting at.  If I clean up the room, I’d have to remind myself it’s because I want a neat living room.  Otherwise, I’d be angry at him for having to pick up after him.”

Two weeks later, Margaret sweeps into the office. “You’ll never guess what!  Burton never said a word about the box or my putting his papers in it at night.

But, for the last two nights, he dropped his newspapers in the box himself.  No argument, he’s just doing it.  Wow!  And, the best part; I’ve kept my mouth shut.  I’ve never said one word about any of it.”

By changing herself, Margaret elicited a change from Burton, which lessened her overcast thoughts. They argue less, which opens more options for positive energy between them.

While Margaret’s dissatisfaction in her marriage came from an abundance of built-up complaints, Thomas’s comes from boredom.

Neither he nor Tamika is investing anything positive into their marriage.

After he recounts numerous stories of how bored he is with her, I remind him he has a choice; he can continue to be bored, he can leave, or he can take action.

Sometimes, you can break the tedium just by doing something new together that both of you enjoy.  Or, by doing something fun or silly.  Be creative.

For instance, write a one-sentence note complimenting your partner.

No matter how annoyed you are, you can find something:  his green eyes, the way she plays with your child, his willingness to walk the dog when you’re tired.

Then put it in a shoe, in the underwear drawer.  Tape it to the cereal box.

Thomas chose what he called the simplest option.  He made a conscious decision every day to smile at Tamika and say something nice about her.  I don’t hear from him for three months.

Then I get a phone call thanking me.  “I did what I said and decided to give it one month; if I didn’t feel better about her, I was leaving.  Now, I’m not gong anywhere – without my wife!”

Even the best relationships get boring or testy.  Remember, in all relationships, there will be complaints.

If you start over with someone new, in time you’ll still have to deal with your complaints about that person.  So start now; change yourself and reinvest in your current relationship.

About the author

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis is a marriage and family therapist (39 years) and author of numerous relationship books — on marriage, for singles, about adult siblings.  Her latest is Why Don’t You Understand? A Gender Relationship Dictionary 

For 17 years, she has run Unique Retreats For Women, weekends for self-growth and fun.  She is available for phone consultations.