Most of us hear this statement, “Be the partner you want your partner to be” and we laugh and say, “Of course! Dah!” But it often doesn’t work out that way. Instead, we are often in the habit of matching the experience we have of our partner’s behaviors and attitudes and we act to them the way they act to us.
How often do we feel stung by our partners and automatically we sting back? We get stuck in patterns of reaction and it becomes a vicious cycle that often seems too hard to break. When we get hurt, disappointed or mad, the egos first instinct is to find justification for how the other person is wrong and to be blamed for our bad feelings — and then to punish by either withholding love or pointing out our partner’s faults and issues are. Aren’t we all such experts on how our partners sabotage the relationship?
The statement, “Be the partner you want your partner to be,” is actually a radical paradigm shift. It calls on deep commitment, conviction and mindfulness to shift the focus from how your partner shows up or doesn’t show up to how you show up or not. It is an invitation to you to clarify your own values, principles and guidelines on the kind of a partner you want to be. It then challenges you to live into alignment with what you hold as true — not based on someone else’s ways, but rather, your own internal compass.
Do not go into a trance to believe this is an easy task. We are wired for reactivity. Being the partner you want your partner to be takes great diligence, discipline, pausing, breathing, checking in before acting, regulating your emotions, and being mindful of your non-verbal and verbal expressions.
But the work is worth it. To listen and honor your own guidance versus being reactive is the most empowering and enlightening way to live relationship. When we close our hearts to our partners, we shut down on our own internal experience of love. Said in another way, we cannot experience love if our hearts are shut down. Therefore, reacting negatively to our partners when we don’t like what they do or not do actually hurts ourselves. These old defense mechanisms no longer serve us but they are thieves to what we actually want to be living.
1. Make a list on how you want your partner to show up for you — whether they currently are or aren’t.
2. Go through the list and take honest inventory by exploring if you show up in the ways you listed in the first question.
3. Write down your values and principles for what a good partner is in a beloved relationship. (You may refer to your own marriage or partnership vows).
4. Rate yourself honestly and discover your strengths and where you are falling short according to your own code of guidelines, not what someone else says you should or shouldn’t be doing.
1.When you are in conflict, do you let your partner know that they have a point when you can?
2. Do you give your partner at least three appreciations a day — and not about a good meal or how they look but truly about who they are?
3. Do you take care of and nurture yourself in ways so that you have energy to be present for and with your partner?
4. When you feel hurt by your partner, do you let him or her know in a respectful way that allows for bridging?
5. When things are rough and you are taking space from your partner, do you focus on how bad it is or do you turn your attention away from the argument and self-soothe and nurture so that you can re-group and have more resources to deal with the issue when you come back together?
6. Do you make efforts to do the next loving thing with your partner, not based on how you feel but rather your commitment to live in a loving relationship?
Once you clarify your own values, principles and guidelines for being the partner you want your partner to be, take time each night to reflect on how much you lived accordingly to your vision. You are cultivating new ways and it takes effort and reflection to actually make it yours. It’s okay if you blew it that day. Every exchange is an opportunity to learn. There is always the next moment to do the next loving thing.
Deva Joy Gouss, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Atlanta Georgia for over thirty years. She and her husband give weekend couple retreat workshops called Nurturing Your Love. She also facilitates many other kinds of training’s and workshops including Council of All Beings, Tribe Time, Marrying Yourself, Yoga and Movement Celebration to name a few. She is author of Re-arranged, Never the same: The Nature of Grief and Toolbox of Hope, For When Your Body Doesn’t Feel Good. Visit Deva Joy at www.healingheartcommunicaitons.com