I wrote this article a few years back but with the new year and my office filling with couples struggling with this issue, I thought I would resend it. Couples often get stuck in the same rut and the more they keep struggling to connect, the harder it is for them to change the story they are telling themselves about their partner and their relationship. I think it is important that we start working towards being on the same team in our relationships and seeing all that is there instead of all that is missing. Keep reading below to start this year off by changing how you engage in your relationship.
As a couples counsellor here in Vancouver, I see couples in all different places in their relationship journey. Some come in looking for premarital counseling, others because they have been losing their connection and still others because their relationship is in pieces and they are trying to figure out if it can be repaired and/or if that is even what they want.
In all these circumstances I end up hearing each individual’s story. It is through this story that the relationship problems often become evident. For example, if you genuinely believe that you are helpless in making your relationship healthy and strong then you will look for ways for that to be true. If you feel alone and like your partner doesn’t care, you will focus on the things your partner says or does that confirms that belief and minimize or overlook the stuff he/she does that lets you know you are cared for and loved.
Changing our story is really challenging. Usually the lens we see things through is quite engrained and we are so focused on our own perspective that seeing anything beyond that feels impossible. It becomes really destructive when we are able to see beyond our own perspective but choose to minimize or downplay the parts that conflict with our original belief.
Research shows that if we invest in seeing the positive pieces our partner brings to the relationship then our relationship satisfaction will increase. It is similar to the study that shows that individuals who focus on what they can give vs what they can get tend to be more successful long term. Both of these come down to the stories we tell ourselves and the way we are choosing to view our world and the people in it.
So take a moment and ask yourself what story you are telling yourself about your relationship. How are you perceiving your partner? What are you choosing to focus on? Is it moving you towards your ideal relationship or away from it? In what ways do you feel you can change your lens just slightly so that your story has a brighter/happier ending then the one you are currently painting.