When in a difficult relationship it’s all too easy to “lose yourself.” As couples struggle to find what will “fix” things, they stop remembering to nurture themselves and make sure that they remain healthy as individuals.
You know this has happened when one day you realize that you don’t like yourself, don’t like your partner, don’t like your life and are just plain unhappy.
To those couples I say this - find yourself again and be someone whom you like – find who it is you were when you liked yourself the best, and start being that person again. Act in a way that reinforces your own cherished characteristics and you will, once again, be that person. When you do this, it is likely that you will also strengthen the boundaries between you and your spouse – moving away from any negative co-dependent behaviors you might have had.
This advice has helped many couples begin to navigate difficult relationships and often comes with a wonderful surprise. One note I just received puts it this way. “Daily, I am implementing your advice to ‘be someone whom you like.’ It has been a life-changer. Now, in the absence of my passive-aggressive, shamey outbursts, I have become someone I like…and (my husband) has said he adores the new me, too.”
Finding yourself again, and being the person you like is just a starting place. Being a person you love (and are proud of) can calm your relationship significantly, but won’t solve all of your problems. But it will likely improve your negotiations. If, like the woman above, you like yourself better and your partner likes you better, then you start your negotiations for the remaining problems from a significantly better point. Would you rather talk to someone who is “passive-aggressive and shamey” or someone whom you adore? With whom will you try harder to find common ground? Who will make you feel more defensive?
Too many adults make the assumption that they can direct, nag, or “educate” a partner into doing things differently. A better strategy, I think, is to ‘be the person you love.’ Chances are good that this person you love is also someone your partner treasures. And that’s the best possible place from which you can start to solve your problems.