Today I'm going to talk about five steps to changing for your partner. Changing is a very sensitive topic. When I work with couples in my practice, some couples embrace change and a lot of couples resist it. What does it mean to change for your partner? Is it OK to do so?
Step one is you have to buy into the why. Why is it important to change for your partner? What does that communicate to them? What does it say to them when you refuse to change? When you refuse to change in response to your partner's request, especially involving their top needs, it turns marriage into a prison for them. When you ignore their request, they feel hopeless because they have to live with their top needs being unfulfilled. So instead, if your partner makes a request involving their top needs, the ideal reaction is to lean in and learn how to improve and get better for them. So the top reason to be open to changing for your partner is it instills hope. Hope that the marriage can get better and that some of their top needs will start getting met. In addition, when you're willing to change for them, it will encourage them to do the same for you.
Number two is the concept of being malleable. A lot of times we get so firm on who we are and how we aren't going to change for anyone. While it's great to know what you believe in and who you are as a person, it's not great to be resistant to change in marriage. If you're resistant to change, there is no room for compromising or meeting in the middle. Instead, you want to cultivate a malleable spirit where you are willing to change parts of who you are to honor your partner's needs. The ideal heart is a malleable one that says "I'm willing to learn, willing to adjust my attitude, and willing to adjust my behavior because I want to become a better partner for you." That's being malleable!
You need to work through any automatic negative thoughts that pop up on changing for your partner. A lot of people get stuck thinking if they change for their partner, they're going to lose their identity. "If I do this for you, I'm going to lose me." That's false. Making changes for your partner doesn't mean you're going to lose yourself. Many fear if they're open to changing, everything will become 100% their partner's way and they'll lose themselves in the process. The goal is not to make everything 100% your partner's way but to meet them in the middle to honor their needs. When you make a change to honor your partner, that's not losing yourself, that's enhancing yourself. That's becoming a better version of you because you're learning how to become a better partner. So if you have those negative automatic thoughts you need to counter them with truth. For example, "I'm scared I'm going to lose my identity if I change for my partner;
however, bending towards my partner's preferences will help our marriage create a new identity and it doesn't mean I'll lose my own."
Step four is the concept of one eye in, one eye out. When people enter marriage they often lean either to two eyes in or two eyes out. Two eyes in refers to somebody who's self-absorbed and all they care about is themselves. They're very self-centered. The other extreme is two eyes out where someone is obsessed with only meeting the needs of their partner and they lose themselves in the process. The ideal is to work towards one eye in, one eye out where you're tracking both what you need and what would make you feel good while simultaneously being mindful of what would feel best for your partner. That's one eye in, one eye out.
Now it's time to explore what a middle ground would like with your spouse on the request they are making. What would it look like to meet in the middle, to find a win-win so that you both feel honored? You don't want to go all the way to their side and lose yourself, but also don't stay all the way on your side and refuse to change. Be malleable. If you both are willing to take some steps to meet in the middle you'll find a win-win.
To conclude, the five steps to changing for your partner is buying into the benefits, being malleable, capturing and countering any negative thoughts, striving towards one eye in one eye out, and negotiating a middle ground.
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Leave a comment below on which of the steps sound most helpful and why.