A relationship is supposed to be about two people, working together. But if you’ve ever felt like a lonely player, you’re not alone.
Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend has tips for dealing with a one-sided marriage.
Remember It Only Takes One to Change a Game
Many of the couples I work with as a relationship coach complain that they live in a one-sided relationship. A one-sided relationship is where one person does not seem to be pulling their weight or even care about the health and well being of the relationship. These relationships tend to be frustrating to the people involved and in the end, spiraling to the ground in with both partners exhausted. The one-sided relationship is a reality that can be improved and changed. Here are five steps to use to improve any of your one-sided relationships.
1. Frame the Problem as Relationally Challenged Not Personal Rejection
Many times when we are in a one-sided relationship we tend to think that the detached partner is disconnected simply because they are not interested in us. We take their distancing behaviors personally assuming that if we were a better partner, more interesting, more exciting or better looking then they would obviously act more positive toward us. By doing this, we tend to personalize and take offense to our partner’s apparent lack of action and interest in the relationship, which in my experience is a pretty unhealthy view of the problem.
The truth is, many people who aren’t actively engaged in a relationships aren’t intentionally rejecting their partner but are simply relationally challenged. They don’t see the importance of the relationship, or understand the need to have to work hard to make the marriage work. Many have never had strong role models of healthy relationships in their life and don’t quite understand the real costs of losing a marriage and a family.
In my experience there are more people in the world who are relationally challenged than people who are actually tired of their partner and ready to move on. Properly reframing your partner’s inactivity as a sign of being relationally challenged versus a personal rejection can be the first step toward a healthier and happier life together.
2. Don’t Follow the Lead of the Most Relationally Challenged Partner
Based on the first rule of reframing your partner as relationally challenged and not personally rejecting, you can more easily determine who should be the leader. The simple rule for someone who is dealing with a partner who is relationally challenged is not to themselves become ineffective in relationships. Instead of getting mad when your partner seems mad, or ignoring your partner when they ignore you, you just simply lead the relationship by the rules of healthy relating. The problem with letting the relationally challenged person lead the relationship is that in the end, someone who has no clue is in charge.
Instead, we should learn to lead our relationships based on our deepest values and beliefs regardless of how our partner acts or behaves. Just as you wouldn’t expect your young toddler to lead the family back to the car after a shopping trip at the mall, you shouldn’t expect the person that is most relationally challenged to take the lead on improving conditions in your marriage. If you know you have higher needs and abilities relationally than your partner, than it is time to start leading your partner using all of your relational talents and skills.
3. Clearly Communicate the Changes, Timeline, and Results You Need
At some point if you’re dealing with someone who is relationally challenged, you must make your expectations clear. Don’t just simply hope that your partner will understand what it is you need in the relationship because if they truly are challenged, usually their needs will not be your needs. Instead, sit down with your partner and have a very clear and concise conversation. Discuss where you are struggling and what it would look like if it was going better.
Don’t place all of the blame on your partner but instead take balanced ownership of where you need to pick up your game and where they can pick up theirs. Also discuss specific timelines to work on the behaviors you want to improve and together discuss a plan for how you will learn the new behaviors. This may involve experts and classes where needed and setting some guidelines for how you will measure your progress and success. Be specific in you needs and discuss what positive changes would look like and how you would know that you’re making the progress you need to make. Also set up accountability meetings when you will come back together to discuss the progress that is or isn’t being made. You can also discuss consequences if real change is not obtained like outside interventions from marriage experts or counselors, advice from spiritual leaders, parents or possible separation.
4. Demand Win-Win or “No Deal” Option!
All healthy long term relationships demand mutual benefit. If you want a partner to be with you forever, they must be benefitting mutually; your results must look like a win-win. The fastest way to ensure that a relationship will end is to go for win-lose, where you always win and they always lose. One way to increase the likelihood that you’ll get win-win with your spouse is that you must also have the “No Deal” option on the table as well. The win-win or “No Deal” option is simply the mutual agreement that we are going to work together to create a win-win or we will both be willing to walk away from the deal instead of expecting the other person to take the loss.
Having a partner that understands that the deal must be mutually beneficial or it’s not going to work is critical. This concept however gets even more complicated in long-term relationships where the “No Deal” would also affect the kids and family status as well. When the family is involved, many partners are okay to be on the losing side of a marriage relationship, just to keep the family together. This choice is noble and can work for a while, usually as long as the children are still around. The truth however, is that sooner or later you’re going to have to take a stand and be willing to say “No Deal.” By not using the “No Deal” option, you will be left with one of following three scenarios; A win-lose (where they win and I lose), a lose-win (where they lose and I win) or lose-lose (where we both lose).
I’ve found that the sooner you’re willing to push the win-win or “No Deal” position, the sooner you’ll start to see the relationship turn around. By taking the win-win or “No Deal” approach you are saying that you are mature and empowered enough to not be in a relationship where one partner is constantly going to lose. It shows that you’d rather change than to force either you or your partner to constantly lose. The healthiest approach is that both parties maintain enough character to continuously work for the win-win solution together.
5. Get the Help and Support You Need To Keep Going
People in one-sided relationships tend to burn out easily. They get tired of going it alone and feeling like they’re pushing sand up the side of a mountain. One of the most important things to turning around a one-sided relationship is to maintain the positive energy and drive to keep making the changes that need to be made. To stay energized, keep in close touch with friends and family. Find a close confidant that you can share your journey with. Find someone that is pro-marriage and not quick to tell you to quit the relationship. Talk to experts in the field, take classes and read books from those who know how to work with one-sided marriages. Also, make sure that you are strengthening your own abilities to communicate and relate in your marriage. The stronger you personally get at your relationship, the better your chances of your relationship getting stronger. Right now you are the motivational factor in the equation, if you lose your motivation, you’re relationship will inevitably pay for it.
For more couple advice, attend:
Date Night with Matt Townsend
“The 7 Basic Needs”
Friday, July 29, 2011
$50 per couple (Dinner included)