Most of us were raised to think that relationships just happen and that somehow they just take care of themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth! Then again, some of us have heard that good relationships take work. This is a bit more accurate but that begs the question – what should we work on? The default is usually to focus on our partner – what he or she should change. Or we might focus on the two of us – what we both need to change. But rarely (unless they have worked with me!) do people think to focus on themselves.
It seems counter-intuitive to think that we can change our relationships by focusing on our own growth because we are so accustomed to thinking that it takes two to change a relationship. But consider the analogy of a pair of ballroom dancers. If they start out doing a waltz and then one partner decides to change to a tango – the other partner must change to stay in the dance. Did the person who decided to change the dance “force” the other to change? No. He or she could always get off the dance floor. Did the person who decided to change influence their partner? Absolutely.
I think that relationships are the main vehicle by which any of us makes change. At times they can be an emotional workout studio. The fact is that change is difficult, uncomfortable, at time painful, but necessary if we are too continue to learn and grow as human beings.
Unfortunately, many people believe that relationships should be easy and effortless. So when hard times and challenges come, they question the validity of the relationship itself. Rather than understanding the truth which is that relationships will force us to grow. All of them! This is true even in the case of a divorce! Your ex-spouse can continue to be an emotional workout partner for you. Perhaps even more so than other relationships. After all, who pushes your buttons more than your ex?
So take a few minutes to make a list of the ways in which your ex-spouse pushes your buttons – and then note the way you usually respond (most likely trying to get him or her to stop doing it). Next, come up with some creative alternative responses – that do not focus on the pointless task of getting someone else to change, but instead represent a change for you!