At some point along the journey of marriage, we've all had this thought. We’ve all contemplated thoughts like: if only my partner appreciated me more or loved me more or listened better, things would be different.
It's a thought based on an assumption, the assumption that change starts, not from within, but when our partner finally gets it together.
The problem? You don't control your partner. If you did, your efforts to change them would have achieved astounding results years ago.
This insight isn't new. It runs throughout thousands of years of ancient wisdom, from Lao Tzu to Epictetus to Marcus Aurelius and others.
The alternative? These wise thinkers all understood that the only way to change the world -- which includes your partner -- is to change your thoughts about it. Change your thoughts about your partner, in other words, and you can experience real, lasting, change.
But how do you do that?
We know what you may be thinking, “this practice sounds almost psychotic.” But the idea here is look beneath your judgments and complaints about your partner. See if there is some positive quality there. If your partner is always making a mess around the house, for example, is it possible that this trait also brings with it a sense of adventure and spontaneity to your life? If your partner seems too controlling, is it possible that they bring a sense of organization, structure, and order to your life? The idea is to change the way you see your partner -- to look for the positive qualities beneath the things that drive you crazy.
Now for an even more radical practice: work to change all the bad habits and tendencies you see in your partner -- in your self. If you complain about your partner always being late, make an effort to be on time, always. If you complain that your partner is too controlling, work on letting go of all the ways you control them. If you complain that your partner doesn't show you enough love and affection, give them even more love and affection. We know, this sounds totally crazy. And yet you might find that when you change yourself in all the ways you wish your partner would change, they actually change. They feel the shift. The stalemate falls away. And, paradoxically, your change inspires them to change.