A common question that comes up during the closing circle at many of workshops is "how do I get my partner to change?" After weeks or months of transformative work participants are often fearful that when they return home all the lessons and growth will be for naught.
Allow me to offer that this is a perfectly normal fear, and that although in some cases the relationship waiting for you at home may be beyond repair, in the majority of cases your commitment to continual growth will result in changes to your relationship with or without your partner's direct participation.
That said...why not include your partner?! But from a place of authenticity, not judgment.
Every few months John and Jane would sit down to discuss everything from marriage, to child-rearing, money, sex and house-work. But it wasn't always like this. During the early years of their relationship a simple chat about money, for example, could end in a screaming match and a retreat to separate beds for the night. That is until they learned to mindfully engage with one another... This is what they learned:
1) When Jane approached John about having a discussion he immediately got defensive, squirmy and uncomfortable. When she gently probed again and again into the nature of his reaction he told her he would have preferred a 'meeting agenda' emailed to him before the discussion.
You can imagine her initial response... Here she is wanting to discuss love and intimacy and he wants to make 'love' into 'business'. The normal response would be to shut down emotionally, throw her hands in the air and walk away. However through our coaching she learned to mindfully stay in the present and practice keeping her heart open to what was at the root of his discomfiture.
Instead she asked what the 'meeting agenda' would serve, and eventually John disclosed that with an agenda he would be able to prepare his responses beforehand and in that way be sure that he would not say anything that would upset or offend her. When she asked what was wrong with potentially saying something that upset her, he calmly and concisely responded that he was afraid she might stop loving him.
Insight 1: Yes, Dear Reader, it would appear that our partners have fears of their own and perhaps we have not always been open to hearing their feedback, without defensiveness. So they have learned that it is better to keep quiet...
2) Jane asked John to share with his dreams for their family and what he wanted each day to look and feel like. She later told me how surprised she was at his vision, at how beautiful it was.
However what it did not include was:
* Daily bickering about chores
* Feeling last on the list of her priorities
* Being an absent parent
This last one really sparked a great discussion. Jane shared with John her confusion as to why he was not making big changes in his career that could potentially result in an increased family income. Through voicing it she noticed an element of frustration and resentment that had been suppressed inside her. John, mirroring back her empathy asked her to notice her frustration and bring herself back to the present (apparently they had a good laugh about that!) then shared two great points;
a) That he was a different Enneagram type from her (John: Type 6, Jane: Type 3). He preferred to take his time, slowly building his expertise in his field and demonstrating his commitment to a work team.
b) That he saw other Dads that worked around the clock and sacrificed quality time with their family and that was not the vision he had for his family.
This 'Quality time with our family' was a shared value between them, and through voicing it they were able to reconnect emotionally and authentically. And more importantly see that the arguments about money, chores, and intimacy ALL related back to this thing that had never been discussed.
Take some time this weekend to discuss your relationship vision with your loved one. Open your heart to allow for any parameters that will make the discussion real and authentic. Even if that means, sending a 'pre-discussion agenda'. Oh how we love the head types.
Are you and your partner ready to reconnect?!
Join me on the journey!
Lindsey T H Jackson is a Life Coach, movement therapist and storyteller. Contact her at www.lindseythjackson.com for inspiration, list of services and bookings.