When someone says to you, “Our relationship needs to change,” what do you do next? There are a lot of right responses. However, there is only one response
that is always wrong: “No, it doesn’t.” Unfortunately, that’s the response most of us give. Not out loud, but in our heads. We can feel threatened and full of fear when the other person asks for what he needs – a change. There is a better way to respond to that kind of statement than to set your mind to maintaining the status quo.
When you respond with openness and a willingness to listen to how the other person sees the relationship, it’s easier to make the changes that are needed. More importantly, when you make those changes, the result is a better relationship than the one you have currently. Especially when you think what you have now is pretty darn good. Because, chances are, if you think what you have is good, and the other person wants a change, it means the other person believes that what you have right now is better than what he has. He also believes change is possible, and that change is preferable to going your separate ways.
“Fear makes strangers of
people who would be friends.”
Listen First, Speak Second
When a friend, co-worker, or your lover, tells you, “This isn’t working for me,” the first step is to open your ears and your mind and listen carefully. Because if you don’t, you may not be in that relationship for very much longer.
Accept the truth that the relationship isn’t working for the other person, and listen for common goals. When you find common ground, you’ll find a new path that the two of you can walk together.
It takes courage to be open to hearing what others have to say because it may not always be easy to hear. You need to be quiet and seek to understand, rather than shouting louder and louder to drown out what you hear, like some awful TV shouting-match talk show.
Every war can be summed up like this:
“You must be what I want you to be. You must do what I want you to do.”
A real conversation, one that goes beyond one person insisting on something and the other one saying, “No,” is not easy. But it’s the only way to change the balance of the relationship.
You can be forgiven if you feel like you don’t quite know how to approach this kind of conversation, because we see so many bad examples in real life:
- Presidential debates are a series of monologues, there’s no conversation between the political candidates, not even among those of the same party.
- There’s no conversation happening between those who believe they have the right to control their own bodies and those who believe they don’t – whether the subject is the right to life or the right to the end of life.
- The right to bear arms and the right to not be shot dead by a crazy person.
- What’s going on right now with Confederate monuments isn’t a conversation either. There’s little, if any, desire by Southern Whites to hear what Blacks are saying about the need for change.
Seek an Equal Relationship
There’s one undeniable reason why you want an equal relationship just as much as your partner. Consider this, can a relationship be equal when one is person is feeling treated as an inferior whose needs don’t matter as much? How good can any relationship be when one partner is simmering just below the surface with anger over being treated as less-than?
It’s only when the two of you are equals in the relationship will you be true partners. Anything else is an imbalanced relationship, like a teeter-totter, with one of you up, and the other of you down.
So when someone says to you, “Our relationship needs to change,” here’s what you want to do:
- Cage your fear.
- Dismiss the idea that he’s wrong.
- Be willing to listen to a truth you have not heard before.
- Ask what he needs you to do to restore or bring equality to your relationship.
- Express your willingness to adapt because you value the relationship.
- State what you will do differently.
- Set a date for another conversation to assess the changes and whether more changes are still required.
- Follow through on your new agreement.
“Burn the bridge to the place
where your fear lives.”
~ Own Your World,
Songwriters Matthew P. Byrne,
Chris Beattie and Jamey Jasta
Live Honest, Open, and True
The next time someone tells you that change is needed in your relationship, what will you do? Will you risk giving up the privileges you enjoy now so that you can begin to experience the deeper and more meaningful relationship that comes when the two of you are on equal ground? Will you be willing to level the playing field?
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