Jack was frustrated. He wasn't satisfied in his relationship. He felt boxed in by Jill, and that she kept wanting to change him. Jill said she felt the same way about him. He didn't want to change Jill, but he couldn't stand the relationship how it was. And he couldn't remember the last time he did any of his hobbies, or spent time with his guy friends. Something needed to change. But it wasn't the first thing Jack thought. In fact, he laughed when is counselor told him he needed to fix himself to fix his relationship. So, why was Jack told this?
We Can Only Change Ourselves
If you were ever in a relationship where your partner gave you feedback on what they wanted to see different, your first reaction was probably to defend yourself or argue about why you needed to keep doing... well... whatever the were trying to talk to you about. And that is a normal reaction.
If it didn't work for your partner to talk to you, why would it work in reverse? It probably won't. We cannot make anyone do anything they don't want to do. Like the Serenity Prayer, we need to accept what we cannot control (our partner) and courageously change what we can (us).
So Why Does This Work?
This can sound a little bit backwards: when we focus on improving ourselves - and this that might sound a little bit selfish - you can have a very significant impact on improving the relationship.
We need to take the time to do what we need to, to be the best men and women that we can be. We cannot live at the beck and call of our partner. Otherwise, we cannot maintain boundaries we need to live the life we are designed to live. Hobbies and friends will fall away. We become miserable, and resentful of our partner. And that will show up in how we interact with them.
Instead, when we keep doing what we need to do for us, that can have a very positive impact on the relationship. Our health can improve, our communication can improve, our attentiveness to our partner can improve. Across the board, the better we are as individuals, the better we can be as a partner. This only happens when we focus on ourselves.
How Do I Focus on Myself
Making SMART Goals with a great vision and daily to-do lists is a powerful way to focus on ourselves and see massive progress in a short amount of time. I won't repeat myself here, but I do suggest you read this post about making smart goals.
Back to Jack
Jack decided to listen to his counselor. He spent some time seriously looking at the life he wanted. He worked out a series of SMART goals, and daily steps he can take to get there. It was a challenging process. And Jill didn't seem to notice right away. But after about a month, month and a half, Jill's mood started to improve toward Jack. Conversations and arguments went better. Jack was enjoying life more. All from focusing on improving himself and not change his partner.