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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

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How to Stop Trying to Change Your Partner's Faults by Changing Your Reaction to Your Partner's Fault
by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

Undoubtedly, you maintain a list of your partner’s faults that run as long as your arm. And unless I miss my guess, your partner maintains a list of your faults that runs just as long, if not longer. No surprises there.

But let me ask you this, how much time and emotional energy do the two of you invest trying to change each other, to eradicate each others faults? How much time do you spend trying to convince each other that the world would be a far better place for all concerned if only you would stop doing this, saying that, and feeling whatever it is that you feel? Most important question of all—how effective are the two of you at convincing the other of the need to change, to stop being who you are?

If you’re like most couples that I know the answer to my last question likely is that you haven’t been too successful at all. The only way I know how to successfully change your partner is by changing your reactions to those things that provoke you about your partner.

You see, you have no control over your partner. At the same time, you have all the control in the world over your reaction to your partner. If you experience your partner as being too critical, you can choose your reaction to those times that you experience your partner as being too critical. It may seem to be the most natural reaction in the world to be angry or hurt or offended or even combative when your partner is being critical of you. But where has that gotten you to this point? But by choosing a different reaction to your partner being critical, what impact might such a change have on your partner and your relationship.

So what reaction would you like to have when you experience your partner being critical of you? Would you like to be compassionate or tolerant or amused or patient or open or receptive? Take some time and think about the reaction(s) you would choose to those times when your partner is critical. Once you make that choice, apply the following steps when you experience your partner being too critical of you.

1.) First, once you experience yourself becoming agitated by your partner being too critical, take deep breaths. This will help you calm your nervous system.

2.) Second, repeat to yourself over and over again the new reaction (e.g., compassionate) you want to have when your partner is being of critical of you.

3.) Next, imagine in your mind, a person you know who you experience as exhibiting the new quality (e.g. compassionate) you are attempting to embrace. As you imagine that person, begin to experience in your body the quality that the person you admire embodies. Feel compassion in your body, wear compassion on your face, experience compassion in your emotions.

4.) Express the new reaction (e.g., compassion) to your partner.

5.) Notice how your partner changes as you change the way you react to your partner.

Working on yourself has the ability to transform not only yourself, but your partner too. In fact, don’t be surprised if your partner acts nicer towards you as you begin to change your reaction to them.

 Bridge Builder’s Checklist
1.) Commit to changing your reaction rather than your changing your partner.
2.) Commit to embracing a different reaction to your partner.
3.) Commit to identifying people you know of who embody the new quality or reaction that you’re trying to embrace.
4.) Commit to expressing the new reaction to your partner when your partner expresses the quality that you find objectionable.
5.) Identify the ways that your partner begins to be different with you as you are different with them.
For more information about how to resolve conflict in your relationships read Dr. First’s, Spy.D. free online book, Making Molehills Out of Mountains and Dr. First’s, Spy. D. free online articles, Conflict Resolution: How to Make Space in Your Relationships for Love, Joy, and Harmony.



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