Question and Answer: Change within a Relationship

You can’t change another person. That is one of the unfortunate, and yet universal truths. Sometimes, you can inspire another person to change. Being motivated is always impacted by the perception, “what’s in it for me?”.

On the other hand, there is one person who you are 100% empowered to change, and that’s you. In any relationship, whether it’s personal or in business, I like to tell people to take 100% responsibility. Take 100% responsibility for the business or 100% responsibility for the relationship. I am always looking to create a vision for a relationship that is inspired by the other person’s motivations or by adapting myself to what is or what’s true about the other person.

The most potent example of the first is a “want for us”. This is what I work with during a corporate or a relationship renewal. Whenever I’m in a primary romantic relationship with someone, I always like to whether it’s just for a vacation or long-term, come to a shared understanding of the “want for us”. Meaning, what is the want for us, what are we working towards together? When I can get clear about the “want for us” the relationship feels easy. When I can’t get clear about it, it feels hard or difficult. It’s even harder if we’re trying to achieve, experience, or do different things. In a case where we can’t come to a “want for us” or the other person is uninterested or unwilling to participate in a “want for us” in the way I want them to, the only other option is to accept them just the way they are.

That can sometimes be miraculous. Sometimes when I accept someone just the way they are, and get behind who they are, I find things open up and possibilities appear that never would have otherwise.

A relationship is always positive if we are oriented toward the want for us. Practice with your partner. When you wake up, before you go about your morning, discuss the “want for us” for the morning.

It could be, “Well I have a lot going on so let’s do our own thing and go our own way, but I want 5 minutes to have coffee with you and kiss you good-bye.”

The other person can say, “Actually there are some important things we need to get done. I would like help figuring out dinner so that I can go shopping for it and I’m also missing your attention. I’d like you to put your attention on me. I’d like for you to rub my neck and take some time for me.”

Then the other person may say, “I can get into that”, or not, but the goal is to get aligned.

So the want for us could be an overarching desire for your life together or it can be broken down into the want for the morning, the evening, or any of your time together.

Another example could be making decisions like buying a new refrigerator. Imagine this dialogue:

One person might say, “I want to buy the coolest refrigerator ever!”

And the other person might say, “I want to save some money. I’d like to spend under $300. I guess we better get aligned with what we are shooting for. Can we find a cool fridge for under $300?”

“Oh, I guess I hadn’t really thought about that. Are we running out of money?”

“Yeah, we don’t really have a lot of money this month, but we do need a fridge.”

“Oh, well maybe we could find a used one.”

Anytime we can get in alignment the smoother things will be. For example, you can decide on a “want for us” on vacation. If one person wants to relax and the other wants to go on adventures you should probably get clear on the “want for us”. Here is dialogue that could happen around that:

It can get really powerful when you go deeper, like, “I just really want this to amplify our connection to each other.”

The other person might say, “Oh I guess I hadn’t really even thought about that. I just thought we were going on vacation.”

“On the flight there let’s imagine different things we could do or different ways we could approach this trip so that it would amplify our connection to each other.”

Then, throughout the trip, when you go to do things, check in. “Should we go parasailing? Would that amplify our connection?”

“I guess not. It seems like the jungle hike would really achieve that.”

Anytime you can catalyze something around a “want for us” it’s really powerful. Anytime you step into any of these conversations it helps you clarify the relationship more and more.

The alternative to coming to a “want for us” is the choice to accept the other person the way they are.