4 Ways to Break Bad Patterns in Your Relationship
We write from our direct experience to share how well we work together. When we first saw this, it was a mysterious phenomenon, and we have spent years discussing and analyzing what, exactly, we are doing. Our idea has always been to say that it exists, to create the belief that such a relationship is possible, and let people examine their own lives to see what to change so that they, too, can have this experience.
To offer exercises that we don’t do has always seemed to go against our intention of writing from our experience. But in previous relationships, we have been challenged with how to change patterns, so today we’ll describe some things that we did to try to improve things. The purpose of these is to make things sufficiently different for a while that both people can glimpse a different way to relate. You need to go in with several things.
- Both of you have to be on board with this.
- Don’t be thinking your partner needs to do all the changing. If the problem is that your partner is a disciplinarian with the children, maybe you need to set boundaries to give them a sense of security.
- Be open to exploring and having fun.
Improve your relationship with 4 exercises that switch up your usual patterns! #relationships Click To TweetThe first exercise is called “power for the day”. Take two consecutive days. On the first day, one of you has absolute authority, and anything you say goes. Your partner must do as requested, whether it is going to the mall or scrubbing the kitchen floor. On the second day, the roles are reversed.
This exercise is excellent at allowing people to explore their unmet needs and to ask for things that might otherwise be resisted. It is good at rooting out codependency. It also lets you reflect on the consequences of your demands. If I ask for a clean kitchen floor, will I have to mow the lawn the following day? Will this bring out a tit-for-tat energy or a greater awareness of each other’s contributions?
The next few exercises involve changing the words we use. Language is how we understand the world, and by altering the way we speak, we can change our experience of it.
A great way to do this is to only speak in the present tense. This removes the expression of resentments – you didn’t take out the garbage – and commitments – will you give me a ride to the dentist on Tuesday. It’s easy to cheat at this and other verbal exercises because language is so ductile – I am hoping you will make dinner – but try to stay with the spirit of the exercise.
Another exercise you can try is the same as what we do when we are trying to resolve differences: speak in the “I”.
State the issue or problem you are considering. Fully share what you want and what you feel, speaking one at a time until you are done. Avoid using the word “you” (the finger-pointing you); instead, speak personally. Say “I’m cold,” rather than “You pulled the blanket off me.” Here you are saying how you feel, and not what the other person did. By phrasing it this way, two things are different. Firstly, it is no longer an accusation of the other person’s behavior, so it does not provoke a defensive response (“No I didn’t!”) or a counter-attack (“Well, you did that last night.”) It is merely a statement of how the world is for you. Secondly, a statement in the first person is an act of intimacy, a revealing of your self. By speaking about your own feelings, you offer closeness and invite empathy. How Two: Have a Successful Relationship
A final suggestion is to stop speaking altogether and to have a day of silence. This may not work well if one partner has a need to communicate and the other wants to retreat into solitude, but on the other hand, the point of these exercises is to unbalance the existing dynamic, and it is an opportunity for either or both people to be faced with and reflect on their existing positions.
The connection between two people is far more than words. One of us had the online dating experience of exchanging a long series of intriguing emails for weeks before finally meeting. Instant and extreme disappointment ensued. The shock of the difference between words and real life was profound. (This also explains those couples who are really bad for each other but keep coming back together.)
This exercise gives you the opportunity to look at that non-verbal attraction.
We hope you will enjoy playing with some of these and exploring the opportunities that changes in your behavior with each other bring. Be brave! You may think these are a bit scary, but you are more likely to be pleasantly surprised!