You can not teach, coach, train, guide or mentor another person who does not want it. You can not change another person.
If your partner does not recognize that they need to change – they won’t change.You can not want the change more than they do and expect results.
So how do you help your partner grow – especially when they are stuck and maybe even oblivious that they are stuck?
There is a difference here. Trying to change someone versus helping them grow are slightly different.
I often hear from couples who are trying to change each other and their circumstances. Their intentions are good – they want to improve their relationship – however their stumbling block is in how they communicate that.
If you approach your partner telling them what they are doing is wrong, how bad they are, how unhappy or disappointed you are with them – chances are you won’t get the response you are looking for.
Using those types of words will not motivate them to change. It may motivate them to stay as far away from you as possible. What they hear is – I’m inadequate, I’m not good enough, he/she isn’t happy with me, I can never do anything right and I’ve heard many more interpretations.
So here’s perhaps a different way to approach your partner.
You can help them get to a point of self-discovery where they say – “I want to change – how do I do it?”
Do it from a place of love and compassion – not frustration and judgement.
Here is an approach that works:
- Ask them about goals they have for themselves that they may or may not have previously shared with you. Ask lots of questions about those goals.
- What do you want for yourself?
- What would that look like?
- Why is that important to you?
- How would that make you feel when you got there?
- How are you planning to do that?
- Have you been able to make any progress or work towards that?
- What have you been able to do so far?
- Acknowledge their progress
- What do you plan to do next?
- Is there anything I can do to support you in that?
- When you do (whatever their goal is) – this is how it impacts me……
- This is how I feel it impacts our relationship…
- Let them know that you believe in them and their ability to move forward/accomplish their goal
If they have never discussed or showed interest in any type of change – you can initiate the conversation. Here’s one way to do this.
- Can I share some thoughts with you? or I’d like to talk to you about something that is on my mind and I really would like to hear your perspective?
- This is who I see when I look at you (communicate their strengths and positive attributes).
- I may be wrong, but I’m wondering if you are feeling stuck/unhappy?
- This is what I mean.
- I see you get to a point of (describe how far they get to) and you seem to stop and not go any further. Do you notice that? What’s going on for you?
- Do you believe you could move past that? Do you want to? What would happen if you did?
- What do you think is holding you back? How could you do that? How can I support you in that?
In my couples’ retreats we explore these types of scenarios and there are many ideas generated.
In any of these scenarios, it is important that you are both relaxed and not busy doing something else. Set aside some time to have a conversation that is mutually convenient to both of you.
Always make it conversational and loving asking lots of questions.
In doing so, you will both be treating each other with dignity and respect and you will prompt each others’ thinking.