Armele Philpotts: It’s not me, it’s you
By Armele Philpotts, Relationship Counsellor and Coach, with thanks to Joolz and Dr David Schnarch
“Love is passion and pain
Not pastel pink and wedding white,
The same old traps, the half-hearted lies,
The cold death…”
Love is Sweet (Sweet Romance) Joolz Denby, 1985
I’m often reminded of this great song by the punk poet when working with couples who are each absolutely convinced that if only their partner would change then everything in their relationship would be alright .. as well as couples where avoiding conflict has become a way of life, couples who tell me they never argue, and that sex went out the window a long time ago.
It’s only when the pain of a bad relationship outweighs the perceived ‘danger’ of self confrontation and growth that these couples take the step of coming to find out what can be done.
Although I call myself a relationship counsellor I can’t counsel a relationship: instead my clients are individuals who attend sessions either together or alone, and who constantly impress me with their courage in confronting themselves in my counselling room. These individuals happen to be in relationships: with a significant other, or an ex, with parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, co-workers, and when they challenge themselves to make individual changes, big or small, this is when they tell me that change occurs in these relationships.
In Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships, David Schnarch says: ‘Even a beloved, considerate partner will profoundly disappoint you at times … The biggest trust issue in marriage isn’t about trusting your partner. It’s about whether or not you can really trust yourself… Love is not for the weak, nor for those who have to be carefully kept, nor for the faint of heart.’
So, before you book an appointment with a relationship counsellor to talk about how your partner/ex/boss is ruining things, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I placing all the responsibility for change on someone else and giving myself an easy rideIt’s easy to see our beloved’s faults but harder to spot our own. Be brutally honest with yourself. Ask a trusted friend, someone who knows and accepts you, what they think you might be like in your relationship, your good traits and what they think you could improve on.
- Would I be in a relationship with me, the way I’m behaving right now?We make endless excuses for behaving badly in a relationship, usually citing our partner’s behavior as the ‘reason’. It’s never okay to behave badly, whatever the provocation. If you’re not happy with your partner’s behavior, find an appropriate time and respectfully ask for change.
- Do I know my non-negotiables?Most people have about five qualities in a relationship that they absolutely cannot do without, most other things are negotiable. Be aware of what these non-negotiables are for you, and be prepared to make them clear, insist on them and walk away if they aren’t present.
- Can I be the change I want in this relationship?For example it can be really easy to get entrenched in resentment if you feel your partner never says thank you for all you do for them. How about making a pact with yourself to show your partner the appreciation you crave instead? They may surprise you by reciprocating, or you may get the opportunity to point out that it seems to make them feel good to be appreciated and you’d like a bit of that sugar too.
So .. what are you waiting on your partner to change so that your relationship can improve? Stop giving your partner that power and ask yourself what YOU can do.
Armele is a qualified Relate practitioner, relationship counsellor, educator and dating coach, practising in Newcastle upon Tyne and North Tyneside. To find out more: https://apcounselling.wordpress.com