“I just need my partner to hear me and understand!”

This is a complaint I often hear spoken in my relationship counseling office. It makes sense! A partner in pain believes that their only escape from the vice grip of relationship problems bearing down on them is for their partner to loosen that grip. There are two problems with this philosophy and approach.

First, the vice grip of demand loosened from one partner likely goes to another. When one partner conforms for the other, the table gets turned. The partner making a demand means that the other person must do something that doesn’t feel good for them. For example, a wife demands that the husband stay home every Saturday. The husband wants to golf. If the wife gets her wishes granted, the husband is forced to give up his.

Second, the strategy of trying to change someone is very ineffective. When a partner attempts to get another to change, they only reinforce more of the same behavior. The attempt to create change backfires!

Something most people don’t realize is that when we demand (or ask nicely) someone be different, that person will feel like someone is trying to control them. No one, biologically or otherwise, responds well to the feeling of control. This strategy often backfires. The person who feels like they are being controlled often becomes resentful and passive aggressive. They do not change.

Manage your relationship challenges with couples therapy from a qualified therapist at Emergent Relationship Center. You will discover how to rebuild trust through effective therapy and build the skills to communicating effectively, so you can have a happy and health relationship.


So what can partners in pain do to attain a healthy relationship?!

I want to relate a story about martial arts and the futility of focusing on the other.

An ancient sage skilled in marital arts gives a valuable lesson. His student, being less skilled than his opponent, gets easily frustrated and tries hard to win his match, but the more the student focuses on the opponent, the worse he gets.

The teacher draws a 5 foot line on the floor in front of the student and asks, “How do you shorten this line?”

The student thinking about it gives several answers, including cutting the line in many pieces.

The teacher shakes his head and draws a second line, longer than the first beside the original and asks “how does the first line look now?”

“Shorter,” replies the student.

It is always better to improve and lengthen your own line or knowledge rather than try to cut your opponent’s line.

For partners in a painful relationship seeking resolution for a happy relationship, it is always better to improve your reaction and your level of acceptance in order to reduce your pain. When a partner is focused on improving their own line, dramatic improvements follow.

Just as the wise martial artist focuses on self-improvement and advances in skill, so does the lonely partner, focusing on their own self-improvement, find satisfaction in their relationship.

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.  Brian Tracy


Successful couples make their relationship a priority with couples counseling. Ensure that the reactions towards your relationship and partner are supportive to reduce pain.

If you are interested in the details of creating a highly successful relationship, NOW is the right time to go to marriage therapy and create habits that make long-term success. Just like anything that you want to improve, you have to put in the work.

If you want to talk about how couples counseling can help, schedule a session and learn one thing you can do right away.
Get professional advice from a skilled relationship therapist and learn healthy communication skills and conflict resolution tactics. Seek relationship counseling that offers emotionally focused therapy with an Emergent Relationship Center licensed therapist.