When it comes to relationships… I sometimes find it helpful to turn something that I can’t see… into something that I can see. For example:
“Phil, our relationship could use some work” can mean different things to me on different days. But…
“Phil, I would give our relationship a 2 or 3, on a 1-10 scale”… Now that will turn my head in a heartbeat. (and years ago, it did)
When it comes to conflict, the old saying, “There are two sides to every story” is always applicable. But when we’re in the middle of our own relational conflict, our focus is almost always on her side of the bed. We tend to develop what I like to call, “If she would only” syndrome.
“If she would only stop _____”
“If she would only start _____”
But the problem is, the “If she would only” approach never leads to positive change. Have you noticed?
When you’re in the middle of conflict and thinking these thoughts (and we all do, you’re not alone), your relationship always stays in the same place of struggle (or gets worse), whether a month, a year, or a decade passes.
So today — I want to ask you to set “If she would only” aside for just a moment. In doing this, I’m not suggesting that your thoughts have no value (They most certainly do). And I’m not suggesting that she doesn’t have room for improvement (She most certainly does). But for the purpose of helping you not wake up in a decade with the exact same frustrations, will you consider trying something new?
I want you to turn something you can’t see into something you can see, by answering this question:
What percentage of the conflict in your relationship is your fault?
Put a real number on it. Give it your best estimate. Is it 50%? Is it 25%? Is it 10%? Remember that none of us are perfect, so go ahead and be honest with yourself.
And then… if you truly want to wake up in the absence of these current frustrations, go to work on your (even if it’s small) part. Though it feels completely counterintuitive, simply leave her side of the bed alone. Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t touch it.
And I’ll go ahead and give you fair warning — This approach is going to feel all kinds of wrong… I can guarantee it. But it is also what will give you the best chance of breaking free from the rut of conflict where you have been stuck. It is what will set you on a path toward something that both you and your wife will truly love. It is how normal (struggling) men like you and I can experience a relationship that is completely (and may I add wonderfully) abnormal.
All my best,
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