Guideline # 3 For a Healthy Relationship

Written by on May 1, 2012 in On Relationships

Guideline # 3 Be The Change. . .

So you don’t like the way someone else is behaving? Maybe your husband snores, your wife is messy, your best friend expects you to call him/her. In every relationship there is the challenge of accepting the other person’s idiosyncrasies, habits and personality traits. Most of us fall into the trap of trying to change the other person. If the other person was a little cleaner, slept more quietly or called just once in a while everything would be much better.

In a more dramatic example you may be in a relationship with someone that is withdrawn and depressed, selfish and demanding or  someone who is manipulative and controlling. Again, we often resort to trying to change the other person. This is like trying to put gas in someone else’ car hoping you will get a free ride, when the gas tank in your own car is on empty. “Be the change you want to see in the world” as Gandhi once said.  Fill up your own car and then you are free to go where YOU want to go and do what YOU want to do. You won’t need the other person to change to have whatever it is you are desiring. Be the change you want to see in the other person. It is the same idea applied on a micro level.

Let’s look at a few examples. Your husband snores. Instead of trying to get him to do something about his snoring you do something about it. Buy some ear plugs. Move into separate bedrooms (with romantic liaisons and all).

Your wife is messy. You can’t stand to live in a messy place and apparently she can stand it just fine. You are the one with the unhappiness about it therefore you are the one best suited to make the change. Go ahead and clean up after her. Do it for yourself.

Your friend never calls you but waits for you to call?  What would happen if you stopped calling your friend? Would your friend eventually call you? Would it be often enough for your preferences? If not, then just call and accept that your needs for contact with your friend are greater, therefore you the one best suited to make the call. 

On a more serious level lets say you are married to someone that doesn’t communicate or chooses not to tell you much about what is going on in his/her life. What are your needs? How can YOU meet your own needs better? Perhaps you need to spend more time with friends that like to talk or are good communicators. Be the change you need, not what you think the other person needs. No matter how smart I think I am I can never know what is best for another person. Just as no other person can ever know what is best for me.

Maybe you are thinking to yourself: “That is too simplistic. Relationships are more complicated than that.” I would say to you, “all too true.” This is one of the most difficult practices in any relationship and it requires plenty of humility and self examination. But I can personally attest to the power of this one idea.

Aaron and I did not date each other. When I married him we were complete strangers to one another. Both of us being raised in the polygamous culture meant that arranged marriages were normal and even expected. Aaron turned out to be as different from me as another human could be. We didn’t fight so much as make wide circles around each other eying each other with deep suspicion.

I remember distinctly thinking to myself: Aaron couldn’t possibly want to be the way he is. He would be so much happier if he were _______________. I had a number of ways to improve him and Project Aaron got under way shortly after we were married. It took me at least eight years of failed attempts and all my creative ideas for changing him to fall flat on their faces before I figured it out for myself.

I was trying to change Aaron because I was deeply  unhappy. Not too much logic there. I was the one that was unhappy therefore it makes perfect sense that I am the one that needed to change. I am sure that Aaron would have himself loved to have provided input on just how I ought to change but that was not his business, just as changing him was not mine.

This idea was pure liberation from futility and frustration. I immediately began putting it into practice. Aaron became a mirror for me to see my own longings and desires. I cultivated other relationships with my sisters, friends and my children to provide me with the affection that I was hungry to have. Instead of waiting for Aaron to tell me about his day, (he never did) I would go to his work place just to have him show me around and let me see what he did. I satisfied my need to be involved in his life by taking responsibility for it myself.

I have applied this guideline to every aspect of my relationship with him. Sometimes it can be really challenging and I want to blame Aaron for being the way he is but in the end I have returned to this practice with great success. As a result of Aaron not feeling the pressure and degradation of my disapproval he has completely changed. He enjoys being around me more. He shares more. There is deeper love and trust. Hmmm. Sounds logical to me.

How have you been the change that inspire others?

I could write an entire book on this concept and how it changed my marriage and my life. But in lieu of a book I hope this post gives you food for thought.

Books that inspired this post:

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

I Need Your Love, Is it True? by Byron Katie

Check out Byron Katie’s website.

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  1. First of all I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do
    not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
    I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10
    to 15 minutes are generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin.

    Any recommendations or tips? Appreciate it!

  2. Susanna says:

    Absolutely! Thanks for the comments and I will tell you a few tips I have learned about about writing and creative work in general. Tip #1: The actual writing, putting words to paper is the LAST step of a creative process.The first step is to generate an idea, this is followed by a period of allowing the idea to just float around, no pressure, and let it take form in your mind. After this you begin thinking about ways that you might communicate this idea. Try a few out in your mind or on paper and see which ones have some energy behind them that will push them into the physical space. Once you find that opening you are ready to render the idea to the page. Give yourself the time to allow the germination of your creativity to take place. Tip #2: Listen to some music and get in touch with your right brain. Sometimes I will start my writing for the day by looking at beautiful paintings, especially abstract art. Or I will watch a video on YouTube of natural settings or photography on photo sites such as These help me reconnect to the right brain where the creative process begins. Tip #3: Always trust yourself. Trust in what you have inside of you and when nothing comes let nothing come. Trust that something is there and it will come after you have let it grow inside of you a bit longer. Believe in yourself and your ability. You wouldn’t be interested in writing if you didn’t already have the talent and ability. Creative work is a practice not an end game. Hope this helps and keep going, its worth the effort.