How to Help your Spouse Be Kind to You: The Formula
If so, I have good news and bad news:
1. The good: I have formula that absolutely works when there is any potential for greater kindness in a relationship.
2. The bad: Wishing is not enough. You have to be willing to apply the formula, which I will share with you in this post.
Now, I won’t tell you something trite like, “If you want others to be kind to you, then you need to be kind to them.” This is true on principle, but life is more complex than that. Most often, in unkind relationships, there is a story on both sides, with massive self-justification and resentment to overcome.
You need to overcome it. If you don’t it could kill you, literally. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Division of Health Psychology at Ohio State University College of Medicine, understands how marital interactions affect the body . “We know that couples who are nasty or hostile with each other when discussing disagreements showed larger increases in stress hormones and greater dysregulation of immune function as a consequence,” she explained.
How do you escape deep patterns of stress and resentment and restore peace and kindness?
Let’s be clear on how to NOT go about this (call it the no-no list). Positive change will not happen:
By wishing for change.
Because you deserve more kindness and respect (even though you do).
Because you ask for it (you are likely to get a defensive response).
By getting angry – this backfires, as you know.
By pleading for kindness. When you plead, you are likely to get pity, not respect.
By complaining (to anyone).
By doing nothing different than you have always done.
What follows is the protocol that does work. There are three phases. Be sure to read all the way through.
Phase one: Lay the Groundwork for a Better Relationship
It all begins with you. This is good news, as you want to be an agent of change. Otherwise, you are held hostage by the whims of others. No other factor is as important as your willingness to take responsibility for inspiring the changes you want. In fact, 99% of survey responses at the National Institute of Marriage said that taking personal responsibility was an important factor in marital success.
Step one: Set the goal. If you want to be treated with greater kindness, you need to make it a conscious intention. It’s OK if you want the outcome of your goal to be that your spouse “gets” that he or she needs to be more kind.
The response of the other person will be the result and NOT the focus of your efforts. This is a key distinction. If you focus on getting someone else to change, you will come across as controlling and probably get the opposite of what you want.
Step two: Make a move toward independence. Often when you are stuck in an unhealthy relationship pattern, you are overly dependent on that relationship. Dependency creates weak boundaries, where you are willing to tolerate all kinds of mistreatment in order to preserve the relationship. This always backfires, making you miserable, yet still dependent.
The pressure to keep the relationship afloat leads right into a trap. You end up in the throes of the no-no list, pleading for respect, but not acting in a way that requires it.
So, make an assessment of how you could become a little more independent (and therefore less dependent on your partner). Do you need your own source of money? Do you need more friends or hobbies? Do you need to learn to make your own decisions?
A respectful, faithful move toward greater independence will change the dance in your relationship and command respect, without having to ask for it.
Step three: Rediscover the other. It’s time to reassess who this person is and what he or she needs from you. How does this person feel loved and respected? What are his or her legitimate complaints about you?
Make a list of how you should be conducting yourself toward your spouse and vow to implement it for a period of time. What are three things you can do consistently that would communicate love to your partner? (You know what they are).
No important relationship can flourish without a healthy other focus. Narcissists don’t make good partners.
Phase Two: Simple but Challenging, I Know
Phase two is simple, yet is the hardest, especially if you need immediate gratification yet are locked in a pattern of distance or disrespect. It’s called: Patience. You need to implement phase one consistently over a period of time. I can’t tell you how long because it varies.
How long are you willing to give it? If you aren’t willing to invest at least three months into the process, then you may need to question the value of this relationship at this point in your life.
Practice phase one consistently until you feel you have it down, solid. If you need outside support, then get it from a caring friend, coach or therapist. It’s that important.
Phase Three: Getting to Cooperation
At this point, a relationship with potential will have already begun to transform dramatically. You are more independent, practicing respect and giving your partner what he needs, patiently awaiting returns on the investment. Relationships with high potential typically respond very quickly to this game-changing formula. The healthier a relationship is, the faster it will respond.
At this point, having paid your dues, you can make your intentions super clear and clean up any of the leftover disrespect. In other words, you have earned your right to demand respect and kindness. You could say something like:
I have been very respectful of your wants and needs and plan to continue being a good friend and partner. However, I am not getting what I need from you in return and this needs to change.
It’s fair. It’s your right to say such a thing. And you are in the best possible position to do so. You can make your specific needs known. You can ask the other to do and stop doing whatever you want and expect full compliance, without a justifiable argument thrown in your face.
What’s really required to succeed?
1. Maturity. You need to let go of the idea that things will change on a whim. It takes effort, applied consistently, over time. Ashley McIlwain of Foundation Restoration, put it this way:
Problems are rarely resolved instantly. True love takes time. Intimacy requires effort.
Realizing that marriage is a gradual, lifelong process is important. It changes your focus, and it can certainly minimize frustrations. That recognition can transform anger, bitterness, and resentment into love, admiration, and appreciation. Marriage only gets better with time as you tenderly nurture and care for the precious relationship and love that you share with your spouse.
So put away the easy button, and roll up your sleeves. If you want your marriage to succeed, then it’s time to stop thinking instant gratification and start thinking long haul.
2. Commitment. The time and emotional investment involved requires you to be committed. You need to understand how important this person is to you. No way around this.
3. Self-management. You must manage your moods, self-justifications, temper and worry. You need to choose your words wisely and stop reacting when things don’t go your way.
If you don’t have a healthy dose of the above, then you may not be able to do it without help, or at all, frankly. These are the foundation of healthy relating.
Relationships where respect is a GIVEN
The above elements put you squarely in the type of relationship where respect rules and unkindness is the exception, not the rule. It is possible to relate to others in a way that demands respect. In fact, you should rarely have to ask for greater respect when you are conducting yourself in these ways consistently.
Relationships where immaturity is simply not tolerated have the greatest chance of success. By applying this formula, you will be intentionally creating this kind of relationship.
What if it fails?
Imagine honestly and sincerely applying the formula for several months and – nothing changes. In spite of your sincere efforts and few personal setbacks, you are still not inspiring kindness and respect.
A few things might be going on:
1. Incompatibility. It could be that the two of you are simply incompatible in the context of your relationship. Incompatibility is real. People have legitimate differences in goals, values, lifestyle, deep communication patterns and life dreams. If you are mismatched in too many areas, a deep connection is impossible.
The best resource on the web to determine mutual compatibility and resolve compatibility difference is Reology.org’s Dating, Relating, Mating course. There is simply nothing else out there like it.
2. Too much water under the bridge. Some relationships cannot be restored. This happens after a certain amount of hurt has taken place and people cannot recover the former softness, compassion and fondness for each other.
3. Self-sabotage. All too often we sabotage our best efforts because we are more comfortable living in misery (because that is what we know). It’s entirely possible that you are unwittingly sabotaging your efforts to be treated kindly, even in subconscious ways.
In fact, if you are writing off this formula by predicting failure, you have already begun to sabotage yourself.
Why make the effort?
There are several reasons:
1. Unkind relationships are hurtful, stressful and rob you of happiness and even your physical health, as proven by the above Ohio University study.
2. You will be happier because you will be showing respect for your spouse along the way. Research proves that being independently kind literally creates happiness, regardless of the other’s response.
3. ALL of your relationships will improve, even if you are only focused on one.
4. If you need to end the relationship, you’ll do so with certainty and a clean conscience.
5. You will be setting yourself up for a lifetime of successful relating to other people.
The Number One Enemy in your Way
The primary enemy is self-sabotage. Self-sabotage happens when we do the opposite of what makes us happy. It occurs when we are attached to negativity and cling to it because that is what we know.
Worse, when we are attached to negative experiences like rejection, deprivation and being controlled, we unwittingly seek these things about by virtue of our actions. Attachments are like negativity magnets that suck us in, leaving us helpless to consciously create the life we want.
The solution to self-sabotage is a massive influx of enlightened awareness that only comes by a re-education of your consciousness. In other words, you cannot make choices about what is outside of your awareness. Since self-sabotage is largely a subconscious process, you will likely remain stuck unless you learn something new.
This is why we created the AHA Solution program, to put an end to self-sabotage, once and for all. Free of self-sabotage, you are free to implement any formula for success and stay out of your own way. If you haven’t seen our introductory video on negative attachments and self-sabotage, you simply must watch it!
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If you’d like help implementing the ideas in this article, consider life coaching with Mike Bundrant. Read more and inquire here.
Bundrant, M. (2013). How to Help your Spouse Be Kind to You: The Formula. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2013/10/spouse-be-kind/