Do you have a spouse or partner who refuses to change, won’t listen to your advice, or continues to make poor decisions? As you know, it can be an incredibly frustrating – and sometimes worrisome – experience. When this happens, we need to find a way to let go of our desire for control and learn to accept our partner as she or he is. In this article, Dr. Marni Feuerman gives us some tips for focusing on ourselves and what we can control.
How to Let Go When Your Partner Refuses to Change
by Dr. Marni Feuerman
When you have been doing everything possible to get your partner to change a behavior that bothers or concerns you, and it still doesn’t change, you will eventually reach a crossroads in your relationship. If leaving the relationship isn’t an option, you must find a way to let go of your attempts to change or control your partner. If you continue to focus on your mate, you will continue to suffer. Letting go and accepting that your partner won’t change is a tremendous gift you can and should give yourself.
Letting Go of Control
It is possible that you may not be tuned in to a big part of the dynamic between you and others that involves your need to control them. It is essential to recognize and let go of any need, motivation, or desire to control or manage others, including your partner. It’s time to admit that you can only control yourself.
In an unfulfilling relationship you might tend to want to help, fix, protect, or rescue. As natural as it is to want to do this with someone we care about, who we perceive as stuck or struggling, it only works in Hollywood movies. In real life, it makes things worse because it doesn’t work—period. Furthermore, one truth you should embrace is that not everyone will want to change, and that’s okay. Just as it is okay for you to make the decision about what you want to change about yourself; everyone else has the same prerogative.
When you stop trying to control someone else, you empower yourself in ways you may not have realized. You can shift that energy into something that is changeable. In some situations, you may begin to recognize aspects of yourself that you wish to change instead. You will no longer be deflecting outward but inward. When you stop controlling others, it’s probable that you will now be focusing on what the actual problem is (and it won’t be what you had thought it was) and find that you can effectively solve it.
Leveraging Your Strengths
Most people have to make an effort to think positively instead of negatively (called a negativity bias). The constant focus on dysfunction, disease and what’s wrong is frequently viewed as both undesirable and possibly even harmful. Maintaining a pessimistic view takes away our perception that we have choices in how we want to think and behave. You can adjust your thinking and focus on strengths that help establish a more optimistic outlook. Doing so will affirm your mental toughness and make you a happier person.
The first step to leveraging your strengths is to take inventory of them. Do not downplay or minimize any possible strength! It’s time to boast a bit and bask in the glory of your positive attributes. Think about what comes to mind on your own, comments and compliments you have been given by others, or direct feedback from school or work by way of grades or raises.
Falling in Love with Yourself
Loving yourself is an excellent idea! I’m not talking about the narcissistic version of self-love but the version where you have positive regard for your own well-being and happiness. People who pour themselves into a troubled relationship find that they have neglected their individual needs and contentment. They have not been, loving or kind toward themselves, even if it is unintentional.
Self-love is about putting yourself first, forgiving your mistakes, and accepting yourself regardless of perceived imperfections. It is also about embracing joy, realizing your ability to grow and taking care of and protecting yourself. It can influence your choices in love, work, and friendships. It can impact your ability to cope with distress. Engaging in loving and kind self-care behaviors is an ongoing practice, and it will help you live with integrity and intention.
Finding a Sense of Purpose
Without a sense of purpose, you will continue to mentally suffer. Without purpose, you will meander pointlessly through life without intention. For example, your tendency to continuously try to fix your relationship can be an attempt to alleviate your pain around it. But, it may have unintentionally become your purpose, and it is an unhealthy one that will never leave you in peace. Alternatively, having a healthy and an invigorating sense of purpose, engaging in work and activities that bring joy and satisfaction, will help you thrive in life and your relationships.
By focusing attention outward, your mental energy is channeled into something useful and purposeful. It is not concentrated inward on yourself, your negative mood, obsessive thoughts, and so on. It is valuable to think about being part of something bigger than yourself, especially when it involves helping mankind. Doing so will improve your sense of achievement, self-worth, self-esteem, confidence, and well-being.
Finding Meaning in Your Struggles
If your search for a meaningful romantic connection has been rife with struggle, you can benefit from finding the meaning and lessons that lie within those struggles. View pain as a hidden invitation to growth. You are stronger than you think you are to have come this far already. Now start exploring the significance of the hurt and pain and perhaps even the positives have come out of your experiences. You do not have to be thankful for the experience itself, but maybe you might be grateful for the meaning found and lessons learned from it.
You may not have realized that there is a lot you can do when you give up trying to change your partner. Gaining self-awareness about your own behavior, learning to love yourself, focusing on your strengths and developing a sense of purpose are all worthwhile strategies in these circumstances. Shifting your focus may open up a world of possibility and growth you didn’t realize was possible.
About the author:
Dr. Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in South Florida. She is a relationship expert, frequent media contributor, and the author of, Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships (published by New World Library and available everywhere books are sold).