If your relationship is in trouble, then you have to be willing to admit that whatever you are thinking and feeling and doing is not working. You have to be willing to move your position on some very deep beliefs and long-held emotions and behavioral patterns. When I say "move your position," I mean that you must be willing to utterly change the way you think, feel, and act in relationship to yourself and your partner. This can be harder than you could ever imagine. I am asking you to give up your security blankets and free-fall. I am asking you to hit the erase button on ideas that you may have been holding for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. I am asking you to wipe the slate clean and start over in your thinking. Bottom line, I am asking you to believe, once again, that you are a qualified person who deserves a quality relationship. Getting back in touch with your core of consciousness will remind and convince you that there is nothing wrong with you that justifies your having less than a rewarding relationship in which you can live, love, and laugh every day of your life.
Are you ready to embrace a new kind of thinking, a new belief system, a new way of looking at yourself and your partner? To see if you’re ready to move forward, answer the following questions:
1. Can you forget what you think you know about managing relationships?
2. Can you decide to measure the quality of your relationship based on results instead of intentions or promises?
3. Can you decide that you would rather be happy than right?
4. Can you stop playing the blame game and recognize that it is a new day?
5. Can you be willing to move your position on how you approach and engage your partner?
6. Can you be willing to get real and be honest with yourself, about yourself, no matter how painful it is?
7. Can you stop the denial and be completely, totally honest about the state of your current relationship?
I know that right now it may be difficult for you to honestly answer yes to all of those questions. Either way, don't give up, at least not until I tell you two very important things.
First: It is not too late. If you do not allow yourself to believe and accept that, you will think your way out of this relationship before we have the chance to save it. You may think your relationship has failed, you may feel like you have tried everything, you may feel tired, deflated and defeated, but I'm telling you, you have to get that thought out of your head or you are dead in the water with an anvil tied around your ankle. No matter how many times you've been hurt — no matter how many times you've been disappointed, no matter how many times you've believed it could be different only to be blindsided again — you have to be willing to give yourself one more chance. Even if you have hurt so long and so badly that you aren't at all sure if you care whether your relationship survives; even if you're not sure you can ever subject yourself to any more pain from a relationship; even if you do not feel motivated or very hopeful, you can start getting out of your ditch if you will just say to yourself, "I wish I felt good about my relationship again." That's all we need. If all you can muster in your mind and heart is to say, "I wish I felt good about this relationship again, and I wish I felt lovingly toward this person again, because I know that at least at one time in my life those emotions felt good," then that is enough of an ember for us to fan into a flame.
Second: You are not alone. You might feel bewildered and demoralized right now, engulfed by the loneliness that comes with a deteriorating relationship. You may feel intimidated and overwhelmed by what may seem like insurmountable problems or hurts that tend to run so very, very deep. But I want you to know that from now on, you have a partner. You have a partner who is willing to walk with you through this intimidating maze of emotion and who is willing to interact without judgment or criticism, but with the willingness and courage to tell you the truth. I am going to be that partner for you. I have now counseled thousands of people and taught tens of thousands in seminars, helping them create and maintain the key relationships in their lives. I have learned what you know and, more important, what you don't know about sharing your life with another person. I have designed this approach to meet you at whatever point you find yourself in your relationship and give you the power to make changes — power that can come only from learning the absolute naked, unvarnished truth. Indeed, once you learn the real truth about how you got into this mess, and then once you learn what you can do to get rid of the mess, you will shudder to think you almost walked away. You are closer to success than you could ever imagine, if you just have the courage to get real with yourself.
You must take a stand that you are not going to defy the odds, defy your own insecurities, and defy the conventional wisdom that has failed you so miserably. Set this personal standard for yourself from the very beginning. Adopt a philosophy of passion that says, "I will not quit. I will not allow my hopes and dreams to be pushed aside." Never forget, this life is your only shot. This is no dress rehearsal. You must be willing to reach for what you want and reach right now. And if you are willing to settle for less, then that is exactly what you will get.
You must not forget about the importance of your relationship with yourself. You must demand nothing less than the best of yourself and for yourself. You must tell yourself that it is not wrong to want it all. It is not wrong to demand dignity, love, honor and romance in your life. You must decide that you are worthy of everything that you want. You must decide that peace, joy, and abundance in a relationship is not just for other people. It is for you. It is not selfish to want it, it is not naive to want it, and it is not immature to expect it. What is immature is to sell out and settle for less than what you really want.
It is not wrong to want, expect, demand, and aspire to a relationship in which you are treated with honor, dignity, and respect. It is not unrealistic to believe that your mate can and should be your soft place to fall. It is not a pipe dream to believe that God has provided for you another person in this world whom you can trust with your most intimate and vulnerable secrets and needs.
I am not suggesting that blind optimism or denial about the risks is the right approach. I am not telling you to pretend that there are not problems, or that they will go away. I am asking you to exercise the belief within yourself that you can do this, and that your relationship can be much better. I have often said, "Sometimes we make the right decision, and sometimes we have to make the decision right."
You might not like having to blow up a bunch of deceptive but highly destructive myths about what makes a relationship work, and you might not like having to confront the truth about yourself — but I predict that you will love the outcome. You will love that you will be able to reprogram yourself for success rather than failure, that you will be able to go from an individual hoping for a future to an individual making your future happen. And then both you and your partner can begin working to get what you want, to stop the pain that both of you are feeling, and to create more peace, love, and the deepest of joy in your relationship.
Modified excerpt from Relationship Rescue: A Seven-Step Strategy For Reconnecting With Your Partner by Phillip C. McGraw, PhD (Hyperion).
Need Dr. Phil's help in your life? Share your story here.