Often in relationships, we are looking for our partner to change. We want them to communicate better. We want them to show us they love us. We want them to spend more time together as a family. We want them to treat us with more respect. Then we are surprised when despite promises our partner does not live up to our expectations. Perhaps a different way to approach the problem would be to ask for action rather than point the direction we wish to go in.

Siobhan and James relationship story

Relationship therapySiobhan and James had been together for eight years. They were happy together however, recently she felt that James respected her less. She had noticed that he would point out her faults in a joking or disparaging manner in company. He would find fault with things that she had done around the house. He had stopped asking how they had gone at work.

She felt that they were no longer communicating effectively. They had talked and agreed that James would put more effort into supporting Siobhan. Despite promises, little had changed and as the months had gone on things got worse and the fights become bigger.

In therapy, they agreed to some action goals. James agreed that he would talk to Siobhan about her day for 10 minutes every day when she got in from work. He further agreed that he would not talk negatively about Siobhan in front friends or their children but if he had a complaint he would sit down with Siobhan and explain how he felt. While this did not solve all of their relationship problems, it began to give a basis for them to communicate more effectively because it offered progress.


What Action can I take?

Perhaps if you are feeling stuck in your relationship you might consider setting action goals. What is it that your partner could do that would make a difference to you? How would they know that they were achieving it? What one thing could you do for your partner that would make a difference? How will you know when you are achieving it?

The answers to these questions offer practical way that you and your partner can ensure that you are listening to their needs and are responding by changing your behaviour. The process may seem false at first, but it offers a starting point for change.

Apply same principle to other problems that you encounter in your relationship. Thus rather than your always leaving your clothes for me to pick up. Try something that is more action focused: “it would help me if you could pick up and put away your clothes”. The first feels like criticism, while the second achieves the same results Taking this approach puts across the feeling and asks for immediate action.

By taking more of an action approach to problems in your relationship, it is possible to tackle the issues head on. It may be that the help of a therapist can help you identify what the key actions should be to make the biggest difference. Often couples feel the big obstacles  with communication and the need a therapist to get started. However, as you move into action it can make a real difference to your relationship.