Re-routing the River: Jessica and Steve’s Story: Part Two

Sometimes, when you’re dissatisfied with your relationship, you want changes to be made quickly.

But what if you’re being unrealistic?
What if you’re being unfair to your partner?
What if you need to adjust your expectations?

Positive change in your relationship is absolutely possible – but lasting change takes time, work and commitment.

In this three-part case study, I explore how.

Part Two – Taking Responsibility

“I want him to listen more.”

“I want him to speak more gently.”

“I want him to stop giving me advice I haven’t asked for.”

Once Jessica* had finished outlining the three things that she wanted to change in the relationship, it was Steve’s* turn:-

“I would like our communication to be more honest and open.”

“I would like us to have more intimacy.”

“I want us to prioritise each other.”

Jessica and Steve’s homework exercise had been for them to individually write out 3 positive changes they each wanted to see in their relationship.

What I noticed was that whilst Steve had written about areas that they both needed to work on, Jessica had focused on what she wanted Steve to do.

I advised them that whilst it might seem to be easier to focus on what you want your partner to do, it’s actually more difficult when you focus on their behaviour – because that’s not something you can control. What you can control is your own behaviour. By focusing instead on what you can do to improve the relationship, you can feel more empowered and in control of the changes you want to see. And you also lead your partner by example.

If you want your partner to take responsibility for how their actions affect you, you have to demonstrate that you’re prepared to take responsibility for your part too.

We discussed how Steve’s list of positive changes was more open, in that it suggested that they would both need to be active in those changes, rather than listing what he wanted Jessica to do.

The session focussed on learning new communication skills, which included the use of body language, facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, phrasing, and the ability to take responsibility. They were shown how to de-escalate conflict, and how to deliver messages to each other in constructive ways.

Steve acknowledged that sometimes the way he delivered his messages to Jessica could come across as patronising and dogmatic. He recognised that this was part of the reason for Jessica not expressing how she felt, for fear that he would simply “shout her down”. Jessica acknowledged that by bottling things up over the years, she had just assumed that Steve would know she was unhappy.

This was a huge turning point in their relationship. By each taking responsibility for their part in their relationship problems, the trust began to build.

I asked Jessica and Steve to practice their new communication skills at home for the following week, and they agreed that we would discuss their progress in the next session.

Join me in the next blog post – Re-routing the River: Jessica and Steve’s Story: Part Three – to find out how Jessica and Steve got on.

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*Client confidentiality is always protected. Case studies are therefore fictional and for illustrative purposes only.

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