By Dr. Jessica Higgins
1. Focus on what you CAN control. If you like to be in control, remind yourself to look at the difference between what you have control over and what you don’t.
2. Learn to practice acceptance. Fighting for what you cannot change or control will only cause more struggle and pain. If you can learn to accept the things you cannot change, you will be more likely to put your energy into more positive and constructive outcomes. You will have more strength, depth, resilience, and flexibility than you think you have.
3. Challenge yourself to share. You and your partner are creating a dynamic together. If you are dominating the relationship and your partner is not getting what he/she wants, then your partner is probably not going to be in the happy long-term. If your partner is unhappy, then your relationship will not be happy and healthy. Wouldn’t you rather have a mutually rewarding and beneficial dynamic, where both of you are happy and fulfilled?
4. See the value in having different opinions. If you think your way is right, then you probably value your opinion and your thinking. Wonderful! Now, try to see the merit in your partner’s perspective and preferences. As an exercise, try putting the quality of your relationship bond as the priority above being right. Ask yourself, what is more important- being right or being happy?
5. Learn the significance of your reactions. If you are having a strong judgment or criticism of your partner, then take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “How come this issue is so important to me? What meaning does this concern have for me? How come I am so sensitive to this issue? Am I making my partner’s shortcomings my problem?”
6. Give yourself support. If you are anxious and trying to control the world around you (to feel more comfortable), you may not even realize how you are feeling. Pause. Breath. Ask yourself, “What am I really feeling? What am I worried, anxious, or fearful about?” Be there for yourself. Attend to your needs. Practice self-care (i.e. set limits on your amount of giving, get good rest, nutrition, activity, etc.).
7. Learn to appreciate you. Do you struggle with feelings of inadequacy or insecurity? Learn to develop a more acknowledging inner voice. Acknowledge three things you appreciate about yourself every day.
8. Learn to value what you have to offer. Create a list of 10 ways you bring contributions to others. Stay with it until you get 10 or more. Sometimes it is hard to generate ideas of self-appreciation because you are not used to thinking in this way. If you stay with it long enough, you will begin to recognize more ways you bring value to the world.
9. Learn to have a constructive inner voice. A critical inner dialogue constantly critiques and corrects in ways that are undermining to your self-esteem and self-confidence (i.e. “You idiot. You are so stupid. You fool.”). How do you reframe your critical statements? What would be a kinder, more gentle statement? Focus on how to improve. Be encouraging. Believe in yourself. Build your self-esteem and inner security.
10. Focus on the relationship. If you are in the habit of critiquing, correcting, and criticizing, try pausing before commenting. Think and consider what you want to say to your partner. Reframe your original judgments. If you were to put your judgments into positive language, then what would you say? Create a climate for learning, patience, and kindness. Focus on behaviors that foster a healthy, happy, rewarding relationship.
11. Practice forgiveness. Can it be forgiven? If not, set-up a time to address the concern constructively. Create an attitude of generosity.
12. Learn to reveal what is true. Learn how to be more open, transparent, and present. If you take a risk to be open and present to the people you trust, you will increase the likelihood of being received, loved, and appreciated for being yourself without any pretense. By doing this, you will build healthy trust from your partner.
13. See the value in your partner. Shift towards an appreciation. List three positive aspects of your partner or the situation. Catch your partner doing something good. And sincerely offer appreciation to her/him.
14. Let your partner be them. Let you be you. Acknowledge to yourself, “If it were me, I would do things differently. However, it is not me in this situation.” Respect your partner’s autonomy. Would you feel different if you knew you were not responsible for what your partner is thinking or how they are behaving?
15. Try a 7-day fast of no criticism to break old habits. Be in the practice of looking for the good in others and within your life. This will help retrain your mind.
16. Choose criticism free times or zones. Make an agreement with yourself and/or your spouse to have times where you will not engage in critical comments. For example, an hour before bedtime, in the morning, or after dinner.
17. Practice gratitude. Bringing your attention to something you are grateful for is one of the quickest and most powerful ways to shift your mindset. Try to identify a few things that you are genuinely grateful for. Take it one step further and feel what it feels like to be truly grateful. If this is a difficult task, perhaps experiment with keeping a gratitude journal for 30 days.
Bonus- Practice this over and over again.