We have made it through Valentine's day, and it reminds me of a workshop and podcast series I presented several years ago on the pillars of a healthy and happy love life. What do we do when we are working on ourselves, and our romantic partner doesn't seem to follow our lead and do the same?
What if it feels like I am the only one in the relationship putting work into it? Why do I have to be the one who does all the work in the relationship? When we feel we are putting in our best (or at least decent) efforts, but our partner is not, it can lead to frustration and a build up of resentment. Do we try to set a good example? Do we complain? Do we ask ourselves "why isn't this person responding well to my attempts to control him or her?"
It is important to acknowledge, discuss, and own our desire to control certain aspects of our partners' actions, even if it is for their own good. We can ask our partners what they react to and try to control in us, and be open about what we do and do not care about in the other's behaviors. Then we can make requests (not demands) in the direction of what we would like to see.
Ideally, we would let go and allow a person in relationship with us to be whatever they want to be and work on ourselves for our own sake. This is a challenging process goal, and requires sustained and repeated effort.
Putting our own efforts into the relationship, even if it seems a little unbalanced, is not a bad thing. Working on ourselves and our interactions with others will benefit us individually in the long run, even if it isn't that way in our current relationship. If we put more effort into watching what we say to be kinder, not complaining as much, and being gentler with our words, it is to our benefit whether or not our partners follow our lead and do the same.
I do feel that intimate relationships, if they are to be sustained, require a degree of individual growth to avoid stagnation. When I see relationships struggle significantly, there often is a degree of apathy, letting go, and becoming a bit lazy in several areas, usually in both partners.
By working on ourselves as well as our interactions with our intimate partners, we become better people overall. This is practice (and requires much practicing) towards being authentic and caring, with less attachment to what others do. So acknowledge the areas where you are seeking to control, make requests, practice letting go, and keep working on yourself.