How can I Strengthen My Relationship if it Seems I am the Only One that Wants to Work on It?

advice on saving a one-sided relationship by taking proactive steps, such as embodying desired qualities, practicing open communication, and understanding your partner's love language.

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How can I Strengthen My Relationship if it Seems I am the Only One that Wants to Work on It?

How can I Strengthen My Relationship if it Seems I am the Only One that Wants to Work on It?

Picture of Nathan Cobb, <small>Ph.D. in MFT, RMFT, R.Psych</small>

Nathan Cobb, Ph.D. in MFT, RMFT, R.Psych

Registered Psychologist and Registered Marriage & Family Therapist

Sometimes a client will ask me, How can I save my relationship if I am the only one that wants to save it?

As a general rule, when it seems as though you are more invested in the relationship than your spouse is, or that you are more willing to put effort into healing the relationship than your spouse is, then you will need to work on being the change that you are hoping to see in your partner and in your relationship.

You will need to do the things in your relationship that you would want your partner to do for you. If you want to be heard, then be sure that you are listening to your spouse in a fully engaged manner that will help your spouse feel heard. If you want a caring and compassionate reaction from your spouse that makes you feel that you matter, then be sure you are giving caring and compassionate responses that help your spouse to feel that they matter. If you want your spouse to be more attentive to you and to ease your burdens, then be sure you are being attentive to your partner’s needs and to the burdens your spouse carries.

I am not suggesting that you do this as a tactic to get your own needs met or to get the outcome you want from your partner. That sounds a bit manipulative. I’m saying that your efforts need to come from a genuine place of caring and compassion for your partner. If your partner feels that from you, it may inspire them to move closer to you, and to want to make efforts to help the relationship also.

There is one caveat to the above advice, and that is to be aware of what specifically helps your spouse feel loved and cherished.

Much has been written on the topic of love languages in the last thirty years. Most of it boils down to the premise that when it comes to speaking your spouse’s love language, the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” doesn’t really hold up. (Of course, when these words were spoken, it meant, “if you want your spouse to be kind to you, be kind to your spouse. If you want your spouse to be respectful of you, be respectful of your spouse”. When it comes to specific love languages, we can revise that phrase to say, “do unto your spouse as they would have you do unto them”.

Your spouse will have a much greater chance of being inspired to reciprocate with kindness and responsiveness, in response to your attentive, kind, and real communication than if you complained about your spouse and told them what they were doing wrong.

Complaining about your spouse and telling them what they are doing wrong will increase the likelihood that your spouse will want to move away from the source pain they are experiencing, which are feelings of shame, failure, and insecurity brought on by your words telling them what they are doing wrong.

If you were to focus on what change you can make for the better, and frankly admit where you can improve and where you can be more effective as a spouse, your spouse will likely feel safer to follow suit, to risk being vulnerable and to admit their own mistakes, with less fear of being judged or rejected, because of the tone you have set.

One of the most reliable ingredients of creating a virtuous cycle between spouses that yields closeness and connection in the relationship is when it is evident and noticeable that you are making genuine, caring effort to treat your partner as a cherished person and to be responsive to what is important to your partner and vice versa.

Just by you changing your priorities, your attitude, and by changing the way you picture your spouse can shift the momentum of your relationship in a much more positive direction.

Don`t wait for your spouse to change first. Don`t believe that your spouse needs to shift first before your relationship can improve. Be the change you want to see.