Eliminating Relationship Gridlock for Good
I think the problem people come to me the most about is feeling stuck in their relationship. They feel like, no matter what they do, nothing changes long-term and they end up feeling frustrated, hopeless, pissed off or depressed. In this Ask Dr. Abby show, I’m going to teach you about the 3 lies that are keeping you stuck in your relationship.
If you’ve heard me speak before, you’ve heard me talk about something I call Relationship Gridlock. It’s when your relationship gets to such a point of stuckness that there, literally, seems like there’s no move you can make to get out of it. Any move you try to make appears blocked. You’re sitting in your car and can only see the traffic jam for miles. It feels like the only way out is for someone else (like your partner) to move their car, so you can move yours. The problem is that your partner is in their car is thinking the same thing. They’re waiting for you to move your car. So, everyone sits there in this hopeless deadlock.
For example, maybe your partner doesn’t pick up after himself and this drives you crazy. You’re feeling disrespected and dismissed. You’re thinking, “I’m not his maid! How dare he treat me this way?” So, you start nagging him to pick up his things and criticizing him for treating you so poorly. You see this issue as a “him” problem. If he’d only stop doing this (and maybe 40 other things that annoy you), you’d have a happy relationship.
Your partner is in a different car in this traffic jam. He’s feeling overwhelmed with his own issues. Maybe work has been really hard and he hasn't wanted to talk about it. Maybe parenting is tougher than he thought. Maybe he’s thinking that he doesn’t get enough sex or he’s stressed that his hairline is receding. Whatever the issue, he thinks that you’re just too focused on the house being “perfect.” If you’d just lighten up a little, the relationship would be great. He’s thinking: “Why can’t we just leave the dishes in the sink and take care of them in the morning?” or “Why can’t she just leave a couple socks on the floor – I’ll pick them up later?” or (the one I probably hear the most) “It’s like no matter what I do, it’s not good enough, so why bother?” You know, like when he takes the time to clean the kitchen after you’ve made dinner but you don’t think he does it right so you either tell him this (which is criticizing how he did something) or you just go back over it yourself and “fixed” what he missed. So, you’ve now got him thinking this is all a “her” problem.
Basically it all boils down to this: You’re unhappy because you’re waiting for your partner to change, and they’re unhappy because they’re waiting for you to change. You’re stuck in this Relationship Gridlock where everyone is waiting, so nothing changes. You end up giving up because you’re feeling trapped in hopelessness, frustration and anger.
So, why does Relationship Gridlock happen? How do we get to this place?
Relationship Gridlock happens mainly because of three lies you believe about your relationship. You might not even realize you’re thinking these things, but they’re driving your thoughts and actions and keeping you stuck.
So, let’s break them down. Here are the three lies that keep you frustrated, sad and angry in your relationship:
Lie #1: Our Problem is We Don’t Communicate
Relationship Gridlock happens because you mistakenly think that the problem in your relationship is a lack of a communication. You’re wrong. You’re always communicating.
The problem in your relationship isn’t a lack of communication; the problem in your relationship is that you’re communicating constantly, but it’s all the wrong things. On a daily basis you’re communicating that you’re angry, resentful, hopeless, annoyed or frustrated. Your partner is likely communicating the same things back to you, of course, and now the two of you are stuck in a repetitive cycle feeding off each other’s negativity.
You can’t “not” communicate (yes, that’s a double negative, but get off my back, I’m trying to make a point here). You’ve got to learn to communicate the right things and these “right” things are simpler than you think and easy to incorporate into your life and I give lots of specific ways you can communicate effectively and healthfully in my broadcasts and on my blog.
Lie #2: There’s Nothing I Can Do if My Partner Isn’t Willing to Change
Even if your partner doesn’t want to do even one tiny thing to improve; won’t read any of the books you’ve suggested, won’t watch a video or go to couples counseling with you, you can dramatically improve your relationship.
Of course, it’s really great if they take part too, but it’s not necessary. You can make the relationship markedly better just by using healthy tools yourself. You can create happiness in your life in a consistent way.
And here’s why: when you start to change, the people around you start to change too. But, I’ll tell you the secret. Your goal can’t be to change them. Nope, your goal can only be to change yourself. Trying to change others is called manipulation and that’s nasty stuff that doesn’t work in the long run if you want a healthy and connected relationship.
I know what you’re thinking: “If she’d only stop nagging me every day, I could breath and get to everything on my list,” or “If he’d only stop drinking so much, we’d be great,” or “The only problem in our relationship is his anger.” If you really want to find fulfillment, happiness and connection with your partner, I need you to get these “buts” and “if only’s” out of your head. Whatever you’re so sure you’re “right” about, I’d like you to suspend that judgment for a little while and try it a different way. After all, has your way of trying to “get him to understand” or “get her to stop” worked? Have you made any long-term progress on the things that are in your way?
Lie #3: It’s Going to Take A LOT of Work to Change (because we’ve been this way for so long or because that’s what it takes for any change to happen).
I’m here to tell you there’s a way that skips the horrible fights, the epic battles, the hopelessness and the misery. There’s a way that brings you towards peace, laughter, lightness and connection. There’s a deceptively simple method that puts you in the driver’s seat of your life again. I know, you’re thinking: “But we’ve had these problems for years, it’s going to take A LOT of work and time to make changes.” Well, you’re wrong. Yes, I said it: you’re wrong. As a matter of fact, some of the biggest issues often require only the simplest of changes. I go into this further on another broadcast, called “Bright Spots” but, for now, you’ll need to take my word on this.
What you do need are effective tools that work in tandem; Strategies that compliment one another and can start to feel effortless with just a little practice. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality of what you’re doing and where you’re putting your focus.
The good news is that I’ve been studying this for you for the last two decades. I’ve combined my hands-on work with couples with research from diverse fields like business, psychology and neuroscience and I’ve come up with a proven system that works. I offer this system in a variety of ways. Yes, you can get my “8 Steps to Happy and Meaningful Relationships in Just 31 Days” program when it’s offered and that’ll be like a quick boot camp to get you there. You can also download tons of free materials from me and do the work piece by piece. Whatever you choose, you’ve just got to stay committed to the goal and believe what I’m saying. Yes, it might have taken years to get your relationship to this bad place but it’s NOT going to take years to fix it. Change does NOT have to happen that way.
Right now I’m going to give you one part of my system that can drastically change the quality of you relationship. It’s a paradigm or world-view shift. It’s going to sound deceptively simple, but it’s completely profound and will change your relationship on every level.
It starts with a magic penny.
The Secret to Creating Lasting Change and Eliminating Relationship Gridlock for Good
If I offered you $3 million, or a magic penny that would double in value every day for 31 days, which would you choose? If you’ve been to business school or heard this brainteaser before, you’d pick the penny because at the end of 31 days that magic penny is worth quite a bit more than $3 million. For those of you hearing this for the first time, you might be shocked (and find it difficult to believe) that a meager penny could ever be more than $3 million in just over a month, so let’s walk through it.
It’s day one and you’ve got your magic penny and let’s say that your best friend has chosen the $3 million. Hmmmm, this seems like a raw deal, but you hang in there because you’re willing to suspend judgment.
Day one, you have one cent. Day two, you have two cents. Day three you have four cents (are you falling asleep yet?). In fact, while the penny is doubling those first couple weeks, it looks like you made a BIG mistake. By day ten, you only have $5.12, and at the three-week mark you are only at $10, 486. You’re thinking, “This sucks!”
You’re so upset, that I offer to trade you your magic penny for the $3 million. It’s looking bleak, I mean you only have 11 days left, but you don’t want to give up even though it doesn’t look promising. You decide to follow through on your original commitment, even though you’re doubtful.
(This alone might be a whole new thing for you because, like so many people, you might start to doubt yourself and your decisions once things start getting too hard or if it seems like you made the wrong decision).
As the days continue to pass, and maybe just when you were about to give up, an incredible thing starts to happen; compounding really starts to take effect and the money seems to grow at an exponential rate. You’re feeling happier, but you’re still looking at your best friend and thinking you got the raw end of this deal because, although your money is starting to grow, you’re nowhere near your friend’s $3 million.
Finally, you get to day 29, with only two days left, and you have about $2.7 million, but this is still obviously less than the $3 million your buddy originally got. You’re about to find out that this is when the magic really starts. Since your $2.7 million doubles, on day 30 you’ve got about $5.3 million, and on your final day, day 31, you have over $10 million ($10,737,418.24 to be exact). Incredible!
Now, compare days 29, 30 and 31 to days one, two and three with this magic penny. It’s crazy, right? There’s NO comparison. And this is the secret to being happy in your life and in your relationship. You’ve got to treat your relationship like the magic penny.
If you can’t imagine how a magic penny can become over $10 million, get this free download that shows you how.
The thing that will eliminate Relationship Gridlock for good is your daily interactions. You need to put attention on your small, daily interactions and decisions. Most couples I work with actually do pretty well when huge decisions or emergencies come up. But life has very few of these. Married life or life with a partner is all about those small, daily interactions and what you do with them.
You can make the relationship different without your partner’s participation. Think about that traffic gridlock. You can sit there all day, so sure you’re right, but stay stuck anyway. OR, you can decide to move your car, even if you don’t believe the gridlock was your fault! You can change your direction and move your car. Yes, maybe you now need to drive around the block or go over a bridge, but it’s so much better to be finally moving in a way that will actually get you to your destination than to be sitting stuck in that gridlock.
For today, think to yourself, it starts with me.