If you are in a relationship that totally sucks right now... this one is for you.
Are you mad, fed up, or frustrated? Are you trying to remember why you got with this person in the first place?
Maybe they are not a spouse or love partner.
They could be your family member. Maybe even your kid. Or perhaps they are your boss and that new job just hasn't come through yet to rescue you. What I'm going to suggest will work in those types of relationships, too.
Are you ready for the secret?
Here it is: You change them.
What? You tried that and it didn't work? I know, I know. You can't change anyone. Fooey.
With a crappy relationship it's like you've got a bag of leaky garbage oozing all over your kitchen floor. It stinks and it's everywhere. Just when you think you've got a handle on it, you realize you can't pick it up without making it worse. That hole threatens to split open and dump everything onto the floor. (Trying to "talk", misunderstandings, frustrations, disappointments.... mess.)
Yet you can't ignore it because it's in your kitchen and you have to eat. (Life IS relationships, after all.)
So here is #1. Stop the seepage.
Complaining is like leaking your garbage on someone else's shoes, in your own house, on your own clean floor.
"I feel like crap, so I'm going to share some crap with you."
"Uh, gee... thanks?"
So even you are right and they are wrong, stop complaining out loud. Complain in your head all you want, but do not let it pass your lips. Move that garbage outside where it belongs. By doing this, you create relief in the relationship.
The best way I have found to stop complaining is to use a bracelet. Try to go 21 days in a row without complaining. Every time you complain out loud you switch the bracelet to your other wrist and start on day zero again. Some people take almost a year or more to make it 21 days. So far I have gone... two. So take heart, even if you are not perfect at it, which you will not be, the practice of it is amazing. A-maz-ing. Try it for a week and see for yourself. I got the idea from this book, which I recommend.
Remember: "Complaining really helps us grow closer..." said no one ever.
Step #2: Compost It
The garbage is there, let's not even try to deny it. Maybe they did forget your birthday or not give you a well-deserved raise. It's not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about feeling better in the relationship.
This metaphor might be a tad strange but bear with me. If you have garbage in your life you can turn it into dirt (awesome stuff from which new life can grow). To do this you need composting agents like worms. Worms, perfect little creatures that they are, do not magically disappear the garbage, they slowly transform it.
Gratitude lists and lists of positive aspects are like worms. Not icky, slimy worms. Cute worms. They turn piles of garbage in our minds slowly, over time, into something that feels like new life.
Every day write down 1-5 things you appreciate about the other person. It could be something like "they made enough coffee for two this morning" or "they worse less perfume in the office". It does not have to be a beautiful thing. It might take you a long time to think of it at first, but surely there is one thing you can think of, small as it is.
If you prefer you can list positive aspects of them. "I like their hair." Or "They wore a color blue I like." It could be "they were not there at lunch today". Whatever it is, however small it is, it works.
If you write these lists for a while you will find that it becomes easier to find things to appreciate or recall... without them having to change. Just like the magic of the circle of life, the garbage you were standing in slowly becomes something fertile; new ground to stand on. By doing this you create a positive perspective in your relationship, which changes everything you see and experience with it, regardless of them.
If you do these two steps - consistently and over time - without trying to change the other person... the ironic thing is... things change. If you do them to control the other person, good luck. Repeat after me: "I cannot change anyone. Fooey."
So that's it, folks: a shovel and some worms.
Take the garbage outside and add worms to eat it. Cute, fuzzy-feeling worms, of course. You might get tired and dirty and frustrated doing it at first, but once you get used to it you'll find it makes an amazingly beautiful garden.
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