“Can you please fix my partner?” When couples go to counseling, this is usually their agenda. This is really not a helpful attitude. If you really want to make your relationship thrive, the most effective place to start working is on yourself. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror and consider these questions:
• What sort of partner are you? • What sort of partner you want to be? • Is there a gap between who you want to be and the way you are acting now? Values are your heart deepest desires for how you want to be and how you want to behave. They reflect what you want to stand for in life. Your values provide the cornerstone of lasting love, neglect them and your relationship crumbles like a house with no foundation. The more tension and conflict we have in our relationships, the more we are disconnected from our true core values.
This is an exercise I asked couples to do to discover about their values.
Exercise: Your ten-year anniversary
Imagine that it is ten years from now and you have gathered together your closet friends and relatives to celebrate the last ten years of your relationship. It’s your imagination, so make it look how you want. Could be a small intimate affair or a plush affair.
Now imagine your partner stands up and make a speech about the last ten years of your life together - about what you stand for, what you mean to him and the role you have played in his life. Imagine him saying whatever it is, deep in your heart, you would most like to hear. (This is not about what he would realistically say, it’s about what, in an ideal world you would love to hear him say.) Imagine him describing your character, your strengths and the ways in which you have contributed to the relationship.
Close your eyes now and take a couple of minutes to do this exercise. Reflection:
• What did this exercise tell you about your values? • Are you truly acting like the partner you want to be? • If you are sulking, withdrawing, complaining snapping, whining, lashing out, making hurtful comments or nasty remarks, threatening, judging, criticising – are these the behaviours you want to be remembered for?
One thing to keep in mind, values are not about what you “have to do” or “should do”, they are about what is important or meaningful to you. So if words like “should”, “shouldn’t”, “must”, “have to” or “ought” start cropping up then you are no longer in values you have crossed over into rules.