Copyright 2014 by Roberta Gallagher
Is the concept of evaluating your relationship too cold? Businesses must do audits of their profit and loss for the year. This is a valuable exercise in pinpointing what to change and what is working.
To translate the business tool into a relationship tool requires some new terms. Instead of profit and loss it seems more relevant to use Pros and Cons. Numbers in business have to do with money. In relationships we have to deal with values and attitudes; behavior and emotions.
Before I go further it is important to know that once you two discuss this, both of you must agree to be accountable for the changes your partner requests. Once you both agree that this Relationship Audit is going to result in a dialogue about what changes will be best for your relationship, follow through in all good faith is the second step.
It’s important too, to realize that the Relationship Audit is not meant to be another way to engage in blaming and shaming your partner. It’s a opportunity to learn more about what’s working and what isn’t, so you can fix things that need fixing.
Now, it’s common to have a truly hard time admitting our mistakes. Most of us fall back on defending ourselves by explaining and justifying to prove our point. So instead of blaming, you need to look at yourself and define the behavior that needs to change.
Suppose your partner has a big anger problem.
Peggy came in to see me complaining that John would put his fists through walls and call her names. She came to see that her part was in not telling him that his behavior was unacceptable. Also, she needed to state how the behavior affected her. “Not only does hitting the wall make me afraid of you. I become emotionally distant. Is that what you want?”
Although violence is never permissible, in therapy I would be curious as to what provoked him. By exploring that, Peggy and John could set limits and stick to them.
When they both came to see me he complained that she was too tightly tied to her family of origin. Also, she was jealous and attempted to control his every move. He came to realize that his responses of rage were frightening and driving them further apart. He needed to learn how to manage his emotions. He stated that “I cannot blame Peggy for my conflicts.”
They proceeded to do the Relationship Audit and listed all the Pros and Cons as they perceived them. Besides each point they put the letter U for any quality that was totally unacceptable and if not changed they would have to rethink their commitment to their marriage.
The truth is that someone can have 20 great qualities but if they have one that grosses you out or threatens your safety needs, the relationship cannot continue. If someone picks their nose and won’t change it does not matter if they are a great provider.
As John and Peggy reviewed their lists they saw that there was no quality that turned them off. They were very attracted to one another.
The other qualities in the Con column were negotiable. In order to do this process with effectiveness they had to learn how to listen to one another and have empathy. They are now continuing to create a new relationship which is better than it ever had been.
If you read these suggestions and take no action nothing will get better. First plan a good time to talk to your partner about doing this. Don’t be pushy. Suggest not demand that taking the risk will be worth the reward. Good luck.