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Take the test— and let your partners take it for themselves.
What are you like to be with?” I asked my client.
“A bit of a bitch really,” she said, after considerable thought. “Always tired, grumpy, nagging, on my phone too much.”
She’d come along for some advice on what to do about her 15-year marriage which she said was on a fast track to the wrecker’s yard — unless something changed. Should I stay or should I go? had become her theme song, even though she didn’t really want to separate.
It was a fair question, given her unhappiness — but it wasn’t the first one she should be asking. She and her partner should each be considering their own roles in the mess they had gotten into — and what each of them could do to change it.
But, when a relationship sours, it’s hard to think clearly, let alone know how to turn things around.
We Change, Relationships Change
When we enter a relationship we’re All Dressed Up for Business. We scrub up, we wear nice underwear (every day), we do kind things, we present our best selves. More than that, we show deep interest in our partners, we find out what matters to them, we strive to make them feel good.
But after we grow comfortable, our own voice begins to squeak in our ear: hey, what about me? And that voice gets louder and louder until the balance tips. Then it becomes Not Fair; we’re not getting enough back from our partner, this is not what we signed on for.
Over time, we slip into unhelpful patterns of thought, emotion and behaviour that can turn into a blaming game: it’s not me, it’s you. And that leads to chronic discontent.
So before you land there, it’s worth turning the spotlight gently on yourself. (Warning: don’t share all your faults with your partner — that’s just asking for trouble — just quietly go to work on them).
Am I a Good Partner (or the other kind)?
Answer Yes, Could-do-Better or No to the following questions:
- I freely admit when I am wrong. I can apologise fully and without being prompted.
- I have my own independent interests and friendships and I make time for them. I am happy for my partner to do the same — and encourage him or her to do so.
- I’m fun to be with. I can be upbeat, have a laugh and share a dumb in-joke with my partner. I am not perpetually gloomy. (You get a leave pass here if you are depressed or struggling with mental illness but not if you are not actively working on your difficulties. It’s not fair on partners or families to leave your recovery to chance.)
- I’m not a Drama Queen or King. I don’t over-react (too often). I am consistently able to manage my emotional reactions — and, if my partner were looking over my shoulder while I do this test, they would agree with me.
- I agree with my partner over the time we each spend on our devices and our recreational activities (including alcohol, drugs, porn, gaming, sex, social media). If we don’t agree, I’m working on my part of it!
- My go-to conflict resolution style is reasonable. I’m up for settling an argument in a fair and healthy way. (Note: storming out, giving the silent treatment, vanishing into your cave for two days, picking issues over endlessly are not healthy strategies.)
- I (mostly) keep our relationship in the present. I don’t repeatedly bring up old wounds or past conflicts. I don’t compare my partner with someone from the past.
- I make an effort, physically, emotionally and socially. I do chores. I do my share with the kids (if we have them). I talk. I listen. I suggest things. I don’t wait for my partner to come up with all the domestic and social ideas or “organise me” and, if I do, I don’t complain about my busy schedule.
- I share the emotional load with my partner. I give at least as much as I take. I talk to him/her about their worries. I ask how I could be more supportive (and I try to do it).
- I’m dependable. I do what I say I’ll do, I’ll be where I say I am and I’m a reliable sounding board for my partner when he or she is struggling.
- I generously support my partner’s hopes and dreams but not to the point of martyrdom. I know I deserve support for mine too.
- My relationship standards are fair. I don’t expect my partner to be a super-hero and/or to meet all my needs. I am able to function well independently.
- I treat, and speak to, my partner with the same respect I show friends, people at work or in other settings. I treat him or her as I’d like to be treated.
- I don’t play games. I don’t manipulate, abuse, gaslight, control or criticise my partner excessively. (NB: This is a trick question: people who seriously do these things won’t admit to them anyway, especially not in a “stupid” relationship quiz 🙂
It’s a hard job being the perfect partner, but you sound like you’re close. This test was designed for humans though. Are you sure you’re not a robot?
This is where most of us land. That’s okay. Pick one area for improvement, even a tiny one, and begin there. Today.
Hmmm. You’re definitely not a robot are you? At least you’re honest, even if you do have (a lot of) work to do!