Resolve to Make Your Relationship Great

Sam and Maria came to see me just after they got engaged. Maria had been married before; this would be Sam’s first. They came because they wanted to get their marriage right. They both had strong religious beliefs and took the idea of marriage very seriously. But Sam, like a lot of people, was afraid of committing to one person for the rest of his life. His track record with relationships wasn’t very good and he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to be successful this time either. The day they told me they had set a wedding date was one of my best days as a therapist. The wedding went off without a hitch, and Sam and Maria seemed to be very happy with each other and with the relationship. They would still come in about once a month to work through the inevitable bumps that come with transitioning to marriage.

One of the recurring issues they would bring in was how can they communicate effectively. Maria likes to examine a topic from all angles and in great detail. Sam just wants to get to the bottom line and resolve the issue. Maria is always trying to get Sam to tell her how he feels about things and what he wants to do. She expressed annoyance with always being the one to have to make a decision about where they go and what they do. Sam took that suggestion to heart and has made a great effort to let Maria know either what his preferences are or that he really does not care. He also has tried to find out her preferences before trying to make decisions that will involve both of them. Unfortunately, he has found himself in a Catch-22 because Maria finds being asked about her preferences before he states his annoying as well. Sam doesn’t always think to phrase the question right and finds himself in the doghouse when he is trying to be considerate. He finds himself overanalyzing everything he says to the point that their conversations have become stilted and unnatural. Maria doesn’t like how difficult their conversations have become and has clearly stated that she is not willing to live the rest of her life like this. The question foremost in my mind is how did they fall so far so fast?

Who’s responsible for the relationship?

When two people decide to join their lives together and establish a committed relationship, they generally begin from a place of love and a sense of trust in the other’s best intentions. Somehow over time this benefit of the doubt given to one’s partner fades, as in Sam and Maria’s story. The feeling that one’s partner is no longer concerned with putting forth the effort to make the relationship a success begins to enter the picture. Both partners start to focus more on what they are not getting from the relationship than what each of them is doing to ensure its future. This focus on the failure of the other provides each with the excuse not to focus on what is really the primary responsibility of both: making sure each is being the best partner possible.

A commonly accepted position is that relationships are a fifty/fifty proposition. In fact, for a relationship to be successful, each partner is one hundred percent responsible for its success. If one is focused only on the failures of the other, it is impossible to take ownership of his/her own behaviors. To have a truly great relationship one must be willing to do what is required personally without regard to what the other is up to. It is this commitment to being the best partner possible, with the focus on self, which allows the relationship to reach its greatest potential. Part of this commitment is giving one’s partner the benefit of the doubt unless one has facts to the contrary. Continuing to believe one’s partner is acting from a position of care and consideration frees us focus on our own expressions of love and commitment to the relationship. For further information and ideas on how to maximize your relationship, go to

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© 2008 Cary Home Times

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