Changing Your Partner Without Saying A Word

The wisdom distilled here emerges out of Jonathan’s wide clinical experience and deep personal reflection. Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., American Zen Teacher, To Heal the Human World
We are always so eager to get our partner to change.

If only they would be kinder, more independent, more responsible, more fun, more sexual, less sexual, more emotional, less emotional, if only they would be different, our life would definitely improve.

After decades of failed attempts to change my wife, and of watching other partners’ unsuccessful attempts to change each other, I have come to the conclusion that the easiest and probably the only way to transform a partner is to change ourself.

As we evolve, so does our partner. Though, strangely, this secret formula is among the most difficult of secrets to remember.

A striking example of how this approach to change works occurred with a professional couple I was helping. Norbert, the husband, was so frustrated with the relationship that he was considering separating.

Generally a very progressive, openminded fellow, he nevertheless was convinced that all the marital problems were his wife Vanessa’s doing.

He was especially angry about her sexual and emotional closedness. Yet he didn’t appreciate the part he played in being critical, pushy and unsupportive with Vanessa. She shut down sexually and emotionally in large part because Norbert was often unsupportive and frequently put her down. His own behavior helped create the very closedness he complained about.

Once he discovered this, and shifted focus from blaming his wife to looking at his own contributions, he was able to start the healing process between them. Fairly quickly, as Norbert became less critical and more supportive, and without asking Vanessa to do anything differently, she became much more open and loving towards him.

Couples are in a sense a single circle of energy, like an electric circuit. Wherever you enter the circuit you can change the current. Since the place in the circuit we have most access to is ourself, that is the most effective place to enter.