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Work On Your Own Issues First!
by Dr. Steven Cohn
Dr. Steven Cohn

It is easy to point a finger at a partner and be convinced that the relationship would be better if only your partner would change. Like charity, change begins at home and one of the keys to a happy relationship is dealing with your own issues first. Begin by answering a couple of questions for yourself: “How is my behavior contributing to the difficulties in this relationship?” and “What can I do or stop doing to make this relationship work?”

Couples often find themselves stuck in the blame game playing verbal ping-pong as they search for who started an argument and who is at fault for relationship disappointments. Before long the couple is arguing about arguing and neither of them can even remember their original issues. Most people know that blaming their partner won’t help the situation, but they continue to engage in blaming because they don’t know what else to do.

The problem is that the blame game results in defensiveness and retaliation which then results in further defensiveness and retaliation and so on and so forth until finally ending in hurt feelings all around. The blame game doesn’t help your relationship because the blame game is too often about unexpressed power issues. Trying to change your relationship by trying to change your partner won’t work since you don’t have any power or control over your partner. Repeat this relationship mantra to yourself everyday: I do not have any control over my partner.

But don’t give up on your relationship too soon, because you do have power and control over your own behavior. Don’t “blame” yourself, but do take personal responsibility for your own behavior. Why? Because it’s the only place in your relationship where you have any power and control. You usually can’t change what you can’t control, so it is important to work on your own issues first.

If, after looking at your own behavior, you are still having difficulties in your relationship, then it might be time to seek out professional help.

If you are in a relationship where you are being either emotionally or physically abused, or if you are concerned that you might harm yourself or someone else, please phone the 24 hour per day Crisis Line at 215-7082. A trained counselor will help you through your crisis.

Dr. Steven Cohn is the Director of the Portland Couples Counseling Center and Co-Founder of the Irvington Counseling and Healing Arts Center. He specializes in treating couples from all backgrounds. For more information phone 503-282-8496.

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