In my last post, I explained what a deal breaker is in a relationship and how it can be a tool for change, according to Dr. Bethany Marshall in her book Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away.
Deal breakers are not the death knoll for your relationship if your partner is able to view himself objectively and is willing to change. If your partner is aware of how he comes across to others and realizes that his behavior is damaging his relationships and his life, then there’s a possibility that things can get better.
But if he can’t take responsibility for anything and blames everyone for his problems, there is nothing you can do to help him, no matter how much therapy he gets.
So how do you know if your partner can change?
STEP 1: WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?
You need to ask yourself:
- How bad is the deal breaker?
- Is the problem tolerable or intolerable?
- If he refuses to change, can I live with it for the rest of my life?
Take your time to answer these questions honestly.
STEP 2: DEFINE THE PROBLEM
What is your deal breaker? You need to be able to articulate it. Does he disrespect you? Does she still keep in touch with an old boyfriend? Cut through the fog in your mind. Stop telling yourself how great things are when the both of you are alone or he’s not always like this or he always apologizes after. Doing so keeps you from clearly confronting the issues in your relationship. You’re choosing to stay in a fantasy instead of reality, settling for less than you deserve.
You can’t ask for what you need if you can’t define the problem.
STEP 3: DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF
A deal breaker is a deal breaker. You chose to exercise a healthy level of selfishness, there’s nothing wrong with that. You did not ask for too much. Of course, it’s easier to hope the problem is you because you can control fixing you. But if you take inappropriate responsibility for the problem then you will only drag out your own misery.
STEP 4: MAKE A PLAN
Once you’ve defined the problem and placed the responsibility on your partner to fix her own issues, make a plan and set a time limit. What will you do if he doesn’t change? How long are you willing to wait?
STEP 5: ASSERT YOURSELF
Define your deal breaker to your partner with at least three concrete examples. Let her know how much you’ve been suffering. If she overreacts or walks out, that is a deal breaker. If your partner hears you out, you must also hear her out and try to understand her feelings.
STEP 6: LET YOUR PARTNER COME UP WITH HIS OWN SOLUTIONS
This is the most important step of all. After you have explained the deal breaker to your partner and if you have heard each other out, you need to ask your partner: “What is your plan to make things better?”
Do not nag. Do not pressure. Do not attempt to fix the problem on your own. Your partner is not deaf, dumb or blind. If he wants to work on the problem, you will observe signs of steady improvement. Wait for him to come to you with his own solution.
If your partner chooses not to work on the problem, it is a deal breaker and your relationship will never turn into what you need it to be.
Resource: Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away by Dr. Bethany Marshall
This post is part two of my series on The Art of Relationship Deal Breakers. To get the full series, watch for future posts on A Desi New Yorker.
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