How To Influence Your Partner

How To Influence Your Partner so it doesn’t feel like a power struggle.  We all would like to change some things in our partner. Some people feel that the other person is suppose to make the change “if they really loved me.”  There is a 7-step process to change created by husband and wife couples therapists Bader and Pearson that makes your partner want to change instead of them feeling “coerced.” Your gain will not feel like their loss.


Step 1:  Make a list of the top three behaviors your partner does that annoy you. Then, select the one problem that has the best chance of your partner responding to your discomfort.  You will increase your chances for success dramatically by focusing on one problem at a time.

Step 2:  Describe the problem in clear detail.  This includes your what your partner does and your reaction to the problem. For ex: “Honey, there is a problem I need to discuss with you.  When you come home from work and start reading the mail, change your clothes, turn on the news, return a phone call without looking around and noticing the kids are cranky, squalling for dinner, and I’m up to my neck in getting dinner ready, I see you as a blind and insensitive clod.  This problem has persisted for over a year now with little relief in sight.”

Step 3:  Describe your reaction the problem.  “When you act so oblivious, I think you care much more about responding to your own needs first and foremost, and you pitch in only when it is convenient for you.  I feel angry, alone, and resentful.  When I feel that way I end up being chilly to you and withdrawing any spontaneous signs of affection.  I don’t like how I react but that is what I have been doing.”

Here is the “formula” for describing the problem.

A)  You have specified the behavior of “not pulling his weight” by giving specific

B)  You have given your reaction to it by stating: “when you do (the behavior) I think ____  (for ex: you’re inconsiderate….) and I feel ____ (for ex: angry, alone, resentful), and then I do _____(for ex: withhold affection).

It is important to let your partner know what your complete response is to the behavior that is a problem.  Especially let them know what you do when you think and feel the way you do.  This really informs your partner of the consequences to them when they do the undesired behavior.  Include in your reaction the meaning of the problem for you.  For ex: not pulling their weight represents not being loved, respected, or valued.

Step 4:   Be empathetic.  Tell your partner why you think that would be hard for them to change the desired behavior.  This lets them know you see the problem from both perspectives and that you have an appreciation for what you’re asking them to change.  For ex: “Honey, I think pitching in when you get home would be difficult because you feel depleted and want some time to yourself in order to regenerate.  I think pitching in at the level I want is a lot to ask of you.”

Step 5:  Describe how you will help.  Because you’re not just going to make a request and then hope for the best as this hasn’t been successful in the past, you will describe what you will do to help your partner make the change you want.  For ex: “Honey, your pitching in is so important to me when you get home that I will do ________.” (Fill in here something that you think will be a high motivator for your partner to make the requested change.

Step 6:  Ask if they are willing to make the change.  They may agree to all or part or none of your request.  Depending on what the motivator is they may be more willing to consider the change and you can decide if it is worth your efforts.

Step 7:  Find out why.  Regardless of whether they are willing to change or not, ask why.  Knowing why they are willing will help you understand what motivates them.  You’ll be able to encourage them more effectively in the future.  If they don’t, finding out why will help you determine how to move forward.  In that case you still have 2 more options.  One, you can ask if this is a temporary or more permanent condition.  If it seems there will be no change for now, let them know the consequences – how you think, feel and act – and then drop it for now.  The second option is to go to the second problem on your list and repeat described steps above.

The best improvements in a couple’s relationship come when both people are willing to change and grow.  When you are looking to ask your partner to make a behavioral change this format could be helpful in making the request so that you do it in a way that supports both of you.  If you find you are still experiencing some difficulty in getting some of those requests met perhaps speaking to a Marriage Counselor may help sort out and identify some other underlying problems that may be needing to surface into a discussion about what is really going on in the relationship.  Please call me at (858) 735-1139 and we can get that dialogue started sooner rather than later.


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