Relationship Advice What if you are working alone on improving the relationship

Here I want to try and help you to work on your relationship even if you cannot persuade your partner to cooperate. There may be all sorts of reasons why this is happening, but the most common might be that your uncooperative partner feels that there is not really a problem, and puts your discontent down to overreaction or neurosis. In this case there is still a lot to be said for trying to improve the relationship, and this can to some extent be done by one partner acting alone.

Become A Good Behaviorally Orientated Therapist

The methods used by behavioral psychologists are well tried in all sorts of situations, and can be applied to a partner in a relationship very effectively. You may have heard of a TV series called Little Angels. Here the psychologists and psychotherapists use behavioral principles to help parents to control the behavior of very unruly and disruptive young children. The ideas are that if you reward behavior (in this case good behavior) it is more likely to be repeated. The best way to increase the likelihood of a certain type of behavior is to keep giving the child attention (as a reward) while he/she is being ‘good’, while the best way to eradicate ‘bad’ behavior is to ignore the child when it occurs .

The main message from this body of work is that if you want someone to do something, the best way is to reward him/her after they have done it. This makes them feel more positive about doing it again and makes it more likely that they will repeat the behavior. These methods are just as effective with adults.

Rewarding ‘good’ behavior

Reward, sometimes called positive reinforcement, is the most reliable way of getting someone to change their behavior. Supposing your partner is always coming in late from work, and you have become rather irritated about it, you have probably tried complaining without making any difference to the behavior.

A more effective way to alter the lateness might be to notice when he/she comes in a bit earlier and say how pleased you are about it. If you can be consistent about this praise, if you can produce some other reward such as a hug or a treat, and if you can in addition be particularly friendly and positive towards your partner on those nights, the message will get across.

If your partner is very late, however, you should be rather distant and quiet, taking little notice of them for a period of time (perhaps about half an hour) before you revert to your usual behavior. If you then monitor the nightly time of arrival, you should find that there is a reduction in the lateness.

Dealing With ‘Bad’ Behavior: Ignore, Don’t Complain

The paradoxical thing is that complaining about something like lateness is likely to act as a reward: your partner is given attention (which might take the form of a complaint) on arrival, and there is no special privilege resulting from being on time. If, however, you can ignore your partner for a while after they arrive late, this is a form of extinction, which is likely to result in a reduction of the behavior, especially if associated with special attention (see the previous paragraph) if the person is punctual. This is something that you will have to work on by trial and error, and it may not be clear at first that it is having any effect. However, if you make a chart of how late your partner is day by day it may then become clear that you are making progress.

The effects of divorce are very wide reaching and can impact every area of your life. Despite what divorce statistics may say, we can all rebuild and strengthen our relationships if we just take some time to understand our partners needs and goals.

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