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10 Powerful Principles That Can Save Your Relationship

by Growth-U

How Mindset Can Change the Conversation

True story.

I once had a client, Jennifer, who was ready to leave her husband, Michael, because she felt he didn’t respect or appreciate her. She felt like all she did was give… give… give, and that all he did was take.

And yet Jennifer did love him, so she wanted to see if there was anything that could be done to save their marriage.

Translation: if she could just get Michael to change some key things, like pitching in to help, then all would be well –or at least tolerable.

When pressed for details, Jennifer gave the following example. She took a lot of pride in keeping their home neat and tidy, and felt that taking the extra time, effort and energy was showing her love for Michael.

And yet he would consistently leave the peanut butter jar on the otherwise clean counter after breakfast.

It drove her crazy!

Jennifer had asked him so many times to just take the extra few seconds to put it away. Yet Michael just ignored her and even seemed to do it more often.

Asking turned into nagging which turned into arguments.

As far as Michael was concerned, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the jar being left out and he refused to waste his time just to keep the counter clutter-free. After all, when he was growing up, his family always left things out on the counter so that they were handy. He felt like she was criticizing his parents and his upbringing.

Jennifer had been raised with a spotless house, where everything was organized and had its place. And her mother had worked so hard to keep it that way for the family. And now she was showing that same love in her own marriage.

To Jennifer, it was the ultimate disrespect of her energy and efforts –and she had had enough.

What would you do if you were Jennifer?

Do you think she overreacted?

Or do you think she was completely justified in her feelings?

The 10 Relationship Principles

The first discussion I had with Jennifer involved educating her about the facts of life… not those ones you’re thinking of!

The principles of all life and relationships.

Principle #1: You can never change anyone else, no matter how hard you try
Principle #2: The only person you can ever change is yourself
Principle #3: The 4 Laws of Focus are operating all of the time
Principle #4: You always have choice and control in your life
Principle #5: Take responsibility for your relationship and what happens to you
Principle #6: Treat others as they want to be treated
Principle #7: Love unconditionally
Principle #8: Set the standard of what you want and need
Principle #9: Clear the B.S. preventing you from having a healthy relationship
Principle#10: Grow up — in your love and relationship style

You might agree with some of these, and be really upset at others… and that’s okay.

Let’s work through them, using Jennifer’s story as an example.

Principle #1: You Can Never Change Someone Else, No Matter How Hard You Try

There’s an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. In short, unless you’re holding a gun to someone’s head, you can’t force them to change just to please you.

I guarantee that, the harder you try, the more they’re going to dig in their heels — if not openly then with passive-aggression because no one likes being told what to do or that they’re wrong.

It’s either tied up with egos and self-esteem, or it unleashes the mounds of emotional baggage hidden deep within everyone’s psyche.

This played out in Jennifer’s case because Michael just became more and more passive-aggressive as she escalated the issue.

Principle #2: The Only Person You Can Ever Change is Yourself

As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Not only is this profound as far as improving mankind, but it also makes you accountable to making yourself happy rather than waiting for others to do it for you.

Hollywood has done a grave disservice in perpetuating the myth that you need a knight in shining armor to complete you, so you can live happily ever after. It has bolstered the false perception that, if only others would do this or that, you could then be happy and not before.

The first change to make is to become aware of your focus.

Principle #3: The 4 Laws of Focus Are Operating All of the Time (whether you are aware of them or not)

1. What you focus on you find
2. What you focus on grows
3. What you focus on seems real
4. What you focus on you become

In Jennifer’s case, she kept focusing on Michael leaving the peanut butter jar on the counter. It happened more and more, to the point where she perceived that it was always out.

Hand in hand with this observation was Jennifer’s perception that Michael was for some reason doing it to spite her best efforts. Ultimately, she took on the identity of a victim in the scenario, and she felt unappreciated, disrespected, and unloved.

Michael’s focus and perception of the situation were very different. The more Jennifer complained, the more he focused on it so that it kept escalating. Eventually, he perceived that she was constantly harassing him, and he could do no right.

Ultimately, his identity ironically also became that of the victim, the downtrodden, maligned husband who wasn’t recognized for all of the other effort and energy he put into the marriage.

Can you see how the Laws of Focus are playing out in your relationships?

Once Jennifer became aware of how her focus had created the situation, she had a decision to make.

Principle #4: You ALWAYS Have Choice and Control in Your Life

It may not be the choice and control you would like, however. If that were the case, Jennifer would have just made the peanut butter jar disappear FOREVER!

And the fact is, you do have choice and control in the following ways:

1. You can always leave the situation. E.g. Jennifer had a choice to leave the marriage.
2. You can keep the status quo and make no decision… which is still a decision. E.g. Jennifer could continue in her marriage feeling victimized and unhappy.
3. You can change your mindset and focus. You have the power to choose how you’re feeling right now and how you’re responding to every situation.

Since Jennifer didn’t want to leave her marriage, and she felt she couldn’t go on being miserable that left choice #3.

Principle #5: Take Responsibility for Your Relationship and What Happens to You

I can already hear the cries of outrage from you, as I did from Jennifer initially… until I explained to her why I said that.

Taking responsibility means taking response-ability for how YOU feel, think and act in any given moment.

This is NOT taking responsibility for anyone else’s actions since we’ve already established that you can’t change anyone else.

In Jennifer’s case, she needed to understand the role her focus had played into the escalation and ultimately how miserable she felt. She also needed to lose the Hollywood perception of happiness and take responsibility for making herself happy.

Once Jennifer understood how her focus had created her misery, she was ready to understand the role she had played in making Michael miserable too. She had been expecting him to conform to what she wanted and needed, rather than treating him the way he wanted and needed to be treated.

Principle #6: Treat Others as They Want to Be Treated

There are tons of excellent instruction manuals out there to help you navigate the complexities of relationships.

For instance, in The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman details five different ways that people express and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

We each have our desired ways of being shown love. The challenge is that we rarely know our own love language, let alone that of our partner.

For Jennifer, her primary love language was service, so she took pride in keeping the house clean — and expected Michael to meet her love language by cleaning up after himself too.

The missing ingredient here is what we at Growth-U call “The New Golden Rule”: treat others as they want to be treated — not how you would like to be treated, as in the original version.

This is a core concept in our Friends First: 45 Days to the New Healthy Way of Cultivating and Growing Any Relationship program, as well as in the “The Four Colors of Influence: How To Align With Anyone” program.

The Friends First program is all about becoming the best version of you so that you can attract and maintain your happiest, healthiest relationship.

The Four Colors of Influence is about aligning with others by recognizing and meeting their emotional needs in order to create the rapport needed for successful communication.

For example, Jennifer was treating Michael the way she wanted to be treated. However, Michael’s primary love language was likely NOT acts of service, so his love need wasn’t being met.

Since neither of their love languages was being met, their essential emotional need of love and connection was lost. Both were miserable, and their marriage was on the rocks.

It was time to roll up our sleeves and get down to more nitty-gritty areas.

Jennifer felt that her love had dimmed for Michael over the course of this whole experience.

My tough love response was that she had placed conditions on her love.

Principle #7: Love Unconditionally

There are 4 levels of service:

1. Entitlement: this is how a baby comes into the world, expecting to have its every need taken care of.
2. Barter: this is where the vast majority of people live and act… if you do this for me, I’ll do that for you. Unfortunately, this involves score-keeping, and most often someone ends up unhappy because they feel they have been short-changed.
3. Standard: this is the first level of true service … and unconditional love in relationships. It is acting out of the desire to serve without keeping score. It is understanding that the law of mutual exchange will always return whatever abundance of service, or love, you’re dishing out.
4. Contribution: this is the highest level of service; to help when there is no chance of ever being repaid or even acknowledged for it. This is the ultimate in unconditional love.

Jennifer had been acting in barter and had been keeping score. This was conditional love — love with rules and boundaries.

Principle #8: Set the Standard You Want and Need

Most relationships operate under rules, just as our society is governed by laws.

Unfortunately, rules are generally fear-based, just as our laws are.

“Don’t cheat” is the perfect example of a fear-based relationship rule — and is one of the biggest wounds in most relationships. Why?

It is based on fear and insecurity that your partner will leave you, or that your self-value will wither… the fear of abandonment with loss of security and love.

There is another challenge with it — the Laws of Focus are at play again. If you keep focusing on not wanting your partner to cheat, you are actually focused on him cheating. Not only will your insecurity bleed through and sabotage your relationship, but the Law of Attraction also states that you will attract in the very thing you are focusing on so intently.

Don’t believe me? Read my article, “Not Reaching your Wealth Goals? Quit Focusing on Your B.S.” where I go in-depth into the evidence that quantum mechanics offers for the Laws of Focus and Attraction.

Far better to set standards of living instead of trying to live up to fear-based rules.

Standards are love-based instead of fear-based. They include loving yourself and peacefully stating your needs and must-haves for a healthy and loving relationship.

The beauty of standards is that there is no “right or wrong,” simply what you have concluded feels good to you.

Now before you think I’m bashing monogamy as solely fear-based, here is the Standard Level spin on it:

“I am choosing to commit to my partner in a monogamous relationship because I wish to experience the greatest depth of love, passion, and intimacy that I feel comes from getting to know one another to the core of our beings, and being each other’s best friend and confidante.”

If that is what you keep focusing on, the Laws of Focus and Attraction state that you will attract someone who feels the same way.

And if you’re already in a relationship where the Laws of Focus and Attraction have been acting according to your unconscious fear programming, you can still change your focus consciously and tell a different story.

The other key about standards is that it is up to you to put them in place and act them out.

You are NOT putting rules in place to dictate someone else’s behavior. (Refer back to Principle #1.)

When you take responsibility –there’s that word again–for acting on the standards you want, you are giving love and value to yourself.

Now, only you can decide what standards are your must-haves. Certain must-haves for me are the importance of self-care, self-love, being friends first, loving communication, passion, and a healthy lifestyle, amongst others.

So, back to Jennifer. She felt that the house had to be clean and tidy at all costs.

Was that a standard or a rule?

Principle #9: Clear the B.S. Preventing You from Having a Healthy Relationship

When you enter into a relationship, you’re taking with you all of the emotional baggage and programming you’ve received growing up. These make up the limiting belief systems of your unconscious mind’s operating system, which in turn make up your identity.

How does this play out?

Your primary role model growing up is your same-sex parent, and your identity is mostly built around their patterns and behaviors. That identity comes with a whole set of roles and expectations you unconsciously adopt when you step into the relationship, especially one like marriage which has its own massive set of cultural expectations and traditions surrounding it.

In Jennifer’s case, her mother kept her house spotless, so Jennifer felt she had to do the same. On the other extreme, Michael’s family kept their house cluttered, disorganized and somewhat clean — and felt that made it a real home.

There is never any clear-cut right or wrong way to do things — Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder peeps, I’m talking to you!

It goes back to determining what your needs and must-haves are — and being prepared to leave the situation if they can’t be met.

Jennifer needed to determine whether a clean house was a must-have for her or not.

Principle#10: Grow Up — in Your Love & Relationship Style

The final principle is choosing a mature, healthy relationship and love style.

All too often, Hollywood has again given us the most immature examples of relationships and love.

The most immature (and potentially deadly) is “I love you so much, and if I can’t have you then nobody can!”

The next level up isn’t much better. It’s where the participants feel the need to play games and manipulate the other, whether out of insecurity or low self-esteem or just because that’s how they have been programmed to think love is supposed to be.

The movie, “Think Like a Man“, is a perfect example of this.

The next level and first mature one is romantic love. This is where you are getting to know each other, you’re passionately attracted to each other, and there’s a possibility of a committed relationship.

As fun and beautiful as this stage can be, it is temporary and has to evolve and grow into the next stage.

The evolved form of romantic love encompasses passion, friendship, and commitment. This is the standard all healthy relationships should aim for.

Anything less is a recipe for misery.

The Rest of Jennifer’s Story

So how did it go with Jennifer?

With dawning awareness, she realized she had been trying to change Michael when she could only really change herself. As she accepted how her focus had escalated the situation to near disaster, Jennifer understood that she had a choice to make.

Jennifer decided to stay in the marriage and understood that she had the responsibility to choose how she acted and responded in every given moment.

Then the real work began.

Jennifer chose to do the work to change her mindset and release all of the B.S. that had almost wrecked her marriage.

She started by digging deeper to learn Michael’s love languages and emotional needs so that she could treat him as he wanted to be treated. Bit by bit, she changed her level of service to one of pure contribution, putting the effort in and not keeping score because she loved her husband unconditionally.

She quit nagging Michael about the jar and accepted the world wouldn’t end if her house wasn’t completely spotless. She was able to release this pattern because she understood that it came from her B.S. programming and was not a must-have for her self-love and care.

Ironically, once Jennifer changed her mindset and focus, Michael started putting the peanut butter jar away!

Once Michael no longer felt embattled, he no longer felt like he had to hold back. Following Jennifer’s example, he started fulfilling her emotional needs and love languages.

Over time, Jennifer and Michael were able to release the games they had been unconsciously playing and achieve the mature loving relationship they had both desired all along.

Marriage on the rocks? Use these 10 powerful mindset principles to rewrite your story and put your relationship back on track to being the mature, loving relationship you desire:

Principle #1: You can never change anyone else, no matter how hard you try
Principle #2: The only person you can ever change is yourself
Principle #3: The 4 Laws of Focus are operating all of the time
Principle #4: You always have choice and control in your life
Principle #5: Take responsibility for your relationship and what happens to you
Principle #6: Treat others as they want to be treated
Principle #7: Love unconditionally
Principle #8: Set the standard of what you want and need
Principle #9: Clear the B.S. preventing you from having a healthy relationship
Principle#10: Grow up — in your love and relationship style