Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

angry couple“If he would stop being critical, I wouldn’t get so mad!”

“If she would be more attentive to me, I might spend more time with her.”

When we are upset, angry, hurt or ignored, our natural inclination is to blame the other person. We think, if they would only change, my problems would be solved. But focusing our efforts on changing the other person, rarely works.

The truth is you can’t control others, but you can control your response to others. This bit of wisdom will save you years of grief and therapy. Focus on your reaction to a problem, change that, and the relationship changes.

For example, when he is critical, how do you react? Does that reaction change the outcome or do you circle the same issue? If you want a different outcome, respond differently. Let’s say, John is critical of Rachel. Rachel becomes upset and stops talking to John. She carries her upset and wishes John would be different.

But if Rachel decided to confront John by saying, “Your criticism is hurtful. It is not making me feel close to you and pushes me away,” John has to confront a different response. Rachel has made a change which has the possibility of changing their relationship. Her soft confrontation puts her feelings front and center for John. And John has to deal with how his behavior affects her in a negative way.

Bottom line, stop trying to change others and focus on your reactions to others. You have control over your reactions to people who make you crazy or are difficult. And ask, is my response Christ-like? If so, you can rest your head on that pillow each night and sleep no matter how others behave. If not, you are the one to make a change. And it is amazing how when we change, the relationship changes as well.

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