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There’s a saying that you get out of it what you put into it. Usually when we think of this saying we are applying it to work or education or sports. But this is equally true of relationships. When thinking in terms of getting out what you put in, what are you putting in?

If you put into your relationship criticism, complaining, nagging, arguing and withholding, what do you imagine you will get out of it? If you put into it love, compassion, kindness, friendship, and giving, what then do you imagine you will get out of it?

All too often we focus on what we need from our partner and what they need to do to give it to us. I hear from a lot of couples, I want more respect/affection/attention/cooperation etc.. you can fill in the blanks. But little do we think about what we give. We are often more concerned with what we want to get. But in order to get respect/affection/attention etc.. we first need to think about how we give those things.

In one scenario, a woman is complaining that her husband doesn’t listen to her. But as we begin to uncover what she is doing to get him to listen, she realized she is often nagging, complaining, or demanding. Well of course he doesn’t want to listen! When you are looking for something from your partner, think in terms of what you are inviting. If you want a listener, does your behavior invite someone to listen? If you want more attention and affection, do your actions invite attention and affection? Couples get so focused on changing their partner to meet their needs, they often overlook what they are providing.

I believe that in the end, we all want the same thing; to be loved and accepted for who we are; to feel understood and respected ; to be treated with care and kindness. When thinking about your relationship, instead of thinking in terms of how your partner can do this for you, think about how you can do this for your partner. You cannot change your partner, you can only start with yourself. You can inspire positive growth and change in your relationship by focusing on yourself and what you are putting into the relationship. 9 times out of 10 if you are putting in love, acceptance, kindness, compassion, respect, and trust, you will inspire that in return.

Another important aspect of all this is to pay attention to the positives in your partner. None of us enjoy having our flaws pointed out to us, yet in relationships couples get in the bad habit of criticizing one another. What would happen to your relationship if you spent more time pointing out what’s right and good and wonderful about your partner. Chances are you’ll inspire more of the same.

We all fall into bad relationship habits, but with a little focus in a positive direction, we can affect change. What you are getting out of your relationship is very likely a reflection of what you are putting in.