William Glasser, the world-renowned psychiatrist and founder of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory concluded that most mental health issues stem from a relationship no longer going well. A failing relationship, especially if it is with someone very close to us such as a parent, child or spouse, can cause a great deal of stress, anxiety and depression. Often, the reason a relationship starts to fail is that one or both parties try to control and change the other. It is quite typical for a couple seeking relationship counselling to tell the counsellor everything that is wrong with their partner and how they would like them to change in order to fix their problems. They seek approval and agreement from the counsellor in the hope that their partner will listen and change now that their grievances have been affirmed and validated by a professional. This approach does not work. The only way to fix a relationship is to think about what you can change about your behaviour in order to make it better. The only person you can control and the only person you can change is you. Trying to control your partner will only lead to further destruction in the relationship. As with all animals, humans have a genetic need to feel free. Nobody wants to feel controlled by another.
Glasser goes on to identify seven deadly habits that are used in relationships as a means to control. However, if we tried to replace these with seven caring habits we would soon start to see improvements in our relationships.
Seven Deadly Habits
Seven Caring Habits
We all have a choice and we can choose whether we want to apply the deadly habits or the caring habits in our relationships. The only person we can control is ourself and we can control what we contribute to our relationships.
Even if you took away only one of the deadly habits, such as complaining, you would notice an improvement in the relationship. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to say/do going to bring us closer together or further apart? If it’s the latter, and you really care about this relationship then think about one of the caring habits you could apply instead.
“If you look around at your family and friends, you will see that the happiest people are the ones who don’t pretend to know what’s right for others and don’t try to control anyone but themselves.”
Glasser, W 1998 ‘Choice Theory’
Glasser, W 2003 ‘For Parents and Teenagers: Dissolving the Barrier Between You and Your Teen’