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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

What to do when your partner doesn't give their 100%

It's all a process

There's something about expectations that can turn the most promising situation, experience or relationship into a wasteland. When couples first come to see me they eagerly anticipate what is to come. They both recognize and acknowedge that thier relationship has gotten to a place of crisis and want so badly to come out of that state and restore both the friendship and love. They eagerly start the assessment in the beginning, help create goals and lean into learning the interventions. We get a couple of sessions under our belt and then...... And then there comes a time, for some, where they start to lose hope. Why? Well, they start to lose hope for 2 reasons. One reason is that their partner stops putting in 100% effort. The other reason is because change is slow.

Both reasons can be maddening and having the sanest person question their relationships future. Feelings of hopelessness, confusion, frustration, pain and sadness in addition to thoughts of "will we be able to go the distance?" begin to consume one's thinking. Can I tell you a secret? These are all normal thoughts and feelings and in order to survive the lows of a relationship one should process these 8 tips:

  1. Catch your breath. Unfortunately we can't control our partner (as much as we would like to). Deciphering and then focusing on what you can control and releasing what you can't does wonders for your mental health and self growth.

  2. Take time to journal and do contemplative reflection. There's power in the process of being able to mentally and emotionally vomit one's thoughts and feelings onto paper. Sometimes just getting it all out provides one with a level of clarity and understanding either of oneself, your partner or the relationship dynamics. You can also ask your spouse to reflect on their own contributions to the relationship and what changes they can make. Encouraging self-awareness can lead to personal growth and positive changes.

  3. Good self care. The relationship suffers when we do not individually practice good self care. You must remember that you can not give from an empty cup and work on ways to fill your cup daily, weekly and annually.

  4. Cultivate a positive mindset in the midst of the negativity. Hard things build character. Irregardless of what your partner does or does not do, this process has all the potential in the world to develop you into a finer, stronger and wiser individual.

  5. Have a support system. Surround yourself with a good support system, someone you can lean on in the stressful times, that will allow you to vent and release some pinned up tension.

  6. Have patience. Change is a process and changes in a relationship take time. Your relationship didn't get where it is overnight and it will take time to get to a healthy place. There is you change, them change and together change that has to take place. Tools have to be taught, learned and practiced. Emotional baggage has to be unpacked and processed. Healthy relational patterns need to be formulated and the heart has to heal. Be patient with each other as you both work towards a healthier and more fulfilling connection. Celebrate small victories and progress along the way.

  7. Appreciate the journey. Perhaps change isn't going the way you desired, however sometimes we have to appreciate the journey and accept that this is a marathon not a sprint. Gratitude and appreciation for the little steps everyone is taking goes a long way.

  8. Lean into your faith. For those that filter life through faith taking the perspective of Gary Thomas may be of great assistance as he challenges our paradigm of marriage in his book "Sacred Marriage" that marriage can help us to deepen our relationship with God. From the practice of forgiveness, to the ecstasy of lovemaking, to the history you and your spouse create together, everything about your marriage is filled with the potential for discovering and revealing God's character. He challenges you to rethink marriage not as a tool to making you happy but instead as a means for you to be more holy. A call to holiness more than happiness. Using the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations of marriage to draw closer to God and to grow in Christian character.

  9. Communicate openly & listen actively: Share your feelings and concerns with your spouse. Approach the conversation calmly and avoid blaming language. Use "I" statements to express your emotions rather than making accusatory "you" statements. Encourage your spouse to share their perspective on the relationship. Understanding their feelings and concerns is crucial for finding common ground and working together to improve the relationship.

  10. Identify specific concerns: Pinpoint the areas where you feel your spouse is not giving their full effort. Be specific about behaviors or actions that have been causing tension or dissatisfaction. This will help both of you focus on concrete areas for improvement.

  11. Set realistic expectations: Make sure both of you have a clear understanding of each other's expectations within the relationship. Discuss your needs, priorities, and goals to ensure you are on the same page.

  12. Reevaluate the relationship: If, despite your efforts, your spouse continues to show disinterest or unwillingness to improve the relationship, you may need to reassess whether the relationship is meeting both of your needs. Sometimes, seeking professional guidance or considering a trial separation might be necessary.

  13. Seek professional help: Consider couples counseling or therapy to facilitate open communication and gain insights from a neutral third party. I can help you both explore underlying issues and provide guidance on how to address them constructively.

Relationship takes time, energy and work and unfortunately there is no easy button or magic wand to fix the parts we struggle with and challenge and stretch the fibers of our relationship. It is a process that has to go through a series of ups and downs, growing pains and refinement. But, the process has many benefits. Relationships are rewarding. Those that trust the process and persevere experience a richer life and relationship in addition to a stronger character. Their perspective changes regarding the things in life and they begin to sing a different tune. They get clarity on life and relationship and change the filter in which they process everything they experience, think and feel. Their relationships get richer and stronger over time and they create a partnership that goes the distance.

Have faith in the process and that it doesn’t always rain. A happy ending is just around the corner. I like how Brannon Belis in Live, Learn, Grow he speaks to hope and faith when he says “Faith is the strength to hold on when all we want to do is give up. Faith challenges us to give when we feel we have so little. Faith is love beyond fear. Faith is that precious child like moment when we honestly believe that peace is that path we deserve to walk. So, don’t give up five minutes before the miracle. If we are determined and stay the course we can do most anything."

Remember, every relationship is unique, and these suggestions are general guidelines. It's important to tailor your approach based on the specific dynamics of your relationship and the personalities involved.


Yvette E. McDonald is the owner and counselor at Traveling Light Counseling, a practice for couples helping them create an intimate partnership for the journey of life in the Port Saint Lucie and Martin County area. I'm passionate about couples create a strong friendship. If you're in the Saint Lucie or Martin County Area and your relationship isn't quite what you expected it to be at this point in your journey, please give me a call at 772-361-8448 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.


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