What to Do When Your Partner Just Won’t Do What You Want Them To Do

Is your partner’s behavior making you so mad?  Read on for ideas on how to hold onto your power and create the beautiful relationships you really want! 

This is something really important that I see with my life coaching clients a lot.  They have expectations of their partner that aren’t being met, and my clients feel angry and unloved.  For many of them they have been feeling this emotional pain for years, and no matter what they try, their partners aren’t changing.

I want to explain a concept that I teach some of my clients called “The Manual”.  You have a manual, or rule book, for many people in your life.  These manuals can get particularly detailed for our partners.  You got married with a very clear idea of how you wanted married life to go and you are very aware of all the ways that your spouse is not meeting those expectations.  In some cases you may have told your partner what you want them to do, but often I hear my other clients say “they should just KNOW that loving partners get flowers for their wife’s birthday” or “If he really loved me he would (X, Y, or Z),” and they haven’t expressed what they are wanting their partner to do.

Either way, whether you have told them what you think they should be doing, or believe they should just *know*.  The thing is, when you put these expectations on them, and base your happiness on whether or not they do it, you are passing your power over to them.  You are telling them that they have power over your emotions.

However, what I know to be true is that emotions are created by our thoughts, not by circumstances, or in other words, we create our emotions by thinking about what others do, NOT by the action itself.  We know this because 2 people can experience the same circumstance, and come out feeling very differently because they both THOUGHT differently about the circumstance.

Let me explain a little further by talking about The Model.  (If you’d like a full recap of “The Model”, and the order of these things, go back and read THIS BLOG POST.)  In short, there are circumstances in our lives that we cannot control.  They are simple facts, like words others say, actions others take, or the weather.  We have zero control over these things.  They are NEUTRAL until we have a thought about them.  Thoughts are sentences in our own brains that then create a feeling.  Feelings always come from a thought, not from a circumstance.  Depending on the emotion we are feeling, we will take different actions.  The combination of our thoughts, feelings, and actions create the results in our lives.

Here’s why it matters where our emotions come from.  Let’s say you are feeling upset because your partner didn’t remember your birthday.  When you have a manual for that person and say that if they truly loved me they would have remembered my birthday, you are giving them all of your emotional power.  The way to hold onto your emotional power is to look at their actions, which come up as circumstances in your life, as neutral and only having to do with them, not you.

Another way to think about it is this; look at your partner’s behavior as data points.  Over time what does the data show?  Does it show 10 years of asking them to remember your birthday, and yet they’re still not remembering your birthday?  I’d say that is a lot of data that shows that it is not important to them to remember your birthday.  When you give them your power it will show up as you being upset and sad because of their actions.  In order to keep your power, you could make the request of what you would like them to do for your birthday.  When they don’t do that thing, you can then decide if you are going to do that thing for yourself, like buy yourself flowers.  That is totally available to you.

Holding onto your power gives you the option to stay in the relationship, continue to expect that the other person does what’s in your manual and be fine being upset forever because you are choosing to give them that power over you.  You could choose to leave because they have given you lots of data that they do not wish to do the types of things in your relationship you want them to do, or you could stay in the relationship, be ready to fulfill your own wants out of the manual and love the other person unconditionally anyways.  

The important part is that YOU CHOOSE what you are going to do with the data.  The only power the other person has in your life is to present data to you.  You then decide what you will do with that data, and if that is the person you want to be in a relationship with.

If you really take a step back and look at what you truly want in your life and in your relationships, ask yourself which of those things you really need someone else to do for you.  For instance, now that I have embraced getting rid of my manual for others, and only expect myself to make me happy, it means that all my needs are being met by me, and others show up in my life, I love them exactly as they are, and I am pleasantly surprised when the people I let into my life are loving and giving, and it fills my cup to overflowing.

This new way of life for me is so much better than my two previous marriages. I had such high expectations of the other person, and what our relationship would look like, and I spent all my energy trying to make them happy, which was never enough, and they were never enough for me.  Because someone else will never be enough for us based on their actions.  They simply don’t have the power to be because our THOUGHTS are what create the feeling of enoughness.  The other person cannot enter our mind and give us thoughts; that part of the equation is totally ours.  We either decide with our thoughts that they are enough, or not. 

So the key to true happiness, I believe, is being able to let go of the manuals we have for other people, really evaluate what we want in our lives, and then make a plan to do those things for ourselves, while loving others as they are.

This does not mean that others get a pass to abuse us and be mean and cruel.  The opposite is true.  Part of deciding what we really want in our lives and creating it is setting very clear boundaries.  (Remember this BLOG POST about boundaries?)  We decide what we want in our lives, and what WE will do if certain things show up.  

For instance, I have a boundary that other humans may not hit me when I am at the grocery store or I will call the police.  I have already decided that I will not accept that behavior in my life, and I know exactly what I will do if someone hits me.  I would immediately call the police.  It’s not even my job to tell the other person my boundary.  I don’t walk around the grocery store yelling “hey, if you hit me, I’ll call the police!”  Because the boundary isn’t for the other person, it’s for ME.  In essence other humans can do what they want at the grocery store (or anywhere).  I can’t control them to not hit me.  I really hope they don’t hit me.  But, if they did, I know exactly what I would do.

Putting that into terms for a relationship with your partner, you can decide that you want a relationship in which your partner buys you flowers every birthday and anniversary and you tell them that.  If they don’t do those things, then you already know that they are not the partner for you, because the partner that is right for you will do those things.  The fact that this person didn’t do those things has nothing to do with you, they just are not the kind of person who wants to show up in your life that way.

Here’s where clients say, “but what if I really love them and want to make it work?”  Then you have the choice to make it work.  But in order for it to work, you have to decide which is more important, being in a relationship with that person, or having a partner that does that particular thing.  Often this is when clients really see their power.  They see that they really DO have the power to create a beautiful relationship for themselves, that they can fill their own needs from their own manual, and allow the other person in the relationship to show up as they are going to show up, even if they never do that one thing you really wanted them to do.

This is where you really get to decide if it is about the “thing” or wanting to be right and feel in control.  I think the part that is really magic here is that you might be wanting the other person to fill that need for you so that you feel like you have some control in your relationship, but my clients really feel true control for the first time when they make it their own job to make themselves happy.

You truly can decide that you love your partner enough to stay AND fill your own needs.  When you have two people in a relationship who are both filling their own needs, and loving the other person unconditionally, I think those are the strongest and most beautiful relationships.

However, if it truly is important to you that your partner does certain things, or you are willing to fill your own needs but your partner is not willing to fill their own needs, it presents another time where you get to make decisions.  Some of my clients choose to leave the relationship.  That is fine if that is the choice they want to make.  But what I see most is that my client finally realizes the power they have to make themself happy, and that is enough to really turn things around for the couple.

The relationship I’m in now is one where we are both free to show up as ourselves, we expect each other to fill our own needs, and then all of the ways we show our love to each other feels extra and it’s so beautiful!  I am so much happier now that I only expect myself to fill my needs.

You always get to decide.  The key is not giving the power over to the other person for them to do or not do the thing, and then you get upset at whether they do it or not.  YOU get to set the boundaries and expectations in your life and YOU get to create as much happiness as you’d like in your life.  And then you invite others along for the ride of your happy life. Don’t expect them to be in charge of creating happiness for you because they simply don’t have that power.

I LOVE talking about The Manual and helping people take their power back.  I have several reels (short videos) on the topic and you can find them on my Facebook page HERE.  

I would also love to talk to you “in person” about this during a consultation life coaching session over zoom.  You can sign up for that session HERE.

I look forward to meeting you soon.  See you on our consultation call.  I promise you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll be able to make a clear decision for yourself on what your future is going to look like, and if you’d like to coach with me in the future!  Kendra

If this story has resonated with you, and you’d like help finding your own emotional freedom, I’d love to help you.  I have devoted my Life Coaching practice to helping people just like you find the freedom and happiness after betrayal, narcissistic abuse and/or divorce.  Schedule a consultation call HERE to see if this is the right time for you to hire a Life Coach.  Taking this step will change your life.  Schedule your call today!

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Kendra Last Avatar

My name is Kendra Last

I’m a life coach and author of the book Journaling to Recovery: A Reference Guide to Healing from Betrayal Trauma. I have been working in the betrayal recovery world for almost a decade. I’ve been there, and I will help you let go of the pain of the past, help you recognize your own inner beauty and strength, and help you learn to celebrate yourself again.

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