Nonetheless, for the relationship ultimately to succeed, the other partner must participate equally. Not unlike volleying in a tennis game, one partner may try to play both sides of the net hoping that somehow such tremendous effort will make a difference and keep the game going. But unless the other person also changes, new solutions are impeded.
When one partner stops playing the game, the interpersonal conflict ceases. The old bumper sticker says,
"What if they gave a war and nobody came?"
It takes only one partner to end the conflict, but it take both partner to improve the relationship.
If conflict is the only glue that holds the relationship together, then resolving the conflict may mean that it will fall apart.
Even if only one person in the relationship makes healthy changes, ultimately those changes will influence the behavior of the other, be it a mate, family member, friend, or coworker.
Picture a mobile sculpture. The image of the mobile conveys the same power one person can make in a connected system.
A resting mobile reflects the exquisite balance between each piece. If any one piece of the mobile is moved it affects all the other pieces and a new equilibrium must be found. The structure has changed. The initiator of the change process, if the system accepts the change, creates an intervention from which all may benefit and which none may ignore.
Determining what constitutes appropriate behavior in a relationship may be confusing. How can the dilemma of balancing self with others be solved? Hillel, a first century rabbi and philosopher says,
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?
These three short questions powerfully emphasize the importance of self-esteem, avoiding narcissism, and countering procrastination.