Asking Your Husband or Wife To Change
It Is A Gift And Act Of Care For Your Relationship
In the journey of our relationships we must learn to love our partners with, and even for, their limitations. At the same time we have to embrace that aspect of ourselves that would ask for something more or different from our partners. Holding both of these things close we can give voice, from a place of love, to the things we seek. If you are accountable for your own part of the difficulties between you it is an additional gift to your relationship to ask your partner to make changes. This is as much an act of care for the relationship and for your partner as your full acceptance of him or her. It is also an act of self-affirmation. You affirm in yourself that you may seek to increase those essential aspects of your connection. Asking for change helps your relationship evolve. It opens richer engagement and dialogue between you. It gets wheels in motion.
Obstacles In The Path Of Asking
There are some common obstacles in the way of the freedom to press a partner to change: Many people believe they are not worthy of asking. Others feel that if they have to ask for something it will not have value when it is given. Most of us have at least some fear about showing our vulnerable and intense need for our partner. Finally, many people simply believe that people cannot change. These feeling-beliefs are part of how a relationship gets bogged down. One of the functions of couple therapy is to help you become effective in helping your partner understand how you need them to change. It has nothing to do with being demanding. It has everything to do with being gentle and understanding, and being willing to change yourself by honestly addressing your own shortcomings.
Accountability And Responsibility
Build Relationship Credibility And Trust By Owning Your Contribution To The Difficulties
When it comes to problems in a relationship, things can only begin to improve when each of you is accountable for your own contribution to these difficulties. When you own your part, you catalyze growth in yourself and build credibility and trust with your partner. As an example, the moment a husband becomes committed to exploring the deeper emotional experience underneath his reactivity the relationship develops momentum toward positive change.
I Am Accountable To You and To Our Relationship
While accountability and responsibility have meanings in common, it is one’s sense of being accountable for one’s relationship (one’s sense of ownership of the relationship itself being a belonging worth treasuring) that motivates a person to be responsible for his or her actions toward a partner. One says, “This is my relationship. I am accountable for making it a good one for us. Because I love you, I am accountable to you as your partner. Therefore I am responsible for how I express my feelings and for my behavior in my relationship to you. I am responsible, in both good and troubled times, for seeking your partnership and more connection with you.”
We Will Help Each Other Change
Most people begin couple therapy with the goal of changing their partner. This goal, they come to realize, is ultimately self-defeating. The more accountable we are to one another and to our relationship; and the more responsible we are for our own actions, the more immediately the relationship grows. As the saying goes: “You can’t change anybody but yourself.” However, many people are particularly motivated to change because of a partner who creates this kind of credibility and trust
Set Your Compass For The Changes You Seek
It’s Hard To Change So Help Each Other Reach Your Destination
It helps to set your compass for where you want to go, though you might not have a clear sense of destination for you and your partner. Establishing goals is a necessary part of improving things in your relationship. Many of us have had limited models of what is possible in a relationship. Often one’s emotional reactivity prevents even looking at one’s compass. There is often reluctance to take the time to reflect on how you would like it to be between you. It’s work to take that time and the result of that work can be that you more consciously look at the gap between your wishes and the way it is. This can make more present the pain of longing or loneliness. Facing these feelings makes it more clear that you will have to take a different kind of action; that effort will be required to move with your partner in a different direction so that you can find those aspects of the connection that you seek. We all have many reasons for holding back, yet we know the relationship will not improve of its own accord.
It is essential to your relationship that you both take responsibility for developing a vision for how you want to be in relation to one another. This does not happen all at once. This is an ongoing process of bringing things into focus. Couple therapy helps you keep your vision in focus and navigate the understandable obstacles and barriers to fulfilling your developing vision for your relationship.
Change in a person and within a relationship happens gradually. We look back with the perspective of time and measure the distance that we have come. When you establish a direction, and get moving, momentum develops. Couple therapy gets the ball rolling, and keeps it rolling, in the direction of the changes you seek. It does this by initiating and encouraging experiences of intensity and immediacy that act to accelerate momentum. When there is enough momentum, therapy is on its way to ending.
Robert Ogner, February 4, 2008