“People don’t change.”
Do you think that statement is true?
In my 15 years of working with couples, I have seen many people change.
In fact, I think that’s what good relationships are all about…we pull on each other to change… to grow. This growth is what keeps juice and vitality in relationships over time. A relationship void of growth is a relationship that is boring and can feel stagnant.
Not always but often, when your partner is asking for a change from you, it is a change that will require growth of you (that’s a good thing!)
I was working with a couple recently:
Partner A: “You are so agreeable, I never know if you are doing something because you really want to, or just to please me.”
Partner B: “I just want to do what makes you happy.”
Partner B thinks they are a “safe” partner, because they are agreeable, compliant, easy going and like to keep peace.
This sound great, right? Not so much and here and here are 3 reason why;
- It doesn’t feel so “safe” to Partner A, who really just wants to know their partner – Who are you? What matters to you? What makes you tic? What are your deeply held opinions? What are your desires? If Partner A doesn’t know if Partner B means what they say or is just agreeing to make Partner A happy then it creates uncertainty in the relationship.
- It can lead to Partner B feeling resentful because they will probably be saying “yes” sometimes when they really want to say “no”.
- If Partner B is so agreeable that it does not hold Partner A accountable for their ineffective behaviors in the relationship then Partner B may feel hurt and walked on in the relationship and Partner A will not have opportunities to grow.
Overall this dynamic will bring a lack of trust, growth, connection and intimacy in the relationship. In all my years of working with couples I have never had any one describe the relationship they want that way.
When Partner B realized they were actually repressing their desires in order to avoid conflict with their partner, it was eye opening. Partner B made a decision, was dedicated and eventually was able to articulate their feelings and thoughts with their partner, even if it created conflict. Their sex life, intimacy, fun, and entire relationship changed!
You can’t physically make someone change. We also can’t change or negotiate values. You also can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change. But we can share how something impacts us in our relationship, share what it would mean to us if our partner changed that, and find out whether that change could in fact benefit our partner individually, as well. Have a loving discussion together.
Remember, relationships are about growth (aka – change!)
If you would like more information on how our services can help you and your relationship, please contact us.
Michelle Wangler Joy, MFT, has been employed at The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, CA, since 2002, and is currently a therapist on staff. She trains with relationship experts Ellyn Bader, Ph.D and Peter Pearson, Ph.D to deliver state of the art tools for couples. Michelle provides both couples and individual counseling, teaches communication workshops, and conducts training seminars both locally and nationally for therapists on how to help more couples.