By the time people seek marriage counseling, they usually arrive armed with an arsenal of complaints about their partners: “She isn’t affectionate enough,” “He’s so insensitive,” “She wants to control everything,” “He doesn’t listen to me,” “She’s never on time,” “He’s so tight with money.”
Therapists’ walls echo with accusations as people point fingers at one another in an attempt to explain what they see as the source of their own discontent.
False, harsh consolation
After a litany of blame, accusation and lamentation, clients are often “consoled” by their therapists with the harsh reality that, “You need to realize that there isn’t anything you can ever do to get your partner to change. People are who they are. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, especially one that’s not interested in learning any, so you need to simply accept your spouse or else get out of the relationship.” There’s nothing you can do to change them!
But what people fail to realize, including many marriage counselors, is that we can change other people. In fact, we have the power to create dramatic and long-lasting changes in those around us. The secret lies in how we target our energy and efforts, because our capacity to change others is entirely based on our willingness to change ourselves. This is not double-talk or trickery, it’s simply the reality of relationship dynamics.
“If I create a change in my own attitude and behavior, my spouse and the marriage itself will automatically be forced to change.”
A fundamental law of relational theory is that when any part of a system changes, the entire system—meaning all other parts—will be forced to change in response. What this means in a marriage is that if I create a change in my own attitude and behavior, my spouse and the marriage itself will automatically be forced to change. This is a powerful truth to embrace but, unfortunately, most of us are so busy blaming our partners for their shortcomings that we neglect to assert our power to create the very changes we want.