Have you heard the joke about the light bulb? It goes like this:
Question: “How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?”
Answer: “One. but the light bulb has to want to change!”
Improving relationships – any relationship – is much the same.
The research shows it takes only one person to change a relationship for the better. -I can hear you now. “But, you don’t know what it’s like to live with him!” “I’m not going to change unless she changes.” “I tried that suggestion you made last week, and it didn’t work.”
I hear you, brothers and sisters. Believe you me – I hear you. Bob and I both have thought the same things. And after over 25 years of marriage, I am so grateful we continue to persevere through the changes we continue to make in our relationship.
It truly does get better and better with each change we make.
Don’t forget in this process, you can only change yourself. You cannot change anyone else. I’ve talked about the importance of staying in your own Hula Hoop prior in this Marriage Relationship Series. It’s really important to keep your eyes focused on you – the person you can change. You don’t won’t to be called, “Old Log Eye,” do you?
Michele Weiner-Davis, the creator of Divorce Busting talks about this in her article, “Why Should I Be The One To Change?” She encourages singles within a couple to not give up the fight for the marriage. Michelle puts it, “It’s like a chain reaction. If one person changes, the other one does too. It really doesn’t matter who starts first. It’s simply a matter of tipping over the first domino.”
But – You might be asking yourself, “How Long Will It Take?” Well – There really is a Process of Change. The process sometimes happens quickly and sometimes it takes a while…. As Amy Grant once sung, “It takes a little time to turn the Titanic around.” (Excuse the retro. This song remains one of my favorites.)-Maybe listen to it after you’ve read this blog.
This is where a you’ve wondered if a change is needed. You’re thinking, “Maybe life could be better for us. It’s not awful, but perhaps it could improve.”
I’m not certain how you landed on my blog. It’s highly likely, though that something in your relationships isn’t working. You decided that maybe you could think about changing. You’ve been looking at the pro’s and con’s of what to do regarding your relationship. And – you’re thinking maybe there could be improvement. You’re still ambivalent about doing anything about it.
Let me give you some encouragement about this ambivalence. Research shows the average couple comes into therapy 6 years after they think they might have a problem. Yikes! That’s a few wasted years. It’s also years you may be spending time reinforcing bad relationship skills for everyone in your home.
This is where the old adage about “sooner rather than later” is good advice.
Individuals know it’s time for a change and are researching the changes they want to make. They begin looking at the changes they could make and start thinking about doing things differently. This is where you’ve read my blogs with practical information and thought, “Maybe I could apply some of this wonderful information Kate’s giving out for free regarding Dr. John Gottman’s marriage research to my own relationship?”
Alrighty – Now the fun begins! Researching is done. You’ve got a plan. You’re starting to make change. You’re expecting great things to happen in your relationship with the changes you are making. You’re seeing the dominoes beginning to fall. You are on your way to Reasonably Happy Ever After!
Maintenance and Relapse
This is the Paul syndrome we all face and need to give ourselves a break about. Paul wonders in Romans 7 “ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (NLT). He expounds on his dilemma that is true for most of us. We are going to struggle with changing.
You are going to read some of the blogs I’ve written about Criticizing, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling. You’re reading books, and you’ve started start making changes. But – Guess what? You’re going to relapse back into your old ways. Relapsing is part of the Process of Change.
It’s pretty much a guarantee if you are human. We all improve by taking steps forward and two steps back. Chuck Swindoll wrote about this in his book about Perseverance, “Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back.” It is normal to relapse.
There is no shame in relapse. It does take perseverance to create lasting change. When you can expect the relapse, you feel less shame and are more likely to ask for and reach out for support. You adjust your expectations for everyone and keep moving forward.
I want to encourage you – It is going to take what it takes. You might see changes within 2 weeks and it might take some months. -But – You’re going to see changes if you keep moving forward. The walls took a little while to build. They’re going to take a little time to take them down.
Persevere, my friend. Persevere.
What one area are you seeing that you want to make improvement on each day in your marriage? Criticism? Defensiveness? Focus on that one area. Persevere.
The above isn’t intended to be professional counseling. If you think you need some help persevering from a professional, please call me. We’ll have a 15 minute free consultation to see if I’m the right fit for you or if I can refer you to an outstanding colleague. 530-268-3558 or contact me at [email protected].