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“Why Won’t You Change for Me?”

If you’re married or in a partnership, you’re probably very familiar with that person’s beliefs, viewpoints, and outlooks. If those things differ greatly from your own, disagreements often ensue. Perhaps these differences weren’t such a big deal at the beginning of your relationship but over time (and certainly, during quarantine), they have become a central issue between the two of you.

Worse is when one or both people go about trying to change the other person by whatever means possible including attention seeking behaviors, bullying, exerting power over the other, or making hateful or degrading comments about the other, etc. If each partner is internally saying, “YOU need to change so that I will feel okay,” you’re not likely to meet in the middle any time soon.

So, what do you do when “the other person” refuses to change? Further, what do you do when you want to try relationship counseling but your partner refuses to participate?

Since none of us can truly control another person (no matter how hard we try), the logical answer is, of course, to change yourself. This idea may rankle you if you’re convinced that you’re not the one who needs improving! But look at it this way; it’s more about changing the way you interact with your partner. If one individual comes to the relationship differently, then interactions between them are bound to change, too.

When couples seek therapy together, the focus is typically more on changing relationship patterns. But in our experience, many partners in challenging relationships often come to therapy by themselves. For this reason, it’s important that therapists teach techniques that produce positive results for their clients, starting with the client’s own perspective and behavior. While some might say, doesn’t that mean one person is doing all the work in the relationship? we would say that anything that produces positive results for that person is good for everyone involved. And ultimately, less conflict equals less work. Life just gets easier, and more enjoyable, when there is more ease and comfort in your primary relationships.

 

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