Change is Harder for the Couples— Why?



couple change 1

The process of change is uneasy for one person and even more complicated for a couple.

Why is change much more complicated for the couples? Try to think about those reasons that make it hard for everyone one of us to change first. Now, add in two people who go through the same struggle. Finally, add in the following reasons.

1. “Love me the way I am.”

Have you seen the first “Bridget Jone’s Diary”? At the end of the movie, Mark told Bridget: “I like you very much just as you are.” I can’t count how many times I have heard my clients told me that’s what they are looking for in their marriage. 

If you love me enough, you wouldn’t…….

We have this expectation that “my partner’s responses towards me is based on how much he/she accept us.” Why is that?

According to Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, a person develops a sense of who he/she is based on the relationship with the primary caregiver. If the primary caregiver provided the care when I needed, it means to me that I am important enough to the person who cares about me. 

When applied Bowlby’s Attachment Theory to parenting, it is essential to know that you do not need to be a perfect parent at every given minute. However, you need to be a good enough parent when your children are under stress. That is, when your child is under stress, are you there to provide comfort and understanding and to help your child learn to regulate the emotions? 

Hence, “If you love me enough or if I am important enough to you, you will be here for me when I needed you.”

As we assessed who we are in relation to our parents, we also evaluate we are in regards to our partner. The belief now becomes: “If you love me enough, you will…..” 

Now, you can understand “I do not want to change who I am” if my value and my worthiness is based on my partner’s response to my needs. Also, creating a family of one’s own is a  possibility to make up the unfinished business from the childhood family experiences. So, why does a person want to change oneself if being in the intimate relationship means a possibility that I can change the way I used to feel about myself from my relationship with my partner? 

I often heard this from clients: “The reason I fall in love with my spouse because he/she completed me.” This is a very interesting concept of someone complete you. The underlying assumption is: “I am incomplete.” When combined with the attachment theory, the underlying idea/expectation is: “when I entered the relationship, I expect you to accept who I am and to fulfill my childhood unfinished business with my parents.”

At the same time, the danger of attaching one’s value to his/her partner’s response is that we lost the power and responsibility to our contribution to the relationship outcome. We are in danger of relying on the reactions from our partner to decide our action. We also lost the independent evaluation of who we are as a person. 

The other issue is, as you expect your partner to do so for you, your partner also expects you to do so for him/her.  Also, this is very unlikely, but unless you and your partner’s unfinished business with your parents are exactly opposite, it is very likely that your partner is unable to give you what you want because he/she is looking for the same thing to be fulfilled. In this case, who is going to take control of change to better the relationship?

2. Unintentional Mistake

The  idea of “love the way I am” implies “this is the way I am.” When we think about this is the way I am, it implies that I am responding to the life based on my logic. 

How we respond to the world is based on our personal experiences, values, and personality. Unless your partner has precisely the same logic as yours, my philosophy to respond to the world may not be your logic. We might have similar views, behaviors, or values. Even when most of the people have some similar logic and values, it’s the differences between the partners that often caused the miscommunication. 

For example, one partner’s definition of a parental role might be very different from the other partner’s description. When I respond to your definition of a parent based on my experiences and values, it might unintentionally contradict with yours and at times, possibly hurt your feelings because of many different reasons. 

As a child, we are often asked to apologize and to change our behaviors if we do something wrong. Because I don’t mean to hurt you, what’s the reason to change? Also, this is the way I am, and the mistakes are often unintentional due to the differences, there are one more reasons not to change. Right?

When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” – Paulo Coelho

The idea of change in the couple’s relationship is not about change who you are as a person. Dr. Gottman’s research pointed out that 69% of the issues in the couple’s relationship are not resolved because they are involved in who you are as a person, your values, your needs for your lifestyles, etc. However, you do need to change the way you interact with each other. It is also important to know that, saying “I am sorry” doesn’t mean you are wrong but to show “I am sorry that you are in pain because of our interaction and our differences.” 

(To Be Continued)

Change Series:

Change is Hard (Part I)— Is it possible?

Change is Hard (Part II) — Why?

Change is Hard (Part III)–How Do We Change it?

Change is Harder for the Couples— Why?

Change is Harder for the Couples — How Do We Change it?

Change your thoughts doesn’t necessarily lead to change your feelings.