Often when relationships are conflicted or distant one member of the relationship recommends counseling as a part of conversation, usually when things are loaded and a feud is underway. It is not uncommon for one spouse to be ready and the other resists or balks at the request. The layman’s assumption is that counseling needs to occur with both spouses present. This premise is true that both members of the marital dyad make up the marriage and that both play a role in the ‘dance’ of communication and relationship. Often though this premise grows awry. One spouse may think, “I am unhappy because of the things he does” or “She needs to change in order for me to be happy”. As long as you subscribe to these statements, you are focused on your spouse’s issues rather than on your own issues. In fact, this focus on your partner’s actions rather than on your own is a way of avoiding responsibility for your role in the relationship and struggles you are having.If you are having problems in a relationship or in your marriage and your spouse won’t come, then you go! As a key part of the counseling process you will need to evaluate what you are doing that is fueling or contributing to the unhappiness you are having rather than just what your spouse is doing. Exploring, understanding, and ferreting through your own feelings and role in the patterns is crucial to you abandoning the faulty ways of thinking/acting and can help propel you into a fresher healthier marriage.When one spouse is in counseling and making changes it can impact the entire relationship. If you learn to own your own feelings and needs you can impact more globally in the marriage how your partner responds to you. Many find that as they “look in” at themselves they are able to spend less time “looking out” at their spouse and the other spouse begins to make small changes on their own. Marriages are a system, like a child’s mobile. If one part is impacted the entire relationship will resonate. When one spouse changes and continues to do so the other subconsciously begins to do so as well in most cases. You cannot change your spouse but you can change you and impact the very marriage you are a part of. Simple consistent changes in yourself, your thinking, and your behavior can and will impact your marriage and foster overall change for the couple and eventually help heal the relationship and ideally persuade the other spouse to join you in counseling to make more profound changes to the marriage.When each partner in a relationship begins to own their own behavior and take full responsibility for their own feelings and needs, they leave neediness and blame behind and are able to share their love with each other.
Some questions to think about:
• How do you typically respond to your spouse’s behavior that you don’t like?
• Do you find that you are reactive to your spouse’s rude or critical behavior with your own unloving behavior, and then find yourself blaming your spouse for your reactions?
• Are you being realistic about who your spouse is? Are you expecting your spouse to be someone he or she is not or doesn’t want to be?
• Are you making your happiness/peace dependent on your spouse?
• Are you taking responsibility for yourself and the emotions you are experiencing?
Copyright: No part of this article in section or full may be reproduced without permission from the author Justin Stum, MS LMFT. The one and only exception is for educational purposes and only if the contact information below for the author is fully cited here in article. Justin Stum, MS LMFT, 640 E. 700 S., Suite 103, St. George Utah 84770 435-574-9193, http://www.justinstum.com
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