Change is not easy. Sometimes people think that if you want a change bad enough change is easy; but change is not easy. If it were easy, no one would smoke, everyone would eat healthy, and we would all be in happy relationships. Many of us start down a road of change with all the best intentions and motivations in the world, but the uncomfortable feelings that come along with the change can just be too much and we revert back to our old “comfortable” ways.
When I talk with couples at the beginning of their counseling journey I am always honest with them and tell them that in the process things tend to feel worse before they feel better. This is not always something people want to hear, but it is so true. The reason is because we have to fight through the uncomfortable feelings associated with the changes, even if the change is positive. I always compare it to someone trying to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is a very positive change for someone and generally something that a smoker really wants to do. So why can’t they quit? To quit they must go through the ugly withdraw period. They go through a few weeks of feeling awful physically as well as having to change their lifestyle and their habits. The easier thing to do in the moment is to smoke. It is harder to deal with the discomfort that they feel from not smoking. Change in relationships is the same way.
As one person in a couple starts to make change, even if the change is absolutely for the best, it will bring up uncomfortable feelings for not only them, but for their spouse as well. As you change you are changing behavior that has been ingrained in you for years! You are doing something different that what your instincts tell you. You will suffer withdraw from the old behavior as well as discomfort that the new behavior brings. This discomfort can feel like guilt, anxiety, and even panic. And as for your partner; the discomfort can be twice as bad because they do not get to be the one to make the conscious decision to change they just feel the ripple effects from your change.
These are the exact reasons why couples cannot change. These are the reasons that so many couples get divorced. Unfortunately it seems easier to give up on fighting through the anxiety of change and to go back to old behaviors and actions. This only puts your relationship right back into the place that made you want change. Just as people generally try multiple times to quit smoking before they are successful, so many couples try repeatedly to make the change they so desire. Counseling is about helping both of you understand what the discomfort is all about and how to push through when it seems impossible. Let this change be everlasting.