A friend of mine, a wise and adept counselor, requests that anyone coming to him for counseling cultivate three qualities to assist in the challenging work that is to come: self-awareness, honesty and commitment to change. He says that unless the person walk in the door ready to cultivate these qualities, nothing much will happen. I tend to agree with him.
I reflected on the couple who had come to The Marriage Recovery Center recently, where they had left anxious and concerned, instead of the normal sense of satisfaction and joy that most couples have when they leave our facility.
Darin and Deborah had come with the usual expectations: he hoped that Deborah would be more accepting of him and ask him to move back home following their recent separation, while she hoped he would take full responsibility for his passive-aggressive actions, learning to love her more effectively.
Both left The Marriage Recovery Center somewhat disappointed and anxious to return to do further work. We applauded them for their tenacity to reach further into the process of change.
“How do you feel about the work you’ve done this weekend?” we asked them. Again, normally this would be a time of celebration for hard work done, significant changes made and great hope for their future. In this case, both were somewhat somber.
“Well,” Deborah began cautiously, “I had hoped for more changes. I thought we would be leaving here with a lot more changes. I’m concerned about our future. I’m not surprised to hear that we need to come back to do more work.”
“How about you, Darin?” I asked. He seemed to be ‘in a mood’ and took a few moments to answer.
“I don’t know what to think,” Darin said slowly. “I expected Deborah to be more excited about us and that this was going to be a time of reconciliation. I expected her to invite me to move back home. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to change enough for her.”
“I can understand your disappointment, Darin and Deborah,” I said. “I want to reassure both of you that there are times when more work is needed beyond what can be done over these three days. Old patterns of behavior die hard. I want to applaud you, however, for being willing to come back for more work. We’ll get there.”
“I want to remind both of you, however, what we shared at the start. You both need to fully understand what is needed for the kind of change you are looking for to occur. Let’s go through them one by one, and perhaps you can take the next few weeks to really consider each of them.”
All hope for change is predicated on the ability to know one’s self, an awareness of how one is to live with and finally, what needs to change to bring about healthy relationship ability. A person is not likely to change if they don’t know what it is they need to change.
While Darin and Deborah had begun the process of self-awareness, both still had significant denial about themselves. They still had strong tendencies to blame the other for their problems, rather than taking full ownership of their self-destructive patterns.
Self-awareness without honesty is worth little. We may be aware of what we believe we are like to live with, but if that perception is not rooted in reality, true change is not likely to happen. Or, change in the proper direction is not likely to happen. One must have an accurate appraisal of one’s self, and this becomes the foundation of healthy change.
Scripture tells us that the truth will set us free—but not before it challenges and hurts. Again, change is a difficult process at best, and nearly impossible if we haven’t honestly looked at our patterns of behavior.
A commitment to change
Perhaps the greatest error we see made by individuals and couples attempting to create healthier lives and relationships is stopping short of a full commitment to change. Darin and Deborah had begun the process, and deserved credit for the efforts they were making to change old patterns of behavior. But, more was needed if they wanted to get to where they were both happy. Fortunately, they were willing to put more into the change process.
Self-awareness, honesty and a commitment to change, these three ingredients create a powerful foundation to lasting and effective change. Are you ready to apply these three tools to your relationship? If so, you will experience true change.
I’d love to hear how these strategies work for you. Please feel free to contact me for further information or advice on Marriage Intensives or consultations on what may be needed to assist you in your marriage. Share your concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.