Are you ready for Valentine’s Day? How’s it going with your significant other? We’re about to dive into a series on relationships to get you all fired up for the most romantic day of the year. We’re kicking off the series with a note on change and beliefs. So let’s get started.
There are two ways to think about change. Either you believe it’s possible or you don’t. What you think about change just might be the thing that determines whether your life and relationships progress or just stay the same. Seems like circular thinking. Well, it is. The mistake is assuming there is no entrance or exit to the cycle.
Let me give you an example. In my world as a counselor, what my clients believe is possible plays a large part in their readiness and attitude toward working on themselves and their relationships. Because of this, I consider a client’s beliefs about change from the very start. If I have a consultation with a potential client and they simply cannot be convinced that a woman can help them, only a man, then I refer them to a male counselor. If the fact that I’m under forty means to them that I don’t have the life experience they believe necessary to help someone their age, then I refer them to an older colleague. Before I refer, though, I step inside their cycle and I educate. I let them know that I’m trained to work with their particular issue and their age group. Sometimes, they’re convinced, other times they need more evidence so they finish the session to see what I can offer, others decide right away that I’m not the counselor for them and they take the referral.
On the flipside, I often get clients who pick me based on my professional headshot. They see it and assume I am a kind, compassionate, and understanding person, traits they believe they need in order to reveal their deepest hurts and personal goals to a complete stranger. Some clients choose me because of my younger age, some because I’m a Gator, and some because I remind them of a person they know and love, and somehow, this influences them to believe I can help them. Whatever works. It’s not about me. The belief is the important thing.
That’s one factor related to therapy and change. This next one is just as crucial. Do you believe the issues you’re facing can be dealt with and solved? Do you think your relationship dynamics are set in stone from the start and there’s nothing you can do to evolve? Do you think things will never change and you and your partner are set in your ways? Or are you more developmental in your thinking about relationships? Do you believe it is possible have times of lower satisfaction and later times of great satisfaction? Do you think you can control the outcome of your relationship and influence the course of events?
Time for some education. Studies show people who think developmentally, that is, they believe they can affect the quality and future of their relationship, are more motivated to put in the work required to make changes. The fact is, relationships do change over time. It is normal to fluctuate between easy times and hard times. Stressful events and major life changes are strong predictors of relational problems, so you can expect a few more troubles if you’re dealing with financial strain, family drama, having a child, moving to a new town, or changing jobs. If you seek to understand your partner’s habits and behaviors, you will reduce the problems you face. One last point, fighting and arguing is normal. It’s not the amount of conflict you have that makes the difference in how happy you are, it’s the way you argue.
Now you’ve heard research shows relationships are responsive to change, what are you going to do about it? Do you believe it yet? If you do, you’re probably in the group that is correlated to be more motivated to maintain and improve your relationship. If you don’t, you might need a little more convincing. Maybe you’re a statistics person. Maybe you need to see it to believe it. So, study up. Try it. Get motivated. Change how you think about change. Stick your wrench in the spokes and start a new cycle. When you’re ready to work on things, contact me. That is, if you believe I can help you…