You Change First
I once had a therapy supervisor who said, “No one wants change except a baby with a soiled diaper”. It’s true. In over 20 years of helping couples, I rarely see anyone volunteer to “go first”. We all want the benefits of change as long as our spouses do the work. Unfair. Unrealistic. Early in therapy, there’s often some jockeying over who’s the better spouse. Later in treatment people are more willing to change, but only if “we both change” or “if he/she goes first”. Let me share a secret with you…both of you don’t need to change at the same time. In fact, most of the time someone does go first eventually- know who? The person with the greatest desire for it- the person who calms his/her own anxiety and confronts himself/herself. The person who finally listens to his/her spouse and concludes, “Maybe my spouse isn’t crazy. Maybe my spouse is right about me on some things”. Sound unfair? John Gottman, the leading psychologist in marital research says this: Men need to find at least a part of a wife’s concern or complain as reasonable, validate it, and change. Women need to couch complaints in a gentle, soothing, or humorous way. So there it is. If you want change in your marriage, you change first.