"If you don't change, I won't change!," says Martin to his wife during our session. Both of them were in a blame mode, defensively reacting to and attacking each other. It's a repetitive, endless cycle in their marriage that continues to hurt them.
It never fails to strike me whenever a couple – married or partners – see me about their hurting relationship. Each one expresses a need to change the other. Typical with this need is the presence of blame and defensiveness in their interactional pattern.
I’m reminded again of the insight or “wisdom” encapsulated in the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
In many ways, when couples shift away from blaming each other to take responsibility for each one’s part, things begin to change a lot. Done sincerely, the denial wears off, understanding grows, and the pain is accepted. This produces a strong foundation for the relationship to heal and get better.
Here is a bottom line: you can not change your partner. The only thing you can change is YOU and how you respond in your present and in your new truths.