Why Are Loved Ones Uncomfortable With the Changes You're Making?
At first glance, this might not make sense. But as we take a moment to consider the dynamics involved with change and how it affects the family system, we can begin to see that even change that we and our loved ones have wanted for a long time can be stressful and family members might resist.
|Making Progress in Therapy? Your Loved Ones Might Find the Change Challenging|
Change in a family system, even change that everyone would agree is for the best, can upset the so-called "apple cart" in unexpected ways.
Let's take a look at an example, which is a composite of many different cases, that illustrates how even positive change in a relationship can create resistance in a family:
Several months before Bob started therapy, his wife, Alice, organized an intervention with their adult children and Bob's siblings to confront him about his excessive drinking. Prior to this, Alice had tried everything she could think of to try to get Bob to stop drinking--all to no avail.
When Bob walked into the house and saw everyone, he knew immediately why his family was assembled and he nearly walked out in anger. But Tom, Bob's older brother, who was someone that everyone in the family looked up to, including Bob, gently took his arm and brought him into the room.
Although Bob was angry at first, but as his wife and family spoke to him about how worried they were about him and how his drinking affected them, he was moved to tears. He already knew everything that they were telling him, but hearing it from everyone at the same time was both powerful and humbling.
From that day forward, Bob made a commitment to himself and to his family that he would stop drinking. He began attending A.A. regularly. He got a sponsor. And, when he was sober for six months of sobriety, he began attending therapy--something he thought he would never do.
As Bob began to work on unresolved emotional issues in therapy, he started feeling a little more confident in himself. And as he became a little more confident, he realized that, throughout the years, his wife had assumed most of the responsibility for their lives and he had been absent from that process for all of that time. Now that he was sober and making changes in himself, he wanted to be more involved.
For instance, for the 25 years that they had been married, Alice raised their children. She made all the financial decisions. She paid the bills. She decided how they would invest their money and which charities they would contribute to. She also made decisions about which contractors they would use to renovate the house...and so on.
But when Bob told Alice that he wanted to be more involved with these decisions, she told him that she had "everything under control" and he didn't need to worry about it.
This confused Bob. He thought he was offering to take some of the burden off Alice's shoulders, but her response gave Bob the impression that she actually didn't want him involved.
So, Bob asked Alice if they could talk about this because he recognized that this would be a big change for both of them. Alice readily agreed to talk.
At the start of their discussion, she told him that she was so happy that he stopped drinking and he was getting help to stay sober. But she had been making the financial decisions for the last 25 years and she didn't see any need to change this now.
Bob could see that Alice was starting to get upset when she asked him, "Don't you trust me any more to make financial decisions that are best for both of us? Haven't I done a good job all these years while you were getting drunk? Why should we change now?"
Bob tried to assure Alice that he thought she was great at how she managed all these years--this wasn't a criticism of her. He tried to explain that since he got sober, his mind was clearer, he was opening up more in his therapy, and he realized that he had been absent for many of the major decisions. He regretted that he was so out of it that she was left on her own to shoulder these responsibilities. And now that he was sober and he was working on making changes in himself, he also wanted to make changes within their relationship and feel like an equal partner.
Their discussion devolved into an argument with Alice accusing him of trying to take control away from her, and Bob trying to explain that he wanted to share in these decisions--not take them away from Alice.
During Bob's next therapy session, he talked to his therapist about the argument, which upset him and made him think about drinking. He felt that even though Alice told him that she was happy that he was making positive changes in himself, it seemed that, on some level, she wasn't completely happy about it, and this hurt and angered Bob.
In Part 2 about this topic, I'll discuss the dynamics, which are common in these situations, and what you can do to successfully integrate these changes for yourself and your family.
|Learning to Successfully Integrate Change in Your Life|
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.
To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.
To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: email@example.com.
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photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopin cc