NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Tips on How to Integrate Change Into Your Relationship

In my prior blog article, You're Happy About Making Progress in Therapy But, Unfortunately, Your Loved One Mights Find the Change Challenging, I discussed how even loved ones who encouraged you to make changes by going to therapy, can find it challenging once you actually start the progress that one family member makes can feel de-stabilizing to the family system.

Integrating Change in Your Relationship

Just to recap:  
In the particular example that I gave in my prior article where Bob, who had problems with alcohol, finally stops drinking, attends A.A. and begins therapy, his wife, Alice, becomes angry and defensive when Bob wants to participate more in the family decision-making process.

Bob regretted allowing Alice to take on the complete burden of financial planning and making other major decisions while he was drinking.  Now that he was sober, mentally clearer, and making positive changes in his therapy, he felt he wanted to be an equal partner in his relationship with Alice.

Alice felt that she made the major decisions in their marriage for the 25 years that Bob was drinking and incapable of taking on these responsibilities.  And, while she was happy that he had finally gotten sober, especially after she had pleaded with him for so long to get sober, she was uncomfortable with sharing these responsibilities with Bob.  She experienced Bob's request as criticism about how she handled things, and this made her feel angry.

Bob, who thought he was offering to be a better husband and take a load off Alice's shoulders, felt confused and annoyed.  He knew this would be a big change for both of them, but it made him feel angry that Alice had such a negative reaction, and it also made him think about drinking.

Tips on How to Implement Change in Your Relationship
Here's what I would recommend to Bob:

Getting Used to Change Takes Time:  Be Patient
If it took you a while to overcome your resistance to change (in this case, 25 years), you can imagine that it will also take your spouse time to get accustomed to changes in you and sharing power with you for decision making.

You might be ready now to transform the dynamics in your relationship quickly to try to make up for lost time, but the changes that you want to make will involve change for your spouse as well.  If she's been accustomed to handling major decisions in your relationship, she will need time to get comfortable with sharing these responsibilities with you.  And you need time to get accustomed to these changes as well.

Rebuilding Trust is a Process
You might want to make up for lost time in your relationship, but you can't go faster than your spouse wants to go.  She will need to see that you will be responsible, keep your promises, and that you're capable of being an equal partner.  It takes time to regain trust.

Rebuilding Trust Often Works Better Starting With Small Changes
In this case, it's better to build on small successes and work your way up to larger issues than to go for big changes immediately.   This will give your spouse time to see that you're ready to handle the changes you want to make.  It will also give you time to develop your skills and to feel competent as you and your spouse get used to this change.

Making Changes Can Bring Disappointments:  Progress Isn't Always Linear
Progress is often two steps forward and one step backward.  If you realize this in advance, you won't become easily discouraged when there are setbacks for you, your spouse or both of you.  You need to have a long term perspective.

Trying to Do It On Your Own Might Be Daunting:  Getting Help
People who are trying to change, either as individuals, couples or both often find it daunting to do on their own.

It can be helpful to enlist the assistance of a licensed mental health professional who has helped people to make changes and overcome certain obstacles that are bound to appear in the process.

Couples often benefit from having an objective mental health professional who has experience helping couples to negotiate the pitfalls of making changes in their relationships.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couple.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.