>> Friday, November 13, 2009

"The problems of individuals and families are influenced by, and influence, their contexts. Problems are resolved by altering the relationships surrounding and involved with them, often by utilizing the untapped strengths and resources of those relationships."-Adapted from Fraenkel, P. (1997). Systems approaches to couple therapy. In K. Halford and H. Markman (Eds.), Clinical handbook of marriage and couple interventions (pp. 379-413). Chicester, England: John Wiley & Sons.

In a marriage you often hear "my spouse has changed or this is not the person I married". This is a profound idea for me, that crystallized during lecture, as I sat in Dr. Fraenkel's course on Family and Couple's counseling. In some cases, after marriage, people do "let their hair down" so that the other spouse can see the real them. This is more of a complement that they feel they are comfortable enough for their spouse to see the real them. But after that threshold, people grow.

With each problem, tension is created, decisions are prompted, solutions are made and the relationship is altered. "This is not the person I married" usually comes about a couple of years after being married. That's because they are not the same person. They have changed and what's more you have changed also. Marriage really is a cycle. Not only is the marriage continually being renewed. You are both developmentally changing as well. You really do become one and there is always the struggle, which involves a striving to be harmonious. The beauty is that your different, adding to the quality of marriage; different ways to attack a situation, another take on how to handle a issue, input from your partner to help you make the best decisions. This takes great strength to consider your partners advice. You do not have to implement it but there's growth in the ability to absorb information from those close to you.

"My spouse has changed is a good thing." It throws us off, and that can be very frustrating to us. The first 5 to 7 years can be difficult but if you can get past the markers it gets much better. You'll have practice at working together as partners. You both grow wiser as well. I'll continue with the second parts on strengths in my next entry. Comments? Questions?


Anonymous November 14, 2009 at 8:00 PM  

Hi P., I agree that some couples really do become one and there is always the struggle, which involves a striving to be harmonious. However, there is an equal struggle to get away from suffocating each other with interdependence.
First, I am curious if you agree with that and if yes, do you consider that in your practice.

Tom Bailey November 15, 2009 at 11:32 AM  

Change is hard - good or bad change in anything.

I think change that annoys people is change when they come to the relationship and are taking something from it that is no longer there... for example a spouce that cooks that no longer cooks or a spouce that has a great income and works hard but decides to make less money and therefore provide a lower level lifestyle.

Change that bothers people seems to come from a person not getting what they want out of the relationship that they feel entitled to based on what they saw in the early parts of the relationship.

What do you think?

The Adviser November 18, 2009 at 4:53 PM  

How encouraging to see your comments. These are very good points and I appreciate the contribution of ideas and experiences. Anonymous, you're correct in that there is an equal struggle in the marriage to get away and not suffocate each other. Each spouse brings new experiences to the relationship that stems from time outside of the marriage. This makes a good balance and is unhealthy if they do not spend some time apart. It is very important for each spouse to have their own alone time in order to prevent suffocation (even as parents). I encourage the husband and the wife to find outlets that they enjoy separately. It is so refreshing for the individual. Thanks for making that point as it is an essential one.

Tom, your insightful example shows a level of stunted growth on the part of the spouse who has stopped giving. As most of us know, selfishness and bitterness slowly destroys a marriage. You have brought up the classic example of the phrase "My spouse is not the same person I married". So we both agree that they have changed; sometimes for the worst. Your comment helped me to remember that change is a process. The example you gave, is the beginning of the process; the identification that "hey, I'm giving 100% and their giving 50%. This is what brings about "tension, decisions, many solutions, then alterations". I see that my post was a take on the end of the process, when one looks back in hindsight. Thanks for making this valuable distinction.