If couples are going to change, they are going to need more than knowledge about what they could do differently. They are going to need to risk doing things differently and have new, healing experiences.
DH Lawrence wrote,
The world fears a new experience more than it fears anything. Because a new experience displaces so many old experiences. . . . The world doesn’t fear a new idea. It can pigeon-hole any idea. But it can’t pigeon-hole a real new experience.
This is so true in couple’s therapy!
Positive, new experiences are far more corrective than ideas or concepts learned from couples therapy.
So why is this such a difficult challenge for couples? That’s a big question. Personally, having worked with many couples and having experienced being part of a couple myself, I think it has to do with vulnerability and a desire for acceptance. Also, doing things differently often requires us to step out of our own comfort zone.
If you are looking for positive change in your relationship, here are a few ideas on how to do your part to facilitate a new experience with your partner.
- Start small. It’s far better to make a small change than no change at all. It’s also usually more comfortable. A good start might be to intentionally tell your partner one thing you really appreciate about him or her.
- Stay positive. Change is usually a bit uncomfortable, even when it is positive. Recognize and acknowledge that a little discomfort as normal.
- Talk about what has worked. It’s easy for us to talk about what we don’t like or want, but it takes a little more effort to talk about what is working. I often tell couples that talking about what you don’t want to have happen is a bit like giving directions and only someone only the roads that they should avoid. It leaves a lot of room for error! You’re more likely to keep experiencing what works if you can clearly state it.
Jackie Dunagan, LAMFT