By Kaleigh Simental
In our last post, we spoke about the stages of change and how they can be moved through at varying speeds. When couples come to counseling and one is placed firmly in Precontemplation with no desire to move forward, it may be better to consider individual therapy for the partner who is further along in the stages of change. The partner in Preparation or Action will be ready to change and ensure that it occurs, and individual therapy could help them make the changes that they want to see in their life. For the partner in Precontemplation, it is their decision to be a part of those changes or not.
A partner may not always choose to participate in the changes their counterpart is going to make. Looking at this from the STRONG Model of Safety, Trust, Respect, Openness, Nurturing, and Generosity, there can be some fundamental disconnects in the relationship when one partner wants a change in the relationship and the other does not see a problem.
Safety is jeopardized when one partner refuses to accept the pain that is caused when issues go unaddressed, jeopardizing the foundation of the relationship. Without knowing that their safety and security will be considered, it can be hard to develop a sense of trust between a couple when one partner refuses to ever accept that change needs to occur. Leave safety behind and it can be difficult to have any of the other pillars of a healthy relationship.
Before moving forward in the couples’ counseling process, sometimes it is helpful for a couple to assess the needed changes in front of them. The first step in this process is figuring out how ready each of you are for a change. Start by asking yourself, and having your partner ask themselves, questions such as what changes do you want to see in your relationship? What would be different in your life if your relationship were different? How ready are you to make a change? These are great ways to spark open conversations with your partner about your relationship and assess where you both are in the stages of change.
If these questions feel too big to discuss alone, there is a process known as Discernment Counseling that can help couples decide the best path forward for themselves and assess the steps that would be required to change the relationship. Working with a therapist who is trained in Discernment Counseling can help couples further assess their readiness to make a change and give them the tools that they need to decide what the healthy next step is for their relationship.
Navigating change in life and relationships can be difficult, but the one thing that stays certain is that change will happen. You will change throughout your life and so will your partner. How can you ensure that your relationship won’t fall prey to the changes of life and tear you apart? One way to do that is to embrace the changes and look for ways your changes can bring you together, STRONG.
Remember that no matter where you or your partner are in the stages of change, it’s possible to work together to ensure that you both feel safe, heard, and ready for whatever change lies ahead.
This is part two of a four part series on Change in a Relationship by ASRBC interns Kaleigh Simental and Gabriella Gutierrez. Learn more about our team here or book a session with Kaleigh, by visiting www.austinstrongrbc.com/meet-kaleigh