…after you’ve said in some form or fashion, “I cannot change.”
Every marriage has it’s ups and downs, right? But what if your marriage has continued for years and the more uncomfortable spouse (usually the spouse in the position of not saying a lot much of the time) does point out that they want you to change, and you say, “I cannot do it.” What happens next? Well, in short, beware. The moment you say these words, you fast-forward a process called “emotionally triangling.” This is the process of you being replaced by someone who will be eager to change and be there for your spouse emotionally. I’ve seen it time and time again. And by the way, you are replaceable, despite what moral (or spiritual values) say about your constraint to stay married, or if you have kids. Principles, or people, don’t always stop the process of you being replaced. Only you can try.
So is your relationship over? Not necessarily. But you have to understand what’s going on. Here’s the basic principle:
One partner makes a move to emotionally triangle when they come to the point they believe that you cannot change. So you’ve got to change!
You may have dug your way into a hole that will take a bit to get out of though. You see what’s really at stake is your ability to adapt. Most people learn how quickly they can adapt when their spouse says, “I’ve found someone else” (and you decide you don’t want to lose them). But now you’re faced with actually losing your spouse while you’re trying to rapidly adapt. What steps do you need to take? Here’s a few points for your rapid adaptation survival guide:
Decide (and commit) you’re going to change and put all of the energy of your panic into focusing on yourself. You’re going to be really tempted to focus on your spouse and squeeze pretty tight. Don’t do it. You’ll probably only squeeze the last bit of life right out of them.
Go back in your mind and find all the mental tapes of your spouse telling you how you can change. You’ll find a huge road map right there in front of you. You won’t have to ask your spouse in the present how you need to change. They’ve already told you. If you do happen to ask them, they will most likely tell you they’ve been telling you how to change for years. If you need some help, ask a few questions while not pestering. You’ll find just working on two to three things will be hard enough…just make those count.
Find somebody to work through your adaptation with. Your spouse is not that person…right now. And no, your newfound accountability person is not there to talk to about your spouse. Work on yourself with them. Find some encouragement from them. If you do end up griping about your spouse with them and they listen, find another accountability partner. Your old one isn’t helping you.
If all else fails (regarding your ability to adapt), contact a Licensed Therapist who is trained in Family Systems and both of you go to marriage counseling together. They will most likely know how to help you and your spouse tolerate the pain while the rapid adaptation occurs. Remember, you’re digging your way out of a hole, not necessarily losing your spouse. Your spouse has a lot invested in this relationship with you…especially if you have kids. They don’t necessarily want to lose you (and it all). They just want you to change. So it’s time to get started.