Creating the Partner You Desire

February 5, 2015 8:26 PM

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My long career as a family therapist has taught me a lot about couples and what contributes to marital misery. Many people come to my office believing that they can't change their partner. "My husband is the way he is," or "My wife is that way with everyone." They imagine their partner to be a fixed entity. They see themselves as primarily responding TO their partner, a one-way street filled with frustration. People fail to understand the most fundamental Law of Relationship Physics: An intimate partnership involves an ongoing process of co-creation and mutual change. Having treated many, many couples over the years, I have ample evidence that each partner in the couple changes the other -- for better or worse. In fact, one of my favorite provocative questions is, "When did you stop trying to change your wife ( or husband)?" Imbedded in this challenge is the idea that changing our partners is a natural phenomenon, part of a healthy dynamic. In fact, when one partner stops trying to "change" the other, the relationship tends to slip into a coma which can last for months, or years.

Let me explain: When I first began my family therapy training with Dr. Salvador Minuchin, one of the originators of the family systems approach to therapy, I learned about the underpinnings of how couples "create" each other. This mysterious process is not easily visible to the naked eye. It can onl...

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