Will I Still Be Me?

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When I first begin with a couple in marriage counseling, the question sometimes arises, ” Once this process is done, will I still be me?”  The question usually comes out as a statement that goes something like, “If I make all the changes my partner seems to want, I won’t even be myself when we’re finished.  I can’t do that.”  It’s understandable.  Who of us can (or wants to) change at the expense of our true self?  “Who we are” is about as basic as it gets.  I like to reassure with two points.

One is that the changes that your partner seems to want, seldom turn out to be as vast as they appear.  This is because positions/needs in couple relationships tend to follow a polarizing pattern as a problem develops.  This is when, roughly speaking, the more one does X, the more the other does Y, which leads to the first doing more X, and the second doing more Y, etc.  Emotional energies work this way.  When we consciously pull in the ends of a polarizing pattern, we see that the change needed to meet each other in the middle is not so intractable.

The other point is that we humans are changing all the time.  We don’t change from ourselves into something else, but rather we grow into a more highly evolved version of ourselves.  We do this sometimes purely by choice and sometimes as a result of life circumstances that offer us the opportunity to rise to the occasion.  Either way, we are more like flowers that grow from seeds, to seedlings, to bud, to flower than anything that would seem to obliterate the self.  This is the kind of change that marital therapy presents you the opportunity to consider. Most often, my couples are surprised at how small and doable the changes are that really solve things.