Change is tricky business, especially when it comes to relationships. First, there’s a challenge involved—acceptance, which is about a sober recognition of the way things really are. Acceptance is not acquiescence, but it is a starting point for “real” change. Without acceptance we tend to watch and wait for the other person to do the changing, and when they don’t it fuels our inclination to blame them . . . and blame, of course, does not encourage collaboration toward solutions or resolution.
In many parts of our lives—whether at home, at work, in our leisure or charitable activities—we plan for change. We organize our thoughts, feelings, and energy around achieving a goal, which means devoting time and various skills needed to accomplish that goal. And, of course, we need to follow-up by evaluating our plan and efforts to make adjustments. Throughout, we need perseverance. It’s no different in our personal relationships. We need all of the above and hope that the other person joins us as a true partner in the collaboration.
Time, energy, intention, skills, and perseverance are required to change communication behavior in relationships. Although devoting resources to make changes in our lives seems obvious, we don’t often think that way when it comes to feelings and personal relationships. Many times we look for the other person to do something so we can simply feel better. Sometimes that does happen in the short run, but it’s not likely to be durable. To count on change, we need time and energy and practice, just like we need to learn any new skill.