METHODOLOGIES FOR CHANGE WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF A DATING/MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP
Originally published in the Jewish Press, July 2018
The couple sitting before me were dating for 6 months. After ups and downs and working through the logistical, emotional, and practical components of their relationship, they seemed to be making headway. It was now down to one perception that one of them labeled as seemingly ‘non-negotiable’. They felt stuck. The concern had nothing to do with character traits (middos) or negative behavior, for those are not flexible. Both are kind, caring, and dedicated people.
One of the partners had an initially determined way of looking at his/her partner’s dreams and desire to change their career midstream (in what would require a long-term educational commitment) as a direct burden on him/her.
Would one of them be able to give in? Could one or both shift their stance? Who would let go first? Were they at an intractable crossroad? Where do they go from here?
About 10 days later, I happily received a text with a photo that said “Mazel Tov! We are engaged”. I was thrilled.
As author and deep thinker, Victor Frankl says, “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
So, what changed? How was one partner able to see with fresh eyes?
By employing methodology that promotes change. A new perspective is often needed when making good decisions.
Here is a list of 6 methodologies that help us change our outlook with the goal of achieving clarity:
We sometimes tell ourselves that ‘life shouldn’t be this hard’, or ask: ‘why is this so challenging for me?’ When we change our point of view the facts remain the same, but a shift is made to turn a negative viewpoint into a constructive one.
The famous story about the Berditchever Rav illustrates this well. People witnessed a wagon owner changing the wheels on his cart while wearing his tefillin. The onlookers were appalled. How could he be down in the mud, changing a tire, and wearing his tefillin? The Berditchever had the ability to reframe all that he saw. "Almighty", he said. "Look how holy your people are. Even when they change their wagon wheels, they wear their tefillin!" (Aish.com)
In our vignette above, REFRAMING may look like this: “Wow, the person I am dating wants to expand themselves by going back to school and that brings with it the possibility of a better parnassa in the future.”
Radical acceptance is about accepting life ‘as it is’ and knowing what we can and cannot change, even when life can be difficult. It is always non-judgmental. Radical Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement or approval.
In our vignette above, RADICAL ACCEPTANCE may look like this: “I may not like that my partner is going back to school and it may cost us some extra money and time now. However, I accept that this is my partner’s vision and he/she is entitled to their dreams, even if I am not passionate about it.’
This is therapeutic intervention that empowers us to support and understand our self and others by arming us with knowledge. Knowledge=power. Psychoeducation takes away surprises which can increase anxiety.
In our vignette above, PSYCHOEDUCATION may look like this: “Let me look at the curriculum and logistics of my partner’s educational program so I can best understand what it will look like in real time” .
This is a mindset where we pay attention in the present moment and look at things without judgment.
Imagine that you are angry at your partner and you feel your emotions racing. Now, try to look at that same scenario without emotions, as an objective viewer. This allows you to think about the situation in front of you in a calmer and clearer way
In our vignette above, MINDFULNESS may look like this: “I am not sure what the future will look like exactly and yet, I can be ok with this decision in the moment. I will trust that I can access that acceptance again.”
This is a technique to break things down into smaller, more palatable pieces. This is a great thing to do when things are complex and feel overwhelming.
In our vignette above, PARTIALIZATION may look like this: “If I break down the idea about my partner going back to school into semesters or look at all the breaks they have in the year, I can manage this better”.
Those who feel more appreciative in general and in their relationships specifically, are more responsive to their partner’s needs and are more committed to their relationships.
In our vignette above, GRATITUDE may look like this: “I may not have everything I want in this relationship. but I am happy to be married after being single for so long. I am glad to have a partner in my life who I can care for and be cared for. My partner is kind and I feel so blessed’.