Change is never easy but we face it every day. For some it is a terrifying experience, for others an opportunity. We all, see it, feel it and deal with in in different ways. How we see it, feel it and deal with it will generally determine how difficult it will be. I have written plenty on this site about how self esteem plays a role in dealing with change and decision making in general. I have even put together a challenge to help anyone to deal with moving through the process. I work hard with clients to help them bridge the gap between awareness and action and many can take it. However  the same bottom line appears in every case. If the client (or anyone) is not prepared to recognise and do the right thing for themselves and act on that, nothing will change. No therapist, process or miracle will change that. The concept of self responsibility is high on the agenda here. Rather than this, it is easier to blame the world, therapy, medication, past or anything than take responsibility for action and consequences.

An area of therapy where the above is prevalent is when dealing with relationships. Sometimes when it is absolutely clear to the client that a relationship is coming to an end, they often find it difficult to jump out, even in the case of emotional and physical abuse. I want to make if clear that my statement is based on clear input from the client. It is not my job or responsibility to tell them to end a relationship only to consider the consequences if they do or don’t and are they willing to face those.

A frequent comment I hear when clients talk about change is ” I will do this when I find the strength”. In relationships, it is often  the relationship that keeps people in a situation where the strength isn’t there so a vicious cycle presents itself. The strength needed to end the relationship and move on is being sapped by being in the relationship.

As a therapist, I  always caution against impulsive decision making that hasnt been thought out. I always recommend that a couple put together a realistic action plan with a manageable framework with a time period to work out their differences. Except of course in the case of abuse. However, many stay in a state of limbo not really moving forward at all, despite the evidence in front of them. This is also true of individuals trying to move forward. Sometimes the fear is so high that we need to take a step back. Sometimes and more often than not it is a denial of reality and procrastination. This usually means that the inner critic or manager voices are very strong. These then need to be worked with so they release their control.

I think it was Bill Shankly, a famous soccer manager from the 70’s who said something like “if you want the tree to grow, cut out the dead wood first”. He was, of course talking about rebuilding a soccer team and bringing in the new growth of new players. However, this can always be applied to our life, relationships, work and personal development. How can we expect to move forward effectively if we are not willing to eject toxic people from our lives, challenge our dysfunctional belief systems and find the courage to face fears and consequences? Difficult as it may be, it is not impossible and often, the proverbial weight that has been hanging around our neck is suddenly gone. This is often when the real work can begin.

On the other hand, we have to cope with normal changes that may happen as a relationship matures. No long-term connection remains unchanged throughout time. Couples grow and adapt as they manage the ups and downs of life together, both as individuals and as partners. Understanding how relationships can change over time — and distinguishing between normal and abnormal changes — will help a couple to become more self-aware of the relationship.

“Throughout the duration of a relationship, partners experience a variety of stages, from lust to trust,” Shamyra Howard-Blackburn, LCSW . “We evolve as humans. Our opinions, attitudes, and actions evolve with time, which can have an effect on our relationships with others. Individuals in relationships will undergo numerous changes. The key measure of how couples manage with change is how they choose to acknowledge and work through these changes. While certain changes are inevitable, there are others that can make or break a relationship.”

If you and your long-term partner have managed to maintain a solid, healthy relationship despite the difficulties of life, then you can be proud. Unfortunately, not every partnership is meant to be together forever, so it’s crucial not to dismiss any unusual changes in your partner’s behaviour as normal. Relationships can vary in a variety of ways over time; some are expected, while others are possible red flags to be on the lookout for. These include loss of empathy, commitment, and sudden lack of intimacy.

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