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15th Apr


Peer Pressure in the Therapeutic Environment

Quite often I am faced with the following question from one or both of my clients (separately or together) in a couples counseling circumstance.  “Why should I do anything for him/her, when I don’t see him/her doing anything for me?”  When marriages are struggling, each partner wants to see the other partner change more – even if there is an acknowledgement that he/she has also what to change.  AND, even though cognitively this partner knows full well that he cannot change the other one, yet, he/she expects that since the other is not changing, why should I?

The answer lies within.  His/her assumption is not taking into account that most likely the other partner is thinking the same exact thing.  So someone must make him/herself more vulnerable and jump into a movement of change.  He/she will continue to retort, “And why should I?”  The answer is because someone must go first.  And when that person goes first, does it consistently and makes it so obvious time and time again that change is transpiring, what response does the other spouse have?  The other spouse will have no choice but to admit to him/herself AND to the other person that he/she also needs to show signs of committed change.  No one wants to be known as the one who is sitting back and not expending any efforts, when the other person is trying really hard.  This will hopefully spur change on the second partner that the first partner will see clearly.  The first partner will feel vindicated and feel an added sense of pressure to keep it up and add more to his/her plate of changed behaviors.  And so forth and so forth.

Sounds like a competition, no?  It is!  Normally, we say that we don’t want winners in marriage, since that implies there will also be a loser (who wants to be married to a loser?).  But here, the competitiveness/pressure (I am not sure if there is a different in this situation) causes the individuals to win and therefore, by extension, the marriage/couple to win!

Here’s hoping both of you – individually and collectively – come out as winners!

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