I was recently speaking with an acquaintance of mine who has been married and divorced 3 times! As we spoke, it became clear to me that he blamed each of his ex-wives for each break up, and didn’t consider himself responsible for the break-down of his relationships. And, despite his repeated failed marriages, his inability to recognise the need for him to change means that he continues to maintain the same approach to relationships!
Our interaction got me thinking: why do we continue to make the same mistakes in relationships? Why don’t we try something else? Something new?
There is a well-known Albert Einstein saying that:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So what do we need to do or think to be able to change our approach to relationships so that we can enjoy long-lasting and more satisfying intimate relationships?
Enter: the Change Process
The Change Process is a simple model that explains how and why we do what we do and make the choices we make.
The Change Process has 6 distinct levels –
These levels involve both our conscious and subconscious minds. Much like an iceberg, the levels above the surface – environment, behaviour, capability - occur at a conscious level. However, the largest factors that influence our behaviour and capacity for change, take place beneath the surface at a subconscious level. These deeper levels – beliefs, values, identity and purpose - are not easily seen but have a significant impact on the other levels and on our behaviour.
We can break down each of the levels of the Change Process:
Environment - the physical and emotional environment that affects me
Behaviour – the action and behaviour of a person – habits, patterns, acts in a given situation
Capability – the abilities, skills, talents, knowledge and competencies which lead to a series of actions and behaviours
Beliefs & Values – Provide the main motivating force behind actions and capabilities and have a huge impact on our life outcomes. They define who we are and directs our lives.
Identity – our sense of self, our core beliefs & values of who I am and how I think about myself. What I stand for and what my vision is for my life.
Spirituality – the big picture, purpose, ethics, mission and meaning of my life
Let me give you two examples:
Environment - Keys of a piano, the sound it makes and the notes on the sheet music
Behaviour – The act of pushing down a piano key with your finger
Capability/skills – Sight reading and coordinating your fingers in the right order to produce harmonics
Beliefs & Values – Appreciating music
Identity – Musician, combines them all
Environment – Living together, making a home
Behaviour – Talking, hugging, kissing and spending time together
Capability/skills – Knowing how to do the things that build your relationship
Beliefs & Values – Relationships are important for my happiness, health & wellbeing, so I’m going to do everything in my power to protect it
Identity – I am a husband/wife/partner/lover, I am 100% committed to my relationship
Purpose – Giving unconditional love
Applying the Change Process to improve our relationships
Failure to change often explains why people may have multiple failed marriages or relationships. Their relationship environment becomes toxic so they get a divorce and marry someone else but since they haven’t made any significant change at any level in the Change Process so eventually their new relationship becomes toxic as well.
Let me explain using my own life as an example of how the Change Process levels influence a person’s life and what you can do about to avoid making the same mistakes over again.
My childhood environment was very bad, so I learnt certain behaviours that would protect me from the pain of being rejected, of not being heard or listened to or from the feeling that my opinions were valid.
I learnt the skills and capabilities that were necessary to protect me at that time: I assumed that everyone was out to get me. I blamed everyone and everything for who I was. If only I had better parents, if only this or that didn’t happen then I would be better, be more the person I wanted to be. I learnt to not stand up for myself by allowing and enabling others to walk over me. I lacked confidence and talked too much, repeated myself just so that I could get my meaning across and my opinions heard. I became desperate to be loved, I didn’t care who it was, as long as I got affection and the feeling of belonging. Eventually though, all my relationships failed and I re-lived the process all over again.
My beliefs and values were negative and I assumed the worst of people. I felt unloved and unworthy to be loved. My identity became ‘I am not good enough’ ‘I am worthless’ and ‘I am a year 10 dropout’ - why should anyone listen to me?
If we view this process of change as a house then there are two things that can happen:
We can keep the current foundation of thinking and patch our house up as we live our lives; OR
We can knock our old house down, throw out the garbage that doesn’t service us and redesign and rebuild a new one for ourselves.
After living with the pain of constant rejection and the need to be loved and to belong, I said “enough” and knocked down my old house. I rebuilt a purposeful, intentional house and lived the life I wanted on my terms. Hard work? Yes, but well worth it.
For those who had great parents and a model of a healthy relationship, your foundation might be great - but as an adult, you still need to take a good look at each level of the Change Process and make an intentional choice what stays and what goes in your house. If this is not done consciously and deliberately, then there is the tendency to blame, parents, society, community, anyone else but yourself.
Only you can build the life you want and hopefully your partner will support you in making the necessary changes to live your life by your design. If you need any help with the process call Sue Geelan at Metanao 0439 294 532. Take back control and build your life house your way.