Couples, It’s Not Me, It’s You

by admin on March 1, 2009

Couples Boulder

Autoplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change himself, i.e. the internal environment.

Alloplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change the situation, i.e. the external environment.

Usually when I see a couple, each person hopes the other will become a more attentive and responsive partner.  Sometimes from themselves but more often it is from the other person that some kind of change is wanted.  After an auspicious beginning and the passing of some years, both partners can end up feeling they give too much, get too little and are not understood by the other.

It’s worth recalling that in human development people learn to get their needs met in two ways.  First, a baby cries out and someone comes to pick it up, to feed, change or cuddle them.  Then, baby learns to make internal adjustments, for example only by learning manners and saying “please” can one get the cookie.  An expectation has been set by the outside that we must grow or change to meet.  Both actions make relationships work, the request and the adaptation.  It’s an exchange.  The balance between these two approaches is affected by a one’s own early history, temperament, culture and life experience. Each person brings to a relationship expectations of what is normal “give” and normal “take”.  Within couples there is also a balance.  We must make some alterations in ourselves and expect the other person to make some on our behalf.

Once a partner in a couple can “hear” and empathize with the perspective of the other, change begins.  This shift of attention, itself,  is a very important change.  This is what’s needed from both people for long-term success of a relationship. Some things may never be negotiable but might be easier to tolerate if the meeting of needs feels more fairly distributed.  In my view, couples in trouble don’t have to solve all their problems, become different people or even stop fighting.  They just need to make a better deal.

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