What do you do when the person you love the most in your life refuses to grow? This is a question I hear in my practice every day, and the answers are as varied and individual, as are the people who ask the question. He refuses to stop demanding sex. She refuses to stop spending money. He won’t connect with me emotionally. She won’t tell me the truth. He’s having cyber-sex. She won’t stop flirting. He won’t stop hanging out at the topless bars with his buddies. He won’t stop drinking. She won’t stop berating me to her friends and family. The list goes on forever and at times I feel I as if I need a life raft in my office so I don’t drown in the myriad of mostly legitimate complaints I hear.

Clearly, being in a relationship with someone who refuses to grow is incredibly painful. However, in all fairness, didn’t we vote to be with that unconscious person because we were also unconscious at the time the relationship started? Didn’t we stay in that relationship, perhaps for years, because we thought that was what we wanted as well? Often one person in the relationship suddenly goes to therapy, reads a book or gets hit by a bolt of awareness and wakes up after being married 5-30 years. Now suddenly in a matter of weeks or months the still unconscious partner is required to get up to speed and begin acting in conscious ways without having had the training or the tools to do so. The contact that was heretofore agreed upon by both parties sudden gets changed unilaterally and the threat of divorce or abandonment is added to the mix and the anxiety.

Partner A says If you don’t change I am leaving. Partner B says What’s wrong with what we have been doing all these years? I have been happy. Partner A says, It doesn’t work for me anymore and I am not happy. Partner B says, I don’t get it. When did you get the right to tear our lives up and change everything? And so it goes. Partner A may be as right as partner B but they are now in separate corners and not speaking to each other because change is not being facilitated in a loving way. There has been no time for a learning curve. Both people are entrenched in their own positions of power or powerlessness.

There is a revolution or evolution going on in the area of relationships and when all the dust has settled I believe we will be better off for it. However, I am concerned about the number of relationships that are breaking up in the meantime because of this hostility, lack of patience and understanding. Many therapists may be adding to the problem in this age of independence by encouraging men and women who are waking up to leave their partners if change is not immediate. No one should stay in an abusive relationship especially if the other partner refuses to change but we also need to understand that for change to be meaningful, we have to give time for understanding and integration. Change never authentically occurs on demand.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself are, Have I stopped seeing all the good things about my mate because I am now focused only on his or her limitations? Have I given ample time for my partner to gain understanding and new tools? Have I created an environment that is not supportive to my partner changing because of my belittling, accusations or constant negations? Have I truly owned my own unconscious behavior and contribution to the current state of our relationship? Am I delivering the news of this change in contract in a way that is not threatening and allows for loving support? Have I really faced the reality and effect of a breakup? Is there enough good, enough history and enough love here to make it worthwhile to work on this relationship?

In addition, since we are just on the edge of this revolution and many people are just beginning to get conscious you also may want to ask yourself if you are really ready to be alone. It may take you a while to find someone new who has the same level of awareness you have achieved – if you can find them at all. I believe that we create exactly the right lessons we need for where we are on our spiritual paths. So when asking your self the question – is it time to leave ‘em or time to love ‘em… take a minute to look at the whole picture. Toughing out the rough times in a relationship may get you to the exact kind of long term commitment you desire and deserve.

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013
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