“Trust is built with consistency.” Lincoln Chafee
I have seen this behavior thousands of times…
One partner in the relationship notices the disconnection and tries to make it better.
- They plan date nights…
- They try opening up the lines of communication…
- They try being more patient and more loving….
- They overlook things they might have argued about previously…
- They even propose working with someone to get some help…
It improves for a little while, but then both partners fall back into their old patterns…and the disconnection returns.
You might go through this cycle multiple times before one of you gives up on the idea of the relationship ever changing or feeling good. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to take action and move through divorce. It just means you’ve checked out and are no longer putting forth a conscious effort.
Many people stay here for years – stuck in this place of not taking steps to become closer in their marriage, yet taking steps to unwind the marriage either.
This may go on until the distance between the two of you becomes so wide that you finally approach the topic, telling your partner that you are at the end of your rope and it might be time to separate.
And NOW your partner wants to do All. The. Things.
- They become more patient and loving towards you – maybe even leaving you little notes or sending loving texts throughout the day.
- They do things around the house and with the kids in an attempt to help lighten your load.
- They’ll even go to counseling with you.
Now you’re noticing some changes.
But you don’t trust they’ll last.
Because…you’ve been here before.
Will the Change Last?
Can people change? Of course they can…if they want to.
No one is going to change because YOU want them to, but now your spouse is willing to change because they have something to lose: you, their marriage, the family.
When your teenager is in trouble – let’s say you took their iPhone away – what do they do? They will often go on “good behavior.” They do all the things they should have been doing so they can get out of trouble (and get their iPhone back).
This “good behavior” you’re seeing from your spouse is the same thing. They’re trying to get out of the danger zone with you. They don’t want to lose their marriage, so they’re doing all the things they should have been doing all along.
But there’s a difference between good behavior and lasting change. The way to know the difference is to see whether or not there’s some structure around creating these changes.
- Are they reading a new relationship book every month and talking with you about what they’re learning?
- Are they going to a coach or therapist weekly for 6+ months?
- Is there some structure in place so that new habits are formed?
- If so, then there’s a good chance that you can trust that the new behavior you’re seeing will remain.
- If not, then it’s going to take much longer for you to trust the changes you’re seeing.
These changes you’re seeing in your spouse can create confusion. It might change how you feel about them and about the marriage…and it might not. If you’re struggling to find your way through that, consider joining me over in my program, The Decision.