There Are Multiple Behaviors to Change

Be Prepared for Relationship Complexities

Couples have multiple behaviors that need to change. They are probably not aware of all the behaviors and thoughts that will need to be examined. This makes it complex.

I recently went on a diet. I’ve been overweight for years and I knew that I needed to lose weight. Once I decided to do this, I took steps to change.

I started to count calories. I bought a Fitbit. I started to do cardio exercises to burn more calories, which allowed me to eat more.

Someone suggested to me that I should do weight lifting. I’ve lifted weights in the past and I do enjoy it, but I liked doing the cardio exercises because they burned more calories.

Notice that there were two behaviors here: cardio exercise and weight lifting. I was willing to do cardio, but I wasn’t willing to do weight lifting. If you gave me advice on doing cardio exercise, I was willing to put that into action. I wanted to learn more. If you gave me advice on the best weight lifting tactics, I would be resistant.

The same thing happens with couples that we mentor.

One couple came to use because they knew that didn’t do conflict management very well. They both wanted to fight less. So, they had decided to change their behavior on how they fight.

We started to work with them to recognize their conflict patterns. They had a disagreement in front of us and we let them go on for 5 minutes. Then, we reiterated the pattern that we observed. He would criticize and she would defend.

When we repeated back what we observed, she said, “I’m not being defensive.” (Which is defensive.) We repeated her words back to her and she said, “Wow, that is defensive.”

They knew that they wanted to change their conflict pattern, but they were unaware of what the pattern was. In order for a couple to change, they need to recognize the pattern. Then, they need to understand the pro’s and con’s of changing.

When we first started to mentor couples we assumed that if they came to us, they were ready to change. Then, we started to see that this is more complex. There are multiple behaviors to change. Some of them are obvious and some of them will require more thought and work.

Once we started to expect this, it got to be less overwhelming. We now know that this is part of the process of healing.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Be aware of their unawareness – Expect that there will be areas where they don’t understand the impact. People have reasons for the way they behave. Change happens when we become aware of the impact of our behaviors and our thoughts.
  • Slowly, identify new areas – Just like the woman that wasn’t aware of her defensiveness, people won’t be aware of many areas. This can take time. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit needs to work on someone. Marriage education can help to raise awareness to negative and positive behaviors.
  • Be patient – Coming to an awareness of the need for change is part of the healing process. God works to bring conviction to us to change our unhealthy behaviors. What may be very obvious to you, may not be obvious to someone else. This is part of the process.


Christian Mentoring Ideas

This series is about what makes marriage mentoring complex. As a marriage mentor, if you understand the types of challenges that you will see, it helps to not feel overwhelmed. We want to prepare you for common challenges.

Other posts in this series on relationship complexities:

Someone Doesn’t Want Help

This Is About That

A Behavior, by Itself, Isn’t That Harmful

You Don’t Understand the Impact