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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Friday, June 3, 2016

C H A N G E


“That’s not the girl I fell in love with.”  “He’s nothing like he used to be.”

“I don’t even know who you are anymore.”


By Dr. Marlo Archer

“When I hear spouses say these sorts of things about each other, I bristle and every fiber in my body wants to scream out, “Of course! What did you expect?”

Let’s take this to its most obvious point. Consider a 16-year-old kid named Kelly, just got a drivers’ license and the first job, just learning about how much taxes are going to come out of a paycheck, and enjoying the frantic attention of another 16-year-old kid with the same raging hormones. What is Kelly like? Optimistic? Responsible? Monogamous? Thoughtful? Impulsive? Funny? Annoying? Dangerous?

Now consider an 82-year old named Chris whose spouse of 52 years just died of cancer. Chris has 13 grand-children and 3 greats and one more on the way. Chris has lived in 12 U.S. States and one foreign country. Chris owns a home, two cars, and is thinking it may be time to get rid of both cars because it’s hard to see to drive.  What is Chris like? Depressed? Centered? Well-Rounded? Happy? Angry? Mature? Horny? Spontaneous?

Now consider what if Kelly and Chris are just the same person, Kelly at age 16 and Kelly again at age 82. Is it possible for the 16-year-old who was described to turn into exactly the 82-year-old that was described? Of course it is. Would we say the 82-year-old is anything like the 16-year-old version of him/herself? I should hope not. What if Kelly hadn’t changed in 66 years and still acted like they did when they were 16. Is that reasonable? Is that even advisable? No, of course not.

When we lay it out in the extreme, it seems obvious that people change drastically over time and with major life events. However, that starts happening right from Day 1. It doesn’t happen magically overnight at age 52.  It happens each and every day that we walk the planet and have experiences. It happens in leaps and bounds when major things happen like going to college, graduating, buying a car, getting pregnant, moving to follow a job, losing high school friends, cutting down on social activities, changing the amount of drugs or alcohol we use, when our income goes up, or down, when we change climates, cultures, put a large amount of debt on a credit card….

People who are in relationships need to quit thinking that it’s reasonable for their partner to be the same as they were even 5 or 10 years ago, particularly if they’ve made any life changes, and especially if they’ve made big ones. It doesn’t even matter if the changes are all positive and desired. We wanted to get married, start a family, and buy a house… Yes, and you did, and that changed you both. Forever. Irreversibly. 

Change is not inherently bad or good. Rather, change is inevitable and constant. To partner with someone and then expect them to be a happy-go-lucky 16-year-old while you’re also expecting them to hold a stressful job and pay a mortgage and raise children is ridiculous and is an absolute recipe for failure and disappointment.

The Takeaway

Do not partner with someone that you worship just the way they are. Partner with someone who looks like they have what it takes to morph and change and adapt to life’s challenges and still be someone you like who likes you.

Dr. Marlo Archer is a licensed psychologist; treating kids, teens and families in Tempe, Arizona. www.DrMarlo.com. A certified psychodramatist, Dr. Archer co-founded the Arizona Psychodrama Institute which unites creative individuals from across Arizona under the common mission of teaching Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychotherapy to organizations, professionals, and students whose practices would be enhanced by using action methods. www.AzPsychodrama.com. She was also the 2013 winner of the Zerka T. Moreno award from the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.