How many counselors does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one but it has to really want to change.

It’s an old joke but it contains truth. In couple’s counseling, especially, I talk about motivations for change. Both people have to be willing to change and we have to understand the motivation for that change. Some want to change to be more like the other person in order to please them more. But that reeks of codependency. Some want to change thinking then the other person will change too. That is just manipulation. Still others say “This is just me, lump it or leave it.” That is pride rearing its ugly head. None of these motivations work for lasting and positive change.

In life and in relationships, we need motivation that is pure for enduring change. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Philippians:

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:1-5 NASB)

So, if we adopt the motivation of “I want to be more like Christ” then aren’t we, as we draw near to Christ, drawing nearer to each other? It is the fellowship triangle in which God is the peak of the triangle and each spouse is the other two points.Fellowship triangle

As you can see in the diagram, the closer you and your spouse draw to God, the closer you get to each other. Pure motivation for change and for how we relate to each other says, “I’m going to do this because it honors God.” There are no conditions. There are no expectations for something in return.

As the story goes, a preacher is giving a short children’s sermon to a group of kids on stage and he asks them a question. None of them wanted to try to answer but one child spoke up and said, “I don’t know the answer to your question but we are in church so the answer must be Jesus!” There is a lot of wisdom in that! What is the answer to the question of what will make our marriage better? Jesus! Be more like Him!

Audra Dahl, MA, LPC-S
Rush Creek Counseling Center
Professional Counselor