As I mentioned in my previous post, our perception of the past can seduce us into believing that our choices are so limited in the present that we are unable to move. Part of what happens in the process of psychotherapy is that we begin seeing the present as just the present. We become freed of our feelings of being trapped by our past. We learn to see our present, not influenced by the lens of past history, but directly and immediately.
The same problematic thinking poisons relationships. “Yesterday my partner was a problem. Today my partner did the same thing as yesterday. Therefore tomorrow will be no different. My partner will never change.” In these sorts of circumstances, no change is possible. We virtually guarantee that our lives will never improve. What hellish realities we construct with this sort of thinking!
Notice, that the same expectation that things will never change, implicitly gives us an excuse to avoid accountability and change. The belief that our partner will never grow or be different gives us the justification for our own inaction.
Worse yet, couples will use the past as a bludgeon to punish their partners. This procedure will obviously impart new injuries to the couple’s relationship and become simply more history to use as ammunition for future fights. Notice that this behavior creates a phenomena family therapists describe as circular causality. Indulging in recriminations about the past, couples find themselves in a never-ending loop of bad behavior and recriminations. (The whole notion of Circular Causality deserves a blog entry in its own right; and I hope to cover this in another posting)
With divorce so common, some partners go into their next marriage expecting that the relationship will break apart. This means that they never fully commit themselves to the marriage until they can see their new partner as someone who is truly different from the last one.