"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." -- Andy Warhol
We are a few weeks past the New Year! How are you doing on your resolutions? C'mon, be honest! We typically vow to "change" something, and have all good intentions, but change is hard, and so by now, we've all-too-often gone back to our old habits that we started the year wanting to change. Change requires energy, intention, patience, and we don't often have the desire or the stamina to put in that effort to see the results we want.
The thing about change is that we can't want things to be different, yet not do anything differently. Status quo does not equal change. Thinking you would like something to be different means nothing if you aren't prepared to do something to affect that change.
I had coffee with a woman just a few weeks after the first of year as we entered 2013. I knew she had been struggling in her marriage for a few years. She and her husband were roommates. They hadn't been intimate in years (yes, years). They had separate interests and led separate lives. She stated, "This is it! This has to change. Mark my words: we will either make this marriage healthy or be divorced by the end of the year. I won't be sitting here having this same conversation next New Year's."
I met up with her again two weeks ago. It has been a year. We just ushered in 2014. Guess what? She is still in that marriage, and nothing has changed. Still no intimacy -- yes, another 52 weeks have passed without she and her husband making love -- not even once. Another 52 weeks have passed where she goes her way, and he goes his way every weekend. Another 52 weeks have passed where they haven't had any of those really intimate conversations about their lives, their hopes, their goals and their dreams that so frequently bring couples racing right back to knowing why they married each other to begin with!
She was different this year. Less energetic, more complacent. She sighed and said she had resigned herself to the fact that nothing was going to change. Their marriage hadn't improved, yet she seemed pleased that it hadn't gotten "worse" either. She said that she was just going to accept it for what it was. Roommate status was fine. She has a great group of friends to go out with and activities to keep her busy. She has kids to raise. She doesn't want to endure the financial hit and the lifestyle change that a divorce would bring. She doesn't have the energy to continue marriage counseling when it hasn't seem to have helped. "It's fine, I'm fine," she said. I reminded her that "fine is a 4-letter word that begins with F." That's what I think about "fine."
I was frustrated for her, but it's her decision. It's her life. It's her marriage. It's her future. There wasn't one thing I could do. If she wants change, she has to drive that change. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink.
It's human nature. We might want things to change, but until there is a compelling reason to make a change, it's easier to let things go on the way they are.
It's the classic case of the middle-aged person whose doctor tells him/her to exercise more and lose a few pounds before they face a health crisis. Sure, we try to change, but it's hard, and there really isn't a compelling reason to change... yet! Then, that compelling reason hits and we land in ER with a heart attack. As our life flashes in front of us, and we get the crap scared out of us, we realize what a compelling reason looks like, and suddenly our vow to get healthy takes on a new and realistic meaning. Change happens.
For the woman I had coffee with, "fine" will be all she needs until some sort of compelling reason makes her realize that "fine" isn't OK anymore. That compelling reason may be she and/or her husband realizing that they want to reconnect emotionally and physically and proactively work on their marriage (after all, it does take two!). On the other hand, that compelling reason may be she or her husband deciding to find their physical and emotional intimacy outside of their marriage. I'm a fan of option 1; not so much of option 2.
Time will tell. Who knows if 2014 will bring a "plot twist" to her marriage and if that compelling reason will surface, or if 2014 will be the year of "fine" and we'll be having the same conversation in January 2015.
What about you? What is "fine" in your life? Is there a compelling reason to make a change or are you fine with the status quo?