The Final Resistance


Very early in this book I observed that anything can be a justification for something you really don’t want to do. Each Resistance Rationale for each small step toward a better marriage has the potential to be driven by a deeper resistance: I don’t want to.

For the most skilled therapists, it’s often not easy to uncover what someone’s real resistance is. Is it the one admitted, or is the one admitted a substitute for the core resistance, that is, “I’m just not of the mind, or feeling, to”? What’s more, questioning one’s own motives does not come naturally. However convinced I am, for example, that my apology will be rejected, misheard, or misunderstood, closer internal scrutiny might reveal something more basic underlying my objections.

…Whatever the resistance, the real-life effect is the same: behavior paralysis. Ironically, I don’t want to bars one from doing the very things that would make his marriage, and his life, more like he’d want.

No doubt you’ve had someone seek your guidance for a troubling situation. Upon advising you hear a string of objections: That won’t work; I’ve tried that; it’s not possible; he wouldn’t listen. After a while, doesn’t it get hard to stifle the urge to shout, “Then why did you ask me?”

But why would someone seeking help, from a professional no less, resist the very help he seeks? My in-depth, therapeutic analysis? Because he doesn’t want it.

Oh, he does want some sort of help. He’s just not sure what kind or how much. The cost in effort or the cost to his self might be too high. Do the solutions involve making the first move, changing too much in himself, or striving to understand someone he presently doesn’t like much? In short, maybe he wants things to change, but he doesn’t want to change.

Sometimes the easier part of doing therapy is knowing what will work. The harder part is persuading someone to do it. I don’t want to lies at the heart of the human condition. It is ingrained in who we are.

Fortunately, it’s not so deeply entrenched that we can’t overcome it. We do have it within ourselves to resist our own resistance. We just have to want to.

1. Accept the reality that what you think are your reasons may not be your reasons. Recognize that other motives are possible and may be beyond your immediate awareness.

2. Look deeper and longer within. Do some self-therapy. If all my objections could be answered, would I still be reluctant to act? If I were to be totally reassured that nothing I fear will actually happen, would that make a difference? Put another way, if every bit of my resistance were dispelled to my satisfaction, would I still be resistant? Searching for answers will help reveal how much I don’t want to is at the bottom of my reasoning, constraining my better instincts.

3. Don’t confuse I don’t want to with I don’t feel like it. They’re not always synonymous. Feelings are transitory. What you might not feel inclined toward today, you could next week or even in one hour.

4. Feelings, particularly negative ones, are not consistent guides to action. They can impel you toward conduct you know is not right and away from that which is. Don’t allow emotions to be the primary drivers of your behavior. They are far too fickle.

The final point is the most critical: Once you realize that I don’t want to could be part of your resistance, tell yourself, ”So what?” Meaning, whether or not you want to is a meaningless question. It is irrelevant. The only questions to ask are “Is this good? Is this what I should do for myself and my spouse?”

Doing what you don’t want to do, because it’s a good thing to do, will lead you toward what you wanted to do all along: make a better marriage.

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards Pages 138-140
Copyright © 2011, Dr. Ray Guarendi
Servant Books