The mother brings in her 14 year old son to the counselor and laments that she can’t get him off his lazy ass to do a single chore in the house. No shoes, no shirt, no service: that's her kid. It’s him and his Xbox 360. Period.
Another woman is concerned her marriage is teetering. Her husband of twelve years is tired after work (she works too), and plops down to Fox News and a handful of brewskis on a nightly ritual. No talkin’, no laughin’, no nuttin’. Sex? Seems a stretch.
Junior is pissed that his divorced parents aren’t worth much. His Mom works, and returns to her self-made nasty house. Bad mess and it smells bad too. At his Dad’s house, Pops caters only to his (third) girlfriend’s kids he recently moved in with. Junior is relegated to the tiny add-on bedroom with questionable internet connectivity.
So counselor, what you gonna do? Although there exists some minor, temporary relief in sharing our miseries, I would prefer to provide an extra degree of assistance. After the temporary minor relief of misery sharing, I may ask for their assistance. I’ve plumped up a little in the last twenty years or so. So I request, “I need to de-porkify myself somewhat. I want you to make me lose weight. Not much, maybe twenty pounds or so. Do it to me; make me lose weight. Please.” Once they stop looking at me like I’ve popped a screw, I ask them if it’s possible. The obvious answer is no. They may toss out diet ideas, but I try to stay focused on the point: make me lose weight. No can do. This is directly applicable to a great many situations counselors work with. The real answer is that it is a great sum of effort to make changes in our own life. To base our happiness or successes on making others change is a life of frustration and helplessness.
So you ask (well, actually, I’m asking), should people give up on trying to improve the home, their kids, their spouses? Absolutely not. We should however work at changing ourselves in order to show the way to others. Examples based on the above samples:
● Xbox Boy: Mom: “Your time for gaming will be based on the completion of a couple of chores. You have two more days of no-chore vacation. After that you and I will put together a small list of things I need done each day. At the completion of them, I’ll hand you back your power cord.” Expect some resistance, and perhaps a minor shit fit or two, but thirty minutes of trash taking, dishwasher unloading, bed making, cat box cleaning, etc. is easily worth some hours of mindless video entertainment.
● Brewski man: Her: “sweetheart, we sure have become boring and sedate as we’ve gotten older. I’d like to add an activity for us during the week, and one on our weekend. What sounds good to you? Bowling? The movies? Listening to some live music? Any ideas?” Him: “babe, I’m worn down after work, and I just wanna suck on some suds and watch the news.” Her: “OK, I understand. So I hope you won’t object to me adding some more to my life. I’m going to do all the above, at least for a while. I’d rather have my man (him) with me, but I really need to improve myself, and I hope this will help.” Then you do it. With friends or solo. You lead the way with self improvement and you increase the odds the spouse may get inspired. Or perhaps worried his love is having fun without him. Regardless, she is actively working at improving herself.
● Junior: “Well, obviously, I can’t count on my bizarro parents to guide me to a happy life, so what can I do to improve myself? I don’t want to play high school football, but you know, getting in to some solid weight lifting would make me look pretty good. I’m going to ask the coach if I can work out with the team after school. Also, having an adult to visit with would be good. I’m going to see if I can find me a counselor. I’ll start by asking our school counselor who she’d recommend, and go from there. I’m going to take charge of my young life as much as I can and stop waiting for my parents to make my life better.”
Making improvements in our lives is a fair amount of work. Making short term plans rather than huge, lofty ones increase the probability of success and some self satisfaction. Going to a counselor to help a situation? You should be prepared to try a few new things yourself if your intention was to really improve things, even to help to change others.