One of my couples began to squabble during a couples counseling session and the husband Matt said, “I’m not going to change.” Since couples counseling is based on the premise that change is possible, I needed to explain the difference between personality and behavior.
Personality refers to enduring characteristics that are unlikely to change. Examples of this include: sociability, sensitivity, anxiety, neatness, and punctuality. Someone can work on their punctuality, but if someone is chronically late, they’re unlikely to always be on time. A person can work on their messiness, but they’re unlikely to become meticulous. In general, a person’s personality isn’t going to change, e.g., an extrovert isn’t going to became an introvert.
What can change is behavior, and couples counseling focuses a lot on changing verbal behaviors. For example, any attacking or defensive comment can be transformed into a respectful or responsive statement. So when Matt says he can’t change, he can certainly change how he communicates with his wife.