Change is a crucial component of couples work. Couples counseling encourages partners to talk about what’s not working, so each person can change for the better. In reviewing their relationship, Chris said, “I’ve changed.” “I’ve changed” is past tense and suggests Chris has reached a final stage of changing. It has a slightly defensive tone and implies there is no additional change to be made.
I suggested to Chris that he instead use the present tense and say, “I am changing.” This suggests that change has occurred but change will continue. “I am changing” is more responsive to a partner’s desire for change, and indicates the process carries on.
If someone is getting feedback for the first time, saying “I’ve changed” is defensive. It’s not responding to a person’s request for change. The future tense “I will change” confidently expresses a partner’s intention to change.
Changing the tense of language from past tense to present or future tense may seem subtle, however, it makes a big difference to a partner.