After reading my book, The Marriage Story, people have asked me whether it takes a crisis for a person to change, as the character in my story changed. I believe that we are most motivated to change when we have no choice. But we can also change by coming to a realization that what we are doing isn't working for us. It may not be working for our spouse either, but we only change when our behavior no longer feels right to us.
People don't stop drinking, or abusing, because it bothers the abused, or the neglected. The husband in The Marriage Story didn't stop feeling sorry for himself because it worried his wife. He had an epiphany, an insight, into the meaning of his life. For him it was his friend's crisis that awakened him. For someone else it might be their own crisis, such as a partner walking out on them because they drink too much. Or it might take a doctor telling them that they are going to die if they don't change.
My mother smoked cigarettes from the time she was sixteen until she was sixty-seven. All of the kids in the family tried to persuade her to quit, but when a doctor told her she was soon going to die if she didn't stop smoking, she stopped that very day and lived to be eighty-four.
Often we have to discover something about our own behavior that is as dangerous, or as repulsive to us as it is to the people that care about us, before we are willing to change. Hopefully we can change the little things that stand in our way of a loving relationship without needing a crisis to motivate us. When we truly care about our partner's needs we are more apt to want to change the behaviors that are hurting us---and the relationship.