I’ve used this expression many times over my years as a psychotherapist.  When I perceive that someone’s behavior is not going to change, I use the saying, “This couch is never going to fly.”

You can want it to fly,

You can wish it would fly.

You can be mad at it because it’s not flying.

But in all reality, no matter whether you want it or wish it – that couch is never going to fly!             Agonizing over it, is just going to be a waste of energy, because the couch is never going to fly.

I use this saying to relate to a husband’s behavior, a mother’s enabling, a narcississtic parent, a selfish sibling.  Just today I talked with a young woman who’s sister has different values from her’s.  She described her sister as a ‘taker’, someone who takes from their parents without thought for anyone else.  The sister’s values are  totally different from  her own value system and the sister’s “taking”  makes her very angry.

I told her that her sister was never going to change, that her values were never going to change and her ‘taking’ was never going to change.  I then added my words about the couch.  She can be mad at the couch, she can plead with the couch, she can beg….but the couch is never going to fly.

Another daughter ‘bails’ on invitations at the last minute, inconveniencing everyone in the family and frustrating them to no end.  When talking to someone related to her, I reiterated that ‘the couch is never going to fly’, so save your energy and move on with the events.

And, after many years of this behavior, I also asked, “Why are you surprised?”

I hear frequent complains about husband’s and their behavior.  When the behavior has been consistent over many years, I gently suggest that this behavioral probably will not change, at least not without some strong intervention.  Often the intervention is the wife’s asking for a separation or a divorce.  That gets his attention and suddenly his behavior changes.  When this happens, the husband believes that his change in behavior will fix everything.  What he doesn’t realize is that his wife is usually half way out the door when she finally gets up the nerve to tell him that she wants a separation or a divorce.  She has already left the marriage, mentally and emotionally.  At this point, she feels she has nothing to lose. He tries to make changes in his behavior.  He may become more attentive, he may become more romantic, he may bring home flowers, he may beg, plead and cry.  But all of these actions, much to his dismay and his surprise, only make her angrier.  Her anger is based on three things:  if he could make these changes now, why didn’t he make them before all the damage had been done; why should she trust these changes, because he could just be doing these things now to win her back and then revert to old behavior; and it was easier to be mad at him and look forward to a future without him, when he was being his old self.

When relationships are at this junction, there is no predicting the outcome.  Sometimes the structure of the marriage wins out and the strong family ties, the mortgage, the car loans, the kids, the neighbors and the family members hold the marriage together.  Sometimes the wife is willing to begin trusting the new behavior and allow a new relationship to blossom.  Other times, too much damage has been done and the relationship cannot be restored.  In cases like this, a separation ensues and the couple begins to learn how to live separately and build their own lives apart from each other.