Making Changes to Last a Lifetime

improving marriages

I was in a conversation this morning about how couples can make permanent changes. I often hear in my office (heck, I hear it in my own head too) concerns about if changes can be "for real." I hear things like, "Well, he's doing it now, but I know he won't keep up with it." Or, "She's just doing it because...but she never sticks with anything."

We all get those moments of inspiration to take action. Couples may want to work on going out on more dates, having more sex, helping out more with housework. You name it, it's been declared! Then, all too often, those bursts of action fizzle and fade, leaving us disappointed and frustrated. We go on auto pilot once again, letting our own "natural" tendencies to be one way or the other take over.

They, whoever "they" are, say that it takes about a month to make a habit change and six months to make a true lifestyle change. I don't know if this is correct, but it sounds good. And, maybe a little more manageable.

What if we just broke our promises and intentions into smaller blocks of time? Like, instead of saying, I will do this and I will do it forever (even if we don't actually say this, we tend to think like this when we're making bold declarations), we say instead: I promise do this for the next month. I will plan a date every week for the rest of this month! We will meet every Sunday night for a family meeting these next 3 weeks! I will take over the laundry and cleaning the bathroom for the next month! You get the picture.

Then, we just have to repeat. And then repeat for the next 6 months until, maybe just maybe, it will start to become effortless, normal, part of our "natural" tendency.

I think permanent change also takes one more thing: accountability/support. When you're declaring these changes to each other (or to yourself), tell others about it! Make it a competition among your friends or ask someone to remind you about your intention when they talk to you. Whenever I've made big changes in my life, I've been supported by others' gentle reminders about the promises I've made.

So, when you get cynical about your (or your partner's) ability to change, break your goals into smaller chunks and then talk, talk, talk about those goals with others.

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