Children naturally and unashamedly want what they want. And they usually want it when they want it! Most of us got the message along the way, wanting is not good. We should be satisfied with what we have. We shouldn't be selfish. Good girls and boys don't ask for things.
As adults, we have difficulty tapping back into that wanting. So many conflicting messages.
As adults, we know, a rubber toy isn't going to do it. Material things might give us a fleeting moment. We can milk experiences a bit more because they give us memories. But as adults, we want more intangible things.
We want to feel free of pain, physical and emotional. We want to feel close to our partner. We want to time travel backwards and change that last bad decision we made. We want to be free from those panic attacks.
Yes, we still want things. I wish i could drive to Mobile and get these things for these lovely souls I work with. They all deserve it, they've been so good.
Wanting it all,
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We celebrated together which doesn’t always happen. If you don’t know, my husband works away and sometimes we miss spending important days together.
We talked a bit about the choices we’ve made in our shared past and how it’s impacted us. We discussed some future plans too. We talked about how every decision has a cost and you have to decide if you’re willing to pay it.
One of the decisions for us has been the lifestyle we’ve chosen. There’s been a big cost to us like not spending certain times together, not sharing in certain things, but the benefit has been a great payoff too. We’ve been able to travel with our children. For the past 10 years, we’ve travelled somewhere new every year. It’s made us more diverse as people, a couple and a family. We feel it’s been worth the cost.
Many families spend the day to day with each other, never connecting, never really enjoying each other, taking each other for granted. I joke with my husband that we have 3 honeymoons a year.
No doubt things would be very different if we’d made different choices along the way. Would they have been better? Maybe they would have been worse. I believe it taught us an appreciation of our time together. Maybe we’d have found our way to that without being apart. There’s no way to know.
Now we anticipate seeing each other, and we’re sad to part, but we immediately start to plan and look forward to the next time we’re together.
It hasn’t always been that way. There’s many times we’ve felt isolated and taken for granted, so it’s a constant readjustment, renegotiation, and reassurance situation.
So my question for you: How connected are you and your partner right now? Are you in a cycle of non appreciation for each other? Do you look forward to spending time together? Can you talk to your partner about how you’re feeling? If not, can you move in that direction?
Practice Time: If you feel disconnected from your partner, think back to the last time you felt connected. What were the BEHAVIORS that YOU were doing at that time? Were you listening attentively to your partner? Were you smiling at them? Were you holding hands and going somewhere fun together? Recreate the scenario as closely as you can. You might not feel like it, but you don’t have to. Just DO it.
Even from a distance,
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Making Changes in Behavior
here are several criteria to successful behavior changes. First, there has to be a desire to change. Second, there has to be a substitute for the problem activity. Third, a system of accountability ensures lasting change. While it is fairly easy to find an accountability system, it’s even easier to find a substitute activity. The really difficult part of this equation is to develop the desire to change.
How can you develop the desire for change to occur? There are two types of motivation. One is a “towards” motivation. Examples of a toward goal is regaining health or reconnecting in lost relationships. The second type of motivation is “away from” motivation. Examples of away from goals are losing employment or losing my residence. The best type of goal builds in both towards and away from motivators.
Another method of building motivation is to increase the discomfort with the present situation. This is often what occurs when an Intervention occurs. Loved ones raise the awareness of the negative aspects of the situation and outline clearly what the boundaries are for the future. Often this involves a withdrawal of support or a suspension of relationship which creates a new level of discomfort and urgency for change to occur.
While I am speaking to work with addictions, these techniques can be very useful for any type of behavioral change. If you have struggled with a particular behavior, identify the towards and away from motivations. You can create a motivator to “turn up the volume” in one direction or another. You can do this with yourself, but embedding a system of accountability into it is helpful. For instance, a friend and I are training to run a 5k race. We agreed that every day we are supposed to train and we don’t, we will pay the other person $1. I don’t want to pay her $1, but I really don’t want to have to tell her I didn’t follow through.
You can see that even if we aren’t very good at our routine, we won’t likely go broke! You can be sure though, that we eagerly report to each other when we do our workout (and even when we don’t). There is a towards motivation: being prepared to run a 5k. There is an away from motivation: paying the $1. There is a system of accountability: we report our success to each other. The replacement activity in this case is the running which takes the place of other activities in our lives such as watching TV or sleeping in.
What ideas can you come up with for establishing your own behavior change?
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Focus on process, not outcome
Outcomes are goals that we strive for. As a culture, we are pretty addicted to meeting goals. We’re taught how to set goals that are SMART. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Limited).
Which is great if you actually could set a goal like that! Believe me, when I worked with an agency, there was like 1 person out a 100 who could actually set a goal that the auditors thought was SMART.
In your relationship, what’s your goal? Is it to fight less? Not fight at all? Is it to be “in love” again? A lot of times, I have people say, “I want us to get back to where we used to be.” Those are all pretty big goals.
What happens when a goal seems out of reach? When we look at it and it seems impossible. Fighting less might seem like a great goal, but what are the steps it takes to get there? Do you know the steps? If you knew and could do the steps, wouldn’t you have already done them?
When we start doing these little steps, we get frustrated because we feel we should be at the goal already. We feel shame and blame we’re not meeting what we see as our desired outcome. We also fail sometimes. I can’t tell you how many couples are making good progress and they slip and have a huge row and they feel like they’ve lost all the progress they’ve made.
All that can make us give up and stop going for it. It seems like an exercise in futility, it’s too difficult, or we just aren’t capable of doing it.
Well, I’d like to reassure you. When the end game seems impossible, it’s time to focus on the process, not the outcome.
Using a football analogy here: If your desired outcome is to win the Super Bowl, but your team has not learned to run a play yet, you better focus on running the play! Not only do you need to learn to run the play but you need to become great at it! You are going to run that play over and over until it’s second nature. You’re going to know that play inside and out. At first, the play is going to be awkward. At first, the whole team isn’t going to be good at it. There’s going to be a lot of failures in making the play. But eventually, your team runs a great play! They win a game, then another and before you know it you’re a Super Bowl contender. That outcome that seemed so impossible is now within reach. But only after you’ve mastered the process.
There have been times in my relationship when I’ve felt happiness wasn’t possible. I didn’t think it’d ever happen again. That seemed like an outcome that was too much to hope for.
Turning that around took a focus on the process. The processes of a happy relationship, (I call the pillars) are compassion, communication and commitment. Making the little decisions every day that align with these qualities is what got me closer to the end goal. I had to be kind when I didn’t want to be. I had to decide to stay just one more day when it would have felt great to walk out. Talking about things that made me vulnerable created intimacy little by little. I focused on the process because I didn’t know how to get to the outcome I wanted. I was so far away from it, I needed a telescope.
By paying attention to the process, I moved closer and closer, with consistency and persistence, until I could see happiness on the horizon. I tried to stay focused on my own behaviors, not my partners. By continuing on, we’ve found our way to a place of happiness I don’t think we ever imagined. We’ve now passed our 20th anniversary and we enjoy each other more now than we ever did. Do we still disagree? Yes. Do we still annoy each other? Yes. We fail all the time. But we focus on the process.
Practice time: What is your desired outcome? What processes do you need to get there? It’s the little things you practice every day that lead you to winning. What is one process you can commit to today? Consistency and persistence are mandatory!
Let me know what you decided. Comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Cheers to the process!
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Some qualities of relationships which often are present when affairs occur are high conflict, low emotional warmth, neglect of pleasure, and discomfort with emotional closeness by one partner.
How can you use this information to strengthen your relationship? Building and reinforcing the qualities indicated above can be a great starting point. Using the embedded worksheet, you can identify areas where attention is needed.
The lowest numbers indicated by either partner will direct your focus. For instance, if engagement is low for one partner, it may be helpful to learn some healthier means of addressing conflict. If excitement is low for the other spouse, perhaps they need to take some risks.
Next: How do you know what to do about it? Agree on some concrete actions to work on. In our above example of engagement, determine what each partner pictures as “engagement”. Maybe one sees that as taking long walks holding hands and discussing issues. Maybe the other partner sees that as giving each other a kiss good bye every time they part. Everyone gets to have their own definition which means they are all valid!!
Here’s the kicker……trade rating scales with each other. After all, the goal is each partner’s ratings will move higher and higher. What can each improve on that will lead to higher relationship satisfaction for their partner? Even small changes can lead to relationship improvements. (You do get credit for effort when you’re working on your relationship.)
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1. It’s ALL about you!
Relationships are our biggest teachers. Often they are our first voluntary “belonging” type relationships. This makes them unequaled in highlighting our weaknesses. When our belonging gets shaken, a primal evolutionary fear emerges. It pushes us to action which our history tells us will solve the problem, soothe the fear. Often, this action brings us exactly the opposite of what we want.
We only have control over one person…..that’s ourselves. Focusing your energy and attention on what your partner needs to change is very inefficient. You’ve got to stay focused on the things you need to change. A relationship is a system and when you alter one part of a system, the whole thing changes. This is great news because that means you can create positive change in yourself and it will impact your relationship.
2. You will have to change.
That’s the sad truth. You can’t count on your partner changing. Nothing’s going to change unless you do. What do you want to change? Change behaviors that are not contributing to the health of your relationship. We all have them.
Changing means you’re going to have to behave in different ways than you currently do. Unfortunately, most of our behaviors are automatic. Just like changing any habit, you’ll have to put in effort to remember to change. The good news is, after you’ve established a new habit, it gets a lot easier.
3. You have to do it.
You’ll have to spend time learning and practicing new behaviors. That implies a time commitment as well as consistency and persistence. Penciling in some reading time on Tuesday afternoons won’t cut it. Daily practice, every day, even when you feel that it’s not working is the definition of consistency and persistence. Harsh reality is, change doesn’t happen without some effort. If you’re not willing to do that, you might not want to improve your relationship as much as you think you do.
Have you proclaimed, “I’m working so hard to make this work.” Or, “I’ll try anything to make this relationship better.” Then I don’t care if you think it’s silly or hard. You’ll do anything, right? If that’s true, then do it.
Practice Time: Are you willing to be the change agent in your relationship? Can you devote time and attention to identifying and changing your own behaviors? Are you willing to be consistent and persistent with that attention for at least 90 days before giving it up?
If so, you may well master your Relationship Game!
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Q&A-How Can I Find Happiness?
A-You have to decide to.
In every situation there is something you appreciate or be grateful for. For instance, if it's raining, you can be mesmerized by the drops hitting the puddles or be grateful that the plants will have what they need to grow.
Stress hijacks our attention and focuses us on survival. But most situations really aren't that important and we have to recognize that we don't have to allow our thoughts to run away from us, we can control them with some practice.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tells us events and feelings are separate entities. Our thoughts about events are what lead to our feelings about it.
For example, it’s raining. I think, “This sucks! There go my plans for today!” Then I end up feeling disappointed and bad.
I can choose to think different thoughts that lead to different feelings. For example, I can think, “This sucks, and I’m disappointed, but maybe I can find something interesting to do inside today. Yeah, I got that new puzzle! I’m going to work on that today!” I’ve got a whole new feeling coming out of the same situation just by altering my thoughts.
This can take some practice, but I’ve written lots of other articles addressing how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors impact each other. If you feel that you’re just depressed and can’t succeed in changing your thoughts, find a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Best of luck,
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There’s a saying that if you don’t care where you’re going any road will take you there.
You want to be deliberate about the road you’re travelling. In order to make lasting change, you have to set a goal. Setting a goal will help you Win Your Relationship Game, but there’s some planning to do first.
Winning Your Relationship Game has a lot to do with habits and behavior change. Many of the lessons are based in research that’s proven to support positive relationships and behavior change. You aren’t going to rely on will power. Anyone who’s had to try to diet knows that will power is very unreliable. You’re going to set goals that allow you to capitalize on motivation.
Your initial goal, I like to call a personal motivation statement. This is where you’d ultimately like to end up. Take just a minute and focus on what change you’d like to see in your relationship. What is it you’re hoping to improve?
Now, go back and look at it again. Does it focus on changing something about your partner? You can’t change anyone’s behavior except your own, so if you thought about something your partner needs to change, think again!!
This is the beginning of your personal motivation statement.
Right now it can be fairly broad. As you go on, it will change, you’ll gain insight and tweak it to fit. Remember, this is the foundation for moving forward so it’s worth some thought.
Having a Personal Motivation Statement is good, but to really ramp up your motivation, you have to know why that Personal Motivation Statement is important. You might be able to tell that I like to play games whenever I can. It makes life more fun.
To clarify a Personal Motivation Statement I like to use a game called “The Five Whys”. The five whys are actually business concepts used to do what’s called root cause analysis. It’s also a really useful tool to help you dig deeper into your thoughts and feelings.
Refer back to your personal motivation statement. You’re going to ask yourself WHY it’s important to you. You’ll get your answer and then you’ll ask again WHY that is important to you. Then you’ll have another answer and you’ll ask WHY that is important? You’ll continue to do this for five cycles. Don’t rush through this. If you are persistent, it will lead to a very clear idea of the value of your personal motivation statement
To give an example:
My Personal Motivation Statement might be: I want to feel closer to my partner.
1. Why is it important to feel closer to my partner? Because closeness feels good.
2. Why is it important to have the good feeling of being close? Because I feel more secure when I’m feeling close.
3. Why is it important to feel more secure? Because feeling more secure reduces my anxiety about belonging in my relationship.
4. Why is it important to have reduced anxiety about belonging? Because then I can be relaxed and really be myself.
5. Why is it important to feel more relaxed and be myself? Because then I feel have a stable foundation for all the other areas of my life.
Just walking through this exercise reveals something deeper about of what is important to me. I know exactly why it’s important for me to be closer to my partner. It’s going to put me on the road of changing the right behaviors creating more closeness with my partner.
That’s the basics of setting a Personal Motivation Statement about your relationship. Having a Personal Motivation Statement to focus on is a habit you can start today. It can be revised as needed, but every day, you want that statement front and center in your awareness. I want you to find such value in focusing on that statement so that by this by the time this program is over, you’ll continue to use it to motivate you to your goals.
Practice time: Take all the time you need to work through this. It should take you a while and it might be frustrating. Don’t rush it.
If you have an answer that just doesn’t seem right, sit with it. Trust yourself. We all have a deep inner knowing, so when it’s your truth, you’ll know.
If you get stuck, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would love to hear from you!
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