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Are You in a Difficult Relationship?, Blog, Life Balance

April 26, 2022

Consider This Before You Promise To Change For Your Partner

Here’s the scenario. Something happened. You messed up again. Your partner gave you an ultimatum or you hit rock bottom on some level.

Maybe the scale screamed a number bigger than you have seen or even want to admit. Maybe your boss gave you a subtle warning that your job could be on the chopping block. Maybe you woke up with that hangover after you promised again you wouldn’t have more than one glass.

And you tell yourself. Okay. That’s it. I’m going to change. And you make that promise that a little voice says you may not keep, but you push that thought away because this time will be different.

And so you set about determined to hold fast and the next thing you know, you’re in the refrigerator and you watch yourself slowly bring that big bite of pasta to your mouth. You’re in the meeting and you stay silent instead of speaking up, once again. You said that thing that you promised your partner you would never say again.

And you feel so defeated.

Before you resolve to make another promise, when your ability to follow through may wane by the crack of dawn on the sun’s next rotation, I’m going to give you some questions to ask yourself.

Get a pen and paper or text yourself on your phone.

Does anyone else send texts to yourself? It’s the quickest note-taking strategy. I often send myself long voice texts when I’m out running. And the cool thing is, it shows up as new even though I sent it to myself, so I won’t forget to check it later. Anyway, I got off-topic.

Take these questions down and ask yourself before you ever promise to change.

What purpose does this behavior I am trying to change serve in my life?

Quickly promising to change before you have even evaluated how this serves you in your life can lead to resistance and ultimately failure.

Quickly promising to change before you have even evaluated how this serves you in your life can lead to resistance and ultimately failed to change.

Even negative, detrimental behaviors benefit us in some way or we wouldn’t do it.

I have a habit of being late. I really dislike this about myself most days- but not often enough to significantly change this behavior.

I’m not horribly late, just annoyingly late. You know that saying if you’re on time, you’re late? I don’t understand that. If I am on time, it’s perfection in my mind. Maybe now that I’ve spoken it out loud I will be embarrassed enough to work on it.

Many people say that being late demonstrates a lack of respect. I completely disagree. I think it definitely can for certain people who feel the world revolves around them and who are truly inconsiderate of other people. Not me, I have searched my heart regarding that and I know that I am considerate of others and I’m horrified if I ever inconvenience someone else with my tardiness. I tend to not run late when it will affect someone else’s ability to do something- which also tells you that I can control it.

In seeking to change this character flaw, as some would call it, I have asked myself the question- how does running late serve me? What benefit am I removing from myself if I work on being prompt? I could promise I will never be late again, but I’m ignoring the roaring engine driving this behavior that is doing myself a disservice.

So, how does this serve me? Well, in addition to being easily distracted and challenged with time management, I have a fundamental desire to squeeze every ounce out of the time I have. If I arrive early, I feel that I have failed to consume every drop and now I am wasting time waiting for the thing to start.

That small benefit I receive from running late can sabotage my efforts to get places on time. If I’m going to be able to change this behavior, I’ve got to acknowledge the benefit, honor it and contend with it. One of the ways I have done this is that I bring my iPad everywhere I go. If I arrive early, I can always work on my writing while I wait. When I understand where it comes from, it not only makes it easier to change, but I know the angle I need to change it.

This applies to changes you promise yourself you will make and changes you promise your partner that you’ll make. Desperation can drive us to make promises that make us feel better in the moment, but ultimately teach us that we can’t be trusted.

Desperation can drive us to make promises that make us feel better in the moment, but they set us up for teaching ourselves that we are not to be trusted.

See, the relationship you have with yourself is a real, live, breathing relationship. Just like you have to work to rebuild trust when it is broken with a partner, the same is true with your relationship with yourself.

When you don’t follow through on your promises to yourself, you may feel that there is no victim- you’re not really letting anyone down. You’re wrong. You’re letting the most important person down. Your breech colors the lens through which you see yourself. That lens is an echo chamber that then confirms and reinforces your unwanted behavior. Not simple, but true.

We should work to make necessary changes in our lives, but we must first start with honoring and understanding why our behavior is what it is, to begin with.

Before you commit to a change with yourself or a partner, respond in the following manner:

“I hear that you are requesting this change from me. Your needs matter and I want to meet them, but I also don’t want to make any promises that won’t work for either of us in the long run. I’m going to think about this and get back with you about how I can make those changes. Can you tell me why you want me to change that?”

It’s crucial that you understand why your partner wants you to change. It could be that the end goal of his request can be met in another way that doesn’t require change.

Ask these questions:

1. Is this something really necessary to change?
2. How can I replace the benefit if I change the behavior?
3. Is it the behavior or the result that is bothering me?
4. How is it damaging me or my relationships?
5. Do I really want to change it or does someone else want me to change?
6. Will I resent anyone if I make this change?
7. How can I start this change in the smallest increment?

All of your desire to change matters little if your reason to not change overpowers it at any given moment.

You ultimately have control over yourself. You can certainly change if your motives are well thought out and you create another benefit.

You’ve got this!

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