Creating lasting changes to improve the health of your marriage requires hard work and dedication. Sadly, many people say they will change but do not make the commitment to follow through with what is needed to sustain the changes. Developing a real plan before jumping into making a change is important.
Determining What Changes You Want to Make
People usually don’t spend enough time reflecting on what changes they could make to improve their relationship. Taking time out to examine your behaviors can be very beneficial. Are there certain things that you want to do more of? Are there behaviors you want to stop doing? Are there things that you do that are threatening the success of your marriage?
Think about what causes a lot of your disagreements with your spouse. Also, think about what things you might do that you later regret when it comes to your marriage. Are there things that your spouse has been pointing out to you that you have been resistant to changing? Behaviors that you might want to change can range from annoying habits to not giving your spouse enough attention.
Determine Action Steps to Help You Change
Change won’t happen without a solid plan. A plan requires you to develop action steps of what you will do differently. For every major change you want to make you should be able to come up with at least two to three different action steps of what you will need to do in order to follow through with your goal. These action steps should outline what skills you want to work on, what steps you will take, or strategies you will use to respond differently.
In order to create long-lasting change, it is important to have some accountability. Writing down your goal and action steps is one way to increase the likelihood that you will follow through with the plan. Talking to others about your goal also increases the likelihood that you will follow through. Talk with your spouse about what changes you want to make. If it is appropriate, talk to others about your goal and the changes you want to make.
Examples of Goals and Action Steps
Arthur wanted to not change the behaviors he exhibited toward his wife when he was angry. He did not like the fact that he sometimes resorted to calling his wife names or saying things that hurt her. He developed a plan for change.
Arthur’s goal – Treat my wife respectfully at all times, especially when I’m angry.
Arthur’s action steps –
- Develop a plan with my wife that will allow me to walk away when I’m really angry so I can take a break to cool off.
- Read self-help books about anger management to learn new skills to help me stay calm.
- Practice talking to my wife about my feelings.
- Learn about my insurance coverage for therapy so that if I struggle to make this change I can be prepared to start counseling.
Arthur set some clear action steps for himself that included strategies to learn new skills. He was willing to try a self-help book but was willing to consider therapy if he struggled to make the change on his own.
Ilene wanted to work on her spending habits. She and her husband fought about money and she knew that she contributed to the problem. She often splurged on large purchases and sometimes tried to hide her spending from her husband. She knew that this was contributing to a lot of their marital problems.
Ilene’s goal – Work with my husband on resolving financial issues.
Ilene’s action steps-
- Consult with my husband before making any unexpected purchases over $20.
- Be truthful with my husband about all of my spending.
- Spend one hour per week with my husband reviewing our finances.
- Work with my husband on sticking to the budget by keeping receipts for all purchases.
It was important for Ilene to set clear action steps. She had promised her husband many times that she would improve her spending habits. But without a clear plan, she always tried to convince herself that she was doing better. However, she also find opportunities to continue spending and wasn’t making any real change.
If you are struggling to decide on what action steps could help you, consider counseling. A trained counselor can help you establish clear behavioral changes that can help you improve your marriage. If you are struggling to create change or to maintain the changes you want to make, also consider seeking therapy to assist you.