There comes a point in all of our lives when we’re ready to make a change.
Maybe we want to lose weight. Maybe we think we’re drinking too much. Maybe we’re spending way too much on eating out. Maybe we’re hiding a serious addiction and gambling thousands of dollars away, watching as our children’s college fund goes down the drain. Or maybe we’re missing dinner with our family every night because we’re staying at work later and later.
Whatever it might be, we’ll eventually recognize that we’re living out of alignment, and that we’re either ready for a change…or in desperate need of it.
But change is hard, right? And shifting a routine can feel nearly impossible at times – even when we’re fully committed to it.
So what do we do? How do we help ourselves? And how do we ask our partner to support us along the way?
Here are SIX tips to get you started:
1. Start the conversation.
Truth is, if we’re wanting to make a change (large or small), our partner has probably already noticed that it’s an “issue” for us too. Whether they’ve voiced it or kept it quiet, it’s likely that it’s been on their radar at some point.
So, a great place to start is by having a conversation that sheds light on “the issue”. Let your partner know that it’s something you want to change. No need to go into details just yet…just get the ball rolling.
“You may have noticed this already, but I’m not feeling great about __________. I want to make a change by doing ___________ instead, and I want your help.”
2. Schedule a time to talk more in depth.
We all want and need kind and compassionate support. We all know that creating change can be hard, but having support and a partner who lovingly challenges us and calls attention to it can really help.
Schedule a time to talk. When we’re prepared to speak and listen, the process has a better chance. Set an appointment. Make sure the time works for both of you. Then think about how you’ll present the change you want to make to your partner.
For example, “I’ve been thinking a lot about my growth recently, and I notice these things are getting in the way (list small or large issues that you want to change.) I want to tell you more about it. When is a good time for us to sit down and talk about it? Can we take an hour over the weekend at some point?”
3. Listen to understand, not to respond.
Oh it’s so easy for our partners to want to fix everything right then and there. “Tell me the problem and I’ll fix it!” “This is what you should do…it’s easy!” (Sound familiar?!) Even though they generally mean well, what’s often most effective is actually just listening to understand.
We all have a tendency to already be thinking about what it is we’ll say in response to a person before they’re even done speaking. Our minds are going a mile a minute, and unfortunately, we often miss a whole lot of what the person is sharing with us when we do that.
So…we all need to slow d o w n. Let your partner know that what you need is for them to just listen for right now, and that you’ll want help putting a plan together later.
Plus, we’re more willing to listen to advice from the people we believe understand us.
4. Come up with a plan together.
Now it’s time! Both of you should take some time to think about how you can make those changes? Are there simple shifts that can be made that come to mind? What are the things each of you thinks might get in the way? What can both of you do to make the change easier?
Come together and share your plan with your partner. Invite their help, thoughts, and suggestions.
“What do you think about this?” “Would you do anything differently?” “Am I missing anything?” “Where do you think I”ll struggle most?”
Write out a new plan together. Put pen to paper. Be as specific as you possibly can, and prepare that first week together. Doing this can hold us accountable. Take it week by week. Doing more than that can sometimes overwhelm us in the beginning.
5. Ask for support.
Think about how you want support from your partner, and be clear about those expectations. Remember, they’re not mind readers no matter how much you wish for that.
Be direct. Need a reminder text every day — ask them for it. Want your partner to ‘call you out’ when you slip up — invite them to do it gently by using compassionate and kind language. Need a check in at the end of the day to share how closely you were able to follow the plan — communicate that it’s what’s going to help you achieve your goals.
Be clear and direct. It will help your partner know exactly how to support you in the way that you need them to. Your needs are allowed to change, and something that you think you might want may not work at all. Nothing is set in stone. Flexibility is key!
6. Check in + give feedback.
Once that plan is in place and you’re working hard at it, check in with each other to see how the support and change is going. This is a beautiful space for transparency. This is where we have the opportunity to say “this is what I need more of” or, “this isn’t working for me…let’s try this instead.”
Some of this is trial and error. The two of you are learning how to best support each other, and you’re allowed to get things wrong. As long as you’re willing to give and receive feedback from one another — you should be in good shape.
Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help either. Sometimes the change we need to make takes more than our desire and the support from our partner. If you’re struggling with it, growing your support community should be seen as a positive. Challenge the part of you that feels embarrassed or ashamed. There are plenty of people who want to help and are ready or your call.
*An added tip!
Research from Dr. John Gottman shows that we need about 5:1 positive to negative exchanges with each other to have a healthy relationship. It’s normal (and healthy!) to have some negative interactions in the relationship, but positivity is what truly nourishes your love. Be mindful of this when delivering feedback, and share this with your partner so they can be aware too!
For example, “I know you’re working so hard at this, and I notice all of your effort, but I think you missed an opportunity to be better, sweetie. I’m so proud of you, though. I know how hard this is.”
You see how positive this exchange is even though they’re still calling their partner to be better?
Change is a critical time to be flooded with positivity. It helps us feel motivated and can push us forward. Be gentle with your own inner dialogue also. It’s not just about what others are saying to you, it has a lot to do with what you’re saying to you too.