Over the years I have worked with many couples and family members who were struggling in their relationships. Unfortunately, they usually did not come for help until their issues were very ingrained and the hurts were deep. Some expressed frustration with the fact that promises had been repeatedly made but these weren’t followed by change. Others stated that nothing was ever resolved, and the problems were just ignored or buried.
Making long-term change does not happen easily or quickly. We don’t get into trouble quickly and therefore shouldn’t expect to get out of it quickly.
Here are some steps that will help those who are serious about improving their lives and situation:
- Get honest with yourself. Yes, as the old expression states, “it takes two to tango” and it is therefore important that you face your sins and take responsibility rather than just blame the other person. Thinking about things doesn’t help as ideas just go around and around and around in your head. The best thing to do is to sit down with a pen and paper. Begin scribbling on a blank sheet of paper to stimulate your neurological system. Then take a new sheet of paper and start writing. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just write. During the process you might be surprised about what appears on the paper. Things you might never have admitted without this process. And the good news is that when you are done there is a beginning and an end - not just ideas that are circulating.
- Decide what you need to change. Are you caught in addictions? Do you ignore the ones you love? Are your words and actions inappropriate? Do you find yourself doing the same negative things over and over again? Denial is when you don’t even know you are lying to yourself. Think about what others have said about you and whether their words are accurate. Chances are that if you have heard the same things over and over again, there is likely some truth being told.
- Make a list of everything you will lose if you don’t change. I remember a client years ago who did this and carried the list in her purse. Every time that she was tempted to drink or gamble, she pulled out the list and gave herself a reality check. Will you lose the relationship? Or respect? Your career? Or your confidence? Write them all down.
- Take action. Start with making a sincere commitment to yourself about what you need to and are willing to do. Make sure that you are serious and prepared to do what it takes to change. Start with setting out small but achievable steps that you can begin immediately. Remember, success breeds success so you need to start moving in the right direction in order to gain momentum.
- Start learning. The wonderful thing about this world is that there are many resources to help you. Some choose to take an online course. Others join a support group. Many read self-help books. Others begin therapy.
- Apologize sincerely to those who you have hurt but don’t do this unless you really mean it! In a couple of clear sentences admit the things that you have done and ask for forgiveness. Then wait. Just because you have come this far doesn’t mean the other person has. In fact, s/he may need a lot of time to get to the point of forgiveness. They may even need to watch you for awhile to see if your actions show that you are serious.
- Ask for correction. Just because you mean well doesn’t mean that you will automatically do well. Ask the other person if s/he would cue you when you are sliding into your old habits so that you can gain awareness and adjust.
Relationship can be hard work and require good communication mixed with a desire to help the other person grow. But there are definitely wonderful rewards for those who invest in the process.
You can improve your personal life and your relationship starting right now.
One step at a time!