Wanting change and initiating change are two related but separate experiences. Wanting is an internal experience, initiating is external. So often in relationships we want it to feel and be different, not realizing that while altering intentions and attitudes can help, you still need to do something differently. Behavior has a sticky habit of remaining the same, despite good intentions.
Initiating change takes planning and an examination of priorities. Yet it can be hard to adjust priorities because once you do, it affects everything else in your life. For example, if you decide to “make time” to address sensitive issues with your spouse, that means less time spent on something else. Having a successful discussion, or more likely a series of discussions will require time to process feelings, clarify thoughts, and then revisit the issues. When and how will you do this, and what communication skills will you need to be successful? A lot goes into the planning, initiating and follow-up.
The same considerations go into parenting. If you want to behave differently with your children, it will require time to prepare and organize your communication and follow-up behaviors. You’ll have to be consistent, repetitious, and focused for a number of weeks/months to reach your goals. And what kind of support/collaboration will you need/want from the other parent? How much time and effort will that take? What roles will each of you play and what kind of support is required?
My goal here is to encourage you to be realistic . . . and optimistic. Although you aren’t the whole of the relationship equation, you can control half of the interaction—your own communication behavior. How you want to use that fifty percent is worth thinking about and planning for.
The vision and mission statements of corporations and other kinds of organizations help them focus on their priorities and goals. There’s no reason why you can’t have a personal mission statement too; a vision of what you want in the relationship is a necessity for any change to occur.
So, take the time to be clear about your intentions, look at any attitudes that might impede your progress, decide what’s really important to you and why, figure out what skills you’ll need to be successful, and organize your time and attention. Finally, find the support and guidance you need from someone who listens well and can offer genuine encouragement along the way.