In marriage counseling, after about six or seven sessions, couples start feeling better and then ask the question, “how long are these changes going to last?” They say things like, “my spouse is on her best behavior, I don’t see how she’s going to last much longer” or ” it’s easy for me to remain calm now, but if she starts pushing my buttons again I’m afraid I’ll go back to my old ways.” These are good questions because, after all, changing our behavior is one of the hardest things we can do. When a marriage is on the rocks, people build
walls to protect themselves from being hurt. As the marriage improves those walls begin to crumble. With that comes the question
“can I trust him/her?” and “ is this going to last?” It is good to recognize these questions and tensions as signs that, for the first time in a long time, people are opening themselves up to the possibility that life can really be different. It’s natural to worry about old habits sneaking up on you, and believe it or not, there are some simple defining benefits to being concerned about it. As long as you’re concerned, you will be less likely to unconsciously return to your old negative habits. Consciousness will help you be more aware of your actions and reactions. You will be in control of your responses rather than your responses controlling you. So remain conscious until the new way of relating becomes an old habit. In order not to revert back to old habits, here’s a list of tips that help the change continue for years to come.
- Ask yourself: “What’s happening that I want to continue to happen?”
Always happy to hear clients are feeling better, but it’s important to determine specifically what contributes to the new state of mind. Then keep doing that!
- Have you noticed that the changes in your relationship have or are affecting other aspects of your life?
Feeling better about your spouse in your marriage has undoubtedly changed your perspective and the way you interact with others. This question asked that you pay attention to the ripple effect of your relationship changes. Have you been more relaxed at work or with your children or spouse? What changes have others noticed? Have your friends or colleagues mentioned that you seem happier? Have the children been bickering less? Have you felt more inclined to engage in your hobby or vocation? What other signs of movement in your life have you observed?
- Control negative thought patterns.
Negative thoughts have a way of creeping into our mind. Some would say that it is a sign of our sin nature. In order to keep forward-moving improvements in your relationship, one has to be sure that they are not processing and dwelling on negative thoughts. When you find yourself thinking negatively about your spouse, family, coworkers or children, tell your mind to stop it and replace your thoughts with positive, emotionally driven thoughts about the same person/persons you were thinking negatively about.
Some of these things sound incredibly easy, but I promise they will be some of the hardest things you’ve ever done.