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MARRIAGE DONE RIGHT

Marriage advice: Goal setting can help solve relationship problems

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 9:03 am

Setting goals, such as putting aside money for savings or losing weight, helps us turn our dreams into reality.

Unfortunately, when we want to improve our love lives, Michelle Weiner-Davis explains that we often completely skip the goal setting stage “and dive headfirst into relationship oblivion.” We forget that effective action requires an identified goal, especially in marital relationships.

Weiner-Davis explains that relationship goal setting begins by writing down “two or three things you hope to change or improve in your marriage.” The process of writing forces you to be more specific. Moreover, “when you see your thoughts in black and white, it makes them more real” and gives you something to measure progress.

If your goals are to be effective, it’s best to use what Weiner-Davis calls “solution-oriented goal-setting.”

“Think about what you want in your marriage, not what’s missing,” she advises. Don’t focus on your complaint; instead focus on what can be done to make things better. Your complaint might be: “I feel my husband avoids me.” Your goal could be: “Having him in the same room with me after dinner so we can talk.” You may complain: “My wife is too negative.” Your goal could be: “She acknowledges that there are positive times between us.”

Solution-oriented goals look toward future behavior; they acknowledge the past without dwelling on it. It asks: “When my spouse stops doing ________ what will s/he be doing instead?”

Weiner-Davis also suggests: “Think action.” If you feel alone, like you and your spouse are strangers with no sense of connection, setting your goal as “feeling like a couple again” is too vague. Solution-oriented goals “describe specific actions you will each take to improve things.”

If you’re feeling like strangers, some specific goals could be:

● Have a weekly couple-date

● Leave each other thoughtful notes at least once a week.

● Make love at least once or twice a week

● Spend an hour every Saturday over breakfast talking about your dreams for the future or what you’d like to start doing together that you’d both enjoy

Finally, Weiner-Davis suggests that you “think small” when you’re setting goals. It might be as small as: Call before you leave work so I know when to expect you home. This may be difficult if your marriage is going through hard times, “you want the pain to end as quickly as possible … like yesterday!” Your feelings may be justified, but impatience tends to work against you.

Weiner-Davis explains that “change in relationships is usually a gradual process.” Many of the problems that eventually undermine a marriage take years to develop. Trying to resolve them in a week is unrealistic. Therefore, it's important to recognize the small intermediate steps that will eventually take you to the long-term goal.

You want your husband to spend time with you in the evening. He begins spending 5 minutes after dinner. It’s not the hour you want, but it is progress. You may want more intimacy. Your husband begins holding your hand when you’re out together or he begins sitting next to you with his arm around you while you watch TV. You want more, but it is a positive change. Acknowledge and celebrate even the small steps.

It’s been said that “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Solution-oriented goal-setting provides a realistic target instead of unsolvable complaints. It states what you want in a positive, action-oriented way that is broken down into small steps, “actions that can be accomplished within a week or two.” Solution-oriented goal-setting will help you move your marriage in a healthy direction.

2014, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.