What if my spouse is not happy about my change?


(This question was posed to me after finding out his attempts to go to bed earlier was being met with resistance from his wife.)

If your spouse is not happy about your change attempt you get a first-hand look at why most corporate change attempts fail – no buy-in. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. If change is happening around you whether you like it or not there is going to be resistance. Try these five tactics.

  1. Curiosity and empathy

If you were your partner, why would you prefer things to stay just the way you are? Why might this change be threatening or at least annoying? Ask.

Don’t ask if you don’t really want to know the answer. That’s just a leading tactic and people sniff that out. Real questions trigger the frontal cortex – the smart part of our brain that looks for connection. Faux questions and a lack of curiosity trigger the amygdala – the dividing part of the brain. ‘Us vs. them’ becomes ‘me vs. you’.

You also might get curious about what change they might want to make in their own lives so you can support each other.

  1. Let yourself be vulnerable

Vulnerability is the cornerstone of trust, something essential for a team, and a marriage is a team of two. This means not having such heavily fortified positions facing the enemy also known as the love of your life. Vulnerability might look like:

“I am not happy about this part of me and here’s why I want to change it”

“This is important to me. I realize I can’t do this alone – I can’t stick with this change without you.”

  1. Get clear about why you want to change and how it could help the relationship

Your partner’s resistance might force you to get clearer about why you want to change, not just for you but for both of you – and your kids too. Change works best powered by purpose – making a change for something larger than just you alone. You’ll want to be able to answer the other person’s unspoken, “what’s in it for me?”

  1. Disconnect to reconnect

There is a time in the evening we can safely call, “no good will come from an argument now” time. You’re both worn-out. When we’re tired the amgydala in the brain is ready to call anything a threat. If it’s heading downhill fast, pause. Stop. Then…

  1. Schedule your time to talk

When is the best possible time in the day for you both to connect? Every couple has a block of time that’s the sweet spot. Midnight after a long hard day at work is usually not it. Tomorrow in your sweet spot time is a better time to have this conversation. It’s worth it to wait.

(In case you’re keeping score, he told me later that he tried #2 and #3 and it worked.)

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