If you need an example, let me tell you specifically how we resolved our differences in how we spend our time on weekends. Instead of saying that I wanted him to be more adventurous or more involved in our relationship, I told him that I would like him to go with me into the city once a month and try a new restaurant or go see a show. I also told him that I would appreciate it if he would take a hike with me or go to a movie on Friday or Saturday evening. Framing my requests in action-oriented terms helped enormously.
And lastly, perhaps you failed to break your goals down into small doable steps and consequently frustrated yourself or your partner by expecting too much too soon. For example, if, after having being separated for three months and not seeing very much of each other, your reluctant partner returns home and you think, "Since she's decided to come home, I need to hear her say, 'I love you,' right away" you're bound to be disappointed. Look for smaller, more realistic signs of progress.
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For example, if your spouse has returned home after a four month separation, a smaller sign of progress might be your spouse's interest in initiating conversation or asking about your day. Another small sign might be sleeping in the same bedroom instead of sleeping in separate bedrooms. You spouse might not be interested in being sexual, but the fact that he or she is willing to be in the same room with you at night might be a huge sign of progress.
There are other factors to consider before you approach your partner with your requests for change.
Timing is VERY important. Although choosing a good time of day or week won't necessarily guarantee success, choosing a bad time will guarantee failure. If I want to guarantee that Jim will respond negatively, I know exactly when to ask him:
* Prior to his leaving for work in the morning
* When he is in the middle of doing something else
* When he is at work
* Right before he goes to bed
As you read the above list, you're probably thinking that Jim has a very long list of times that he is unapproachable. I'd have to agree. But there are lots of other times when he is more receptive:
* On the weekends
* Over dinner when we go out together
* On his cell phone on the way back from work
If you sit down and really think about it, you know exactly when your spouse is approachable and when s/he isn't. In fact, that's what I'm going to ask you to do right now. Even if you can't think of times you feel confident that your spouse is going to be responsive, I know you can think of times when she or her won't be. Take the time to answer the following questions:
1. When is my spouse least likely to pay attention, be conciliatory, or be patient with my requests?
2. When is my spouse most likely to pay attention, be conciliatory, or be patient with my requests? (Think back to a time when you got a positive reaction from your partner when you asked for something, Identify what was going on then.)
3. Now, commit to writing when, in the next few days, you will tell your partner what you want to improve about your marriage.
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