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How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages

If you don't reach your goals, it doesn't mean your relationship is a failure!

So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

According to data collected in 2018 by the fitness app Strava, January 17 is when many start to give up on their resolutions. By early to mid-February, many have thrown in the towel. What does this mean for you and for your relationship? 

If you set goals as a couple, maybe to rein in finances or invest in your marriage, failure can seem detrimental, especially if one spouse is ready to give up. At the same time, the other wants to push forward. When both partners aren’t on the same page regarding goals for their relationship, resentment can develop. One person throwing the towel in may lead the other to think they don’t care or are lazy. So what do you do?

A failed goal doesn’t mean that your relationship is a failure. 

Remember, your relationship’s health is most important. It may be time to press pause on the pursuit of the goal and reevaluate. Have a conversation about why one or both of you gave up. Communication is a necessity! Don’t wait. Talk. 

Ask yourselves if the goal is a mutual interest or if one spouse wants this and the other went along trying to support it. My wife and I have the goal to be a healthier couple physically. We want to be healthier for our kids, but we don’t go about it the same way. I may have my eyes set on running a marathon. She may be pursuing healthier eating habits and consistent cardio workouts. We support each other and are each other’s #1 cheerleader. We’re committed to helping each other reach our goals. 

Don’t worry; January 1 doesn’t hold any magical power when it comes to goal setting. 

You can adjust and start fresh on whatever day you choose. (YES!)

Here are some questions to ask if you feel like your relationship goals aren’t going as well as you hoped this year:

  • Who do you want to be as a couple? As a spouse?
  • What is the motivation for the goals?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Are the goals realistic and achievable?

Knowing the why and how is essential to accomplishing the goal. Identify who you are as a couple and your identity, then work the plans out from there. Maybe as a couple, you want to influence others to prioritize their relationship by having consistent date nights. That’s your goal. How do you work it out? Schedule your date nights and make them a priority on your calendar. Other people will recognize this, and you may influence another couple to do the same. 

Realizing a goal is about who you want to be as a person; achieving it is a journey, not a pass/fail. 

You can and will make adjustments as you go. Adjusting is not a sign of failure but a sign of growth. Commit to working together and supporting one another.

Don’t let failed resolutions affect your marriage. Step back, have a conversation, reset your goals, and plan for success. 

Other blogs you may want to check out on this topic:

A New York Post article has couples asking, “Will my relationship fail?” Even if you haven’t read this article, you should know the study talks about 10 signs that your relationship is less likely to fail.

Using artificial intelligence, researchers Samatha Joel and Paul Eastwick looked at the habits of 11,196 couples to try and predict relationship satisfaction and success. 

Perception is Everything!

The study found that relationship satisfaction and success is more about each person’s perception of the relationship and less about choosing the “perfect” person for you. In other words, Eastwick says, “‘Who I am’ doesn’t really matter once I know ‘who I am when I am with you.’” 

The biggest sign that each partner was content in the relationship was how they perceived their partner’s commitment to them.

The other four most important relationship characteristics were:

  • Appreciation. Does each partner show gratitude and thankfulness?
  • Sexual Satisfaction. This is a sign of connection, emotionally, physically, and mentally. 
  • Perceived partner satisfaction. Are both people feeling heard, known, understood, and cared for?
  • Conflict. How does the couple deal with and solve their disagreements?

The top five individual characteristics for relationship quality were:

  • Life satisfaction. How each individual feels about the quality of their own life, including work, family, social, meaning, purpose, etc. 
  • Negative affect. Constantly seeing your relationship and your experiences through a negative lens. 
  • Depression. Experiencing strong feelings of sadness and hopelessness. These things often cause noticeable problems in relationships.
  • Attachment avoidance. Consistently trying to avoid emotional connection.
  • Attachment anxiety. Becoming really dependent on your partner to fulfill your emotional needs.

For couples wondering if their relationship is likely to fail, this study could be a game changer.

In the end, relationship satisfaction is about how you do relationships together and view each other.

Scott Stanley, research co-author, encourages couples not to spend a lot of time wishing their partner was different when it comes to personality or education or political views. Instead, focus on what you can do to make the dynamic between the two of you as good as it can be.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.

Parenting to encourage your child’s independence is not easy. I remember the day well. I went to pick up our daughter from school. She got in the car with a smirk on her face and blurted out, “Why did you let me fail my tree project?” I asked her exactly how I let her fail her project. “You didn’t help me,” she replied. However, I distinctly remember asking her if she needed any help when she brought the assignment home, and she said no. She then told me I needed to go talk with her teacher about it and fix it.

I reminded her that I did not have a problem with the teacher, but I mentioned that if she would like to talk with the teacher, I would be happy to stand in the hallway. I don’t think she was super happy about my response, but we headed up to the teacher’s room and she did all the talking.

Fast forward to today. My daughter still talks about this experience, not because she is still angry at me, but because she learned some important things that day: how to talk with an authority figure about a difficult situation, what it means to problem-solve, and that while her parents are supportive, they will not snowplow the road of life for her. Don’t think for one minute that there wasn’t a lot of drama around that moment or that we got it right all the time as parents, because we didn’t. 

One thing is for sure though: teaching your child independence is a powerful gift. When parents take the lead in situations such as this, they can rob their children of a potential transformational experience.

Karen Fancher, a college professor, lamented in a blog post about the number of students who show up on campus unprepared to navigate life on their own. 

“We are now observing a different parenting style: ‘Lawnmower Parents,’” says Fancher. “These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort… this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child.”

According to Fancher, this parenting style can lead to children being poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences, along with a lack of personal motivation or drive since they only know how to follow the path the “Lawnmower Parent” has already prepared. Perhaps the most potentially-devastating outcome occurs because the “Lawnmower Parent” repeatedly demonstrates their lack of trust in their child’s ability to accomplish things on their own. As a result, their child will lack independence and may feel they aren’t good enough to do things for themselves. If that sounds really scary to you in terms of preparing your child for the real world, there are ways you can intentionally avoid being a “Lawnmower Parent.”

For example, let your children speak for themselves. When you go out to eat, let them order. Teach them to ask for directions. When they ask to do something after school with a friend, let them orchestrate the details instead of doing it for them.

As your child enters middle and high school, there are opportunities for them to do even more for themselves. When it comes to dealing with things at school, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands. Process with them, but let them handle it as much as possible. When drama occurs in friendships, ask them how they think they should handle the situation instead of jumping in with the answers.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey makes two powerful statements worth remembering when it comes to raising children. First, begin with the end in mind, as in, don’t lose sight of your goal to raise confident adults who know how to function independently of their parents. Secondly, seek to understand before understood. Be curious. Ask your child to tell you more. Many teens complain that their parents never listen, but seeking to understand requires us to listen. 

As parents, we may or may not have the answers our kids need. And it’s not always easy to step back and let them do things on their own. It may even be messy. Although we may fear that they will fail or get hurt in the process, remember that many people learn best from their mistakes and gain confidence through independence. And sometimes, they just need to figure things out for themselves.

A college freshman working as a summer camp counselor called her parents. She vented about how bad things were with her supervisor. Halfway through the program, six other counselors had quit because they were unhappy and not having fun. As the conversation continued, the parents realized their child wanted their permission to quit as well. Although the situation was difficult, her parents told her to finish her commitment.

Have you ever watched your child struggle with something so much that it made you sick, and you wanted to rescue them?

At that moment, what should you do?

  • Swoop in and save them from experiencing further pain?
  • Watch from a distance, knowing this is part of growing up?
  • Move closer and offer to assist them as they work to figure it out?

In many instances, parents are actually “swooping in” instead of letting their children struggle. It could be anything from a tough game, a difficult teacher, a complicated paper, an honest mistake or a friendship gone awry. But are parents really “saving the day?”

Most parenting experts would say these parents are actually hurting their children in the long run. They mean well when they seek to protect their children from experiencing pain, disappointment and/or failure. In fact, the parents’ goal is to set their children up for success. But unfortunately, young people who are never allowed to fail, experience consequences or problem-solve become adults who are ill-equipped to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure.

An ancient Chinese proverb says. “Failure is the mother of success.”

Think about it.

How many times has difficulty motivated you to keep on trying until you figured it out?

Whether it was memorizing a recital piece, learning a football play, writing a paper or tying shoes, how did you feel when you finally accomplished the task? More than likely, you felt a sense of pride, newfound confidence and perhaps a little more independent. All of these are important ingredients for success in life. Consider how you would have felt had your parent swooped in to do these things for you.

Beginning with the end in mind, besides academics, what do you want your child to learn this year? If helping your child to be confident, independent and unafraid of failure is your goal, it may require some restraint on your part.

Here are some tips for when your children fail:

  • Unless they are in harm’s way, avoid fixing it for them.
  • Allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it’s painful to watch.
  • When they do fail, address what happened. Ask what they would do differently next time.
  • Instead of taking matters into your own hands, go with your child and stand with them as they learn how to discuss an issue with their teacher.

Failure can be a powerful motivator. Instead of viewing your child’s failures as a direct reflection of your parenting skills, see them as steps toward future success.

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Preparing Your Child for the Real World