Did you make any New Year's resolutions? Every January 1st many of us make resolutions to make some changes in our lives. Whether it be to change something significant in your relationship, spend more time with your significant other, or even something small like reading more, we all start off meaning well but we don't always follow through with making the changes we want to make. In fact, studies have shown that around 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February. What is stopping us from making those changes and why do we hold ourselves back from change? What do you do if your partner isn’t on board for the change you desire? In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the things that may be holding you back, so that you can move past them and become a beacon of strength, change, and integrity. Let’s get the year started off right, together.
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Hello, and welcome to another episode, another YEAR, of Relationship Alive. This is your host Neil Sattin. And...Happy New Year! Big things in store for you this year on Relationship Alive - some exciting new guests, and some return visits from some regular favorites here on the show.
Has it ever happened to you that you’ve set an intention to grow, or change, but then - not followed through? For instance, if you’re like me, and not totally jaded, then perhaps you like to start the new year with reflecting on the past year and setting some intentions for the coming year. And while that can initially be inspiring, I think it can often be followed by a bit of dread. That dread can be accompanied by thoughts like “How do I make this year different from year’s past? Am I really capable?” - but, especially in the case of relationships, it can also be something like “All this change and inspiration sounds great to me - but what if my partner isn’t on board? What happens if I’m committed to all this change and growth, and they’re not?” So in today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the ways that this can be holding you back so that you can move past it and become a beacon of strength, change, and integrity - so that you can feel inspired within yourself, and in your relationship. Let’s get the year started off right, together.
OK - let’s dive in.
Growing in your relationship - creates a conundrum. What if your partner doesn’t want to come along for the ride? What if you grow in different directions? What if you find yourself in a place where your relationship doesn’t work for you anymore? This is actually kind of a big deal when you’re contemplating your own path and growth because if you don’t have actual answers to these questions, you could find yourself with a fearful part protecting you from actually making any changes.
So when I asked, at the beginning, if you’ve ever experienced being excited about some potential change, only to have it not happen, this is a dynamic that’s often at play - the internal parts that can sabotage our best, inspired intentions.
The obvious problem is that if you’re not actually committed to your growth, and truly taking action towards it, then things will truly not shift.
You also don’t want to get caught in that cycle of getting excited about some new thing that you’ve learned, only to not even try to implement it because your partner might not be along for the ride. Or because as you see yourself shifting, changing, and growing - you’re not sure if you’ll even be compatible with your relationship anymore. See - it’s no wonder that these shifts and changes don’t come so easily, is it?
In some respects, your relationship is what it is. It’s something we’ve talked about here on the show before - that the way things ARE is the product of how you and your partner are, in your lives, right now. If nothing changes then, well, nothing changes. You put the same ingredients in, you get the same ingredients out. And it’s natural to think that we’d WANT good change, right? But the truth is, that if change could mean that everything actually changes - well, that might not be so great. Often the reason that things are the way they are is that they serve some purpose in our lives. It may not be the greatest, most sustainable, most healthy purpose - but it is a purpose nonetheless.
In some ways, I’m letting you off the hook for the way that things are. And, at the same time, hopefully, this is helping you get clear on WHY things are the way that they are. It’s really helpful to stop before you try to change anything, and to ask yourself - How is it serving me to have things be just the way that they are? What beliefs about myself does this allow me to perpetuate? What stability, or certainty, does it give me to have things just continue on as they are? If things were to actually change, what would I be afraid might happen?
If you can get really honest with your answers to these questions, then you will have some help in taking things to the next level.
Now it’s funny - I’ve talked about my communication guide here on the show quite a bit - because it has some helpful secrets for helping you connect with others around difficult topics. If you’ve downloaded and read the guide already, now would be a good time to re-read it, and to ask yourself how it applies to communicating with YOURSELF. Because some of those inner conversations can be challenging too! If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can grab it at neilsattin.com/relate, or by texting the word RELATE to the number 33444 and following the instructions.
Now what about that fear that I’ve mentioned a few times now. The fear that if we grow, that we’ll leave our partner behind. Or that they won’t be interested in us. Or...basically the fear that if we change, it might mean that our relationship ends.
There are two important ways to think about this, that hopefully will help get you unstuck.
The first is to be able to draw a distinction, for yourself, between KNOWING what you’d like to do, and/or change - and actually DOING it - taking action. Are you stuck in the knowing stage, without really doing much? I’m asking you this in all sincerity - because I’ve noticed that in myself at times, and because I often notice it in my clients. We KNOW what we SHOULD do - but do we actually make a choice and commit to doing it? No. So before you go down the road of saying, for instance, that you’ve already tried changing, and your partner ISN’T coming along for the ride - take a hard look at the evidence of what you’ve actually changed. Change your beliefs and your mindset, sure! And...have your actions changed? If they haven’t, then there’s still some work to be done.
Now, how do we take on the fear, the ways that our fear of what change might do could be holding us back? Let’s get right to that. But first, I’m going to take a moment to talk about this week’s sponsor. I’ve found them to be REALLY useful over the past few weeks, and they have a special offer for you to try them out for yourself.
So - how do we take on the fear that our growth is actually going to separate us from our partners?
I don’t want to lie to you here. It’s possible. What I mean is, it’s possible that if you grow in a way that really resonates with you, and feels true to the essence of who you are, that there is a chance that your partner might not want to come along for the ride. And, if that happens, then you will have some decisions to make. But you’ll be able to make those decisions from a place of actually having grown, having embodied something new for yourself, and thus the WAY that you approach those conversations and decisions will be different than they would be right now, as you’re simply imagining what that would be like. And you have no way of knowing that until you actually do the growing, until you actually experience it, and see how it impacts you and the other people in your life.
Now I don’t think that you should just grow without considering your partner. By all means, consider how your actions and growth impact the safety of your relationship, the agreements of your container, and make choices that feel like they’re in integrity. If it’s clear that this represents a shift, do your best to NOT go rogue - take time to check in with your partner about what you’d like, the choices that you’re making, and the vision that you have for yourself. You might also share with them some of the ways that you see this having a positive impact on them, and on your relationship. Because most people respond to change with their own fear. So recognize that you’re going to have to address that head-on in your conversation.
That’s a bit of sidebar here, though. Because we’re talking about you and your growth. You and the way that you might be holding yourself back. And, as I said, there is a real possibility that your fear will come to pass.
But - love is a strong thing. And if your growth is fueled by love, then my guess is that you’ll find that it only increases your capacity to show up in your relationship. To be more fully who you are, and to bring that to your partner. Can you do that and, at the same time, invite your partner into your world as it’s expanding? And can you give them the time and space to digest it, so that it’s not a now-or-nothing proposition - so they’re allowed to stretch into something new. To experience the discomfort of that and come back into balance.
What is it about you that doesn’t trust your partner could do that? Talk to that part of yourself, and reassure them that you have chosen another human and that all humans have the capacity to grow, especially if it’s in ways that are ultimately positive for them.
And, in the end...you need to take action. And then be ever-aware for what might happen next. Make connecting to your partner your priority in those moments, just like I was talking about back in episode 171 - because that will help them feel safe despite the tension that your growth might be creating. And I say *might* because you don’t really know until you try. It could be that your partner was, for some reason, just WAITING for you to take action.
This dance, of each person holding back, waiting for the other to act, while living in competing fears - first that something either of you does will disconnect you, and second, that you’ll never get to grow and live the way that you want to - this dance is something that most of us do at some point, or at some points in our relationship. And it’s possible that if you’re not the one doing the growing in this moment, that your partner is actually doing some growing and wondering if YOU are going to come along for the ride. Wouldn’t that be an interesting thing to discover?
So. Notice your fear. Address it head-on. Take steps to re-regulate yourself, to bring yourself back into balance. Then ask yourself, what am I truly afraid of here? Get really clear on your resistance. This is a good time to do a little work - dialoguing with your inner parts - using Internal Family Systems - can be great. Check out episodes 26 or 140 for that. Or if you’re familiar with Byron Katie, and the work, this could be a good time for that too. Yes - I’m definitely hoping to have her on the show at some point!
Because in the end, your goal should be to get clear so that you can actually move forward. A life of holding yourself back for fear of what *might* happen - that’s not what I want for you. A life of shining brightly, and inspiring others - especially your partner - with your integrity - now that sounds like something to shoot for.
Ultimately, you are going to have to make the choice, the actual commitment, to follow through on your path. As I alluded to earlier, it’s possible that you’re not actually making the choice - that instead, you have the knowledge, but you’re not actually following through on making it happen. Is that possible? Only you know for sure. But see what shifts in you if you decide that you are COMMITTED to a particular path of growth…
Here are some examples you might try on:
I am COMMITTED to being truthful in my relationship.
I am COMMITTED to taking care of myself when triggered, and not trying to have important conversations when I’m in a state of dysregulation.
I am COMMITTED to being positive, and having fun - and to not bringing negativity into my relationship.
I am COMMITTED to being monogamous and pouring my energy into fostering connection and intimacy with my partner.
I am COMMITTED to self-care, to giving myself what I need - and if I don’t know what I need, I’m COMMITTED to figuring it out.
Try some of those out, and feel the energy that commitment brings to your actions. Are you choosing to do something? Or are you just going to “try” to do something?
In the end, once you realize that your fears are holding you back, you may or may not be able to eliminate your fears. But as you’ve heard me say before, this is a time for courage. Feel the fear, and do it anyway. And then - keep paying attention! You don’t want to bluster on ahead - do what it takes to stay present to however the world, and especially your partner, are responding to your path. And, if you need to, make adjustments. But at least your adjustments will be made based on reality, not what you think might happen, or what you’re worried might happen.
That’s my wish for you. That this New Year you can set whatever intentions truly matter to you. And make the commitment to choosing, to taking whatever actions are required to get you there. And that you can stay present, taking care of yourself, and the others in your sphere of influence so that your path of growth is informed by your impact on the world, and the world’s impact on you. Happy New Year - and see you again next week where my guest will be Diana Fosha, creator of AEDP, which is an amazing modality for healing trauma and attachment injuries so that you can show up more brightly in your life. I’m really excited about her work - and to bring it to you next week on Relationship Alive. Until then, take care! And keep me posted.