“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”  – Jim Rohn

create change in your lifeThere is a common mindset that both parties involved have to change in order to survive an affair and fix the marriage.  While that is true, it is also true that you cannot change someone else.  You can only change yourself.  When you do so, quite often your spouse will follow suit and work at making his or her own changes.

Why would your spouse resist positive change in your marriage and what should you do about it?

There’s a deep-seeded belief in our culture that people resist change, no matter what. But is this true? Do people really want things to remain status quo? Do we really not want things to change? If you look closely at human nature, it’s not change itself we resist; it’s change that’s imposed upon us.

Think about it. We have no problem with change that we initiate ourselves. But when we feel forced or manipulated to change, then we resist with all our might.

Mort Fertel of Marriage Fitness suggests that your spouse may not be willing to change for the sake of your marriage right now, but that’s not because your spouse doesn’t want a great marriage. Everyone wants a great marriage. It’s because if they’re going to change, they want the change to be their idea. 

A complete stranger is more likely to get through to your spouse than you are. A chance experience or encounter is more likely to shake up your spouse than anything YOU could do.

Instead, try to let your spouse be himself for awhile allowing him space to make his own choices. Your effort to change your spouse is probably counterproductive. The chances are good that you’re “in the way.” You need to get out of the way and create the space for your spouse to choose to change. That’s the only way it’ll ever happen.

Often, a spouse will say that their husband/wife changed for a few days, but then returned to their old ways. That’s because they never really decided to change. They were pressured. They were manipulated. And so it didn’t stick.

If you tell your spouse what to do; it’s a challenge. If THEY decide to do it; it’s a great idea. You have to let it come from them. That’s the only way it’ll make a difference long term in your marriage.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Makes sense, but isn’t there anything I can do to encourage my spouse’s choice?” YES, there is! You can be an inspiring example and let your spouse see how the choices you’re making impact how YOU feel about yourself and your marriage.

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Resist the urge to believe that your marriage won’t change until your spouse “gets with the program.” The love YOU feel is much more a result of what you do for your marriage than what your spouse does for it.

We tend to think that the love in our marriage is in our spouse’s hands. But it’s not. Love is a verb. And if we do it – if we love – then we feel love. The choice is yours.

Consider the love you feel for your children. Is it because of everything they do for you? Is it because they’re such angels? Of course not. The love you feel for your children is a result of what you do for them. The love you feel in your marriage is a result of what YOU do too.

Furthermore, there’s no better way to inspire your spouse to make the choice to change than to make that choice yourself.

Right now you may be thinking…”OK…Great stuff, good advice, but how do I make changes in myself?”

Now is the Time to Create Change in Your Life

Anytime is a good time to decide to make beneficial changes, but since we’re about to move into a new year, what better time to start a program of change.  After all most of us tend to take some time every December or early January to reflect upon the year that has past, analyze events and occurrences during the year, make resolutions in areas that we feel we need to and try to create a plan to change ourselves for the better.

We promise to exercise daily and eat healthy.  We swear that we will never smoke again.  We cut up our credit cards in the hopes of never getting into debt again.  We want to be more productive at work.  These are all admirable goals but most of the time we fail at ever achieving them.  The biggest reason is that we simply stop performing the actions required to achieve these goals.  They never become habit.

We find an excuse to skip going to the gym for a day.  That day turns into a second day and before we know it, snowballs into completely blowing off exercise all together.  The problem then is two-fold…we don’t benefit from all the great stuff that exercise and being healthy provides us, and we end up beating ourselves up about it, which can further erode our self esteem.

That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it.

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When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.

Let me emphasize that: the key to forming a habit is starting each day.

What do I mean by starting? If you want to form the habit of meditation, for instance, just get your butt on the cushion each day. If you want to form the habit of running, just lace up your shoes and get out the door. If you want to form the habit of writing, just sit down, close everything else on your computer, and start typing.

Form the habit of starting, and you’ll get good at forming habits.  We want to let the crisis created by the infidelity serve as a catalyst for positive change, but like me you have to take action.  This process will work whether you want to make physical changes or behavioral changes.

How to Start When You Face Resistance

create change in your lifeForm the habit of starting — easier said than done, right? What happens when you wake up and don’t feel like doing yoga or your beach body exercise DVD?

Let’s first take a look at why you don’t feel like starting. It’s usually for one or both of these reasons:

  1. You are comfortable with what you’re doing, and the habit is less comfortable (it’s too hard). We cling to the comfortable.
  2. It’s too difficult to get started — to do the habit, you have to get a bunch of equipment out of your garage, or drive 20 minutes to the gym, or go get a bunch of ingredients, etc.

Those are the main two reasons, and really they’re the same thing.

So the solution is to make it easier and more comfortable to do the habit, and easier to get started. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits offers some ways to do that:

  • Focus on the smallest thing — just getting started. You don’t have to do even 5 minutes — just start. That’s so easy it’s hard to say no.
  • Prepare everything you need to get started earlier. So if you need some exercise equipment, get it ready well before you have to start, like the evening before, or in the morning if you have to do it in the afternoon, or at least an hour before. Then when it’s time to start, there is no barrier.
  • Make the habit something you can do where you are, instead of having to drive there.
  • If you have to drive or walk somewhere, have someone meet you there. Then you’re less likely to stay home (or at work), and more likely to go — and going there is the same thing as getting started. This works because you’re making it less comfortable to not start — the idea of leaving a friend waiting for you at the gym or park is not a comfortable one.
  • Tell people you’re going to do the habit of starting your habit every day for 30 days. Having this kind of accountability motivates you to get started, and makes it less comfortable not to start.
  • Start with the easiest version of the habit, so that it’s easy to start. For example, if you want to form the habit of reading, don’t start with Joyce, but with Grisham or Stephen King or whoever you find fun and easy to read. If you want to start yoga, don’t start with a really challenging routine, but an easy series of sun salutations.
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Both Linda and I have taken this advice to heart.  When we got back from our vacation in early August, we made the decision to get back into shape.  Getting into shape to us means more than just losing a few pounds.  It also includes increasing our strength and endurance.

Since it had been awhile since we had done any strength training of any significance, we knew that we couldn’t just jump right in and start pumping iron for an hour a day.  By doing that, we’d be so sore that we would stop right there and then.  Instead, we started slowly and simply got into the fitness habit.  We walked, hiked or biked at first.  Moderate distances and pace. Nothing too difficult.  The result was that we formed the fitness habit which has lasted and has escalated into more strenuous workouts over time.

Make it as easy as possible to start, and hard to not start. Tell yourself that all you have to do is lace up your shoes and get out the door, and you’ll have a hard time saying no. Once you’ve started, you’ll feel good and probably want to continue (though that’s not a necessity).

The start is a sunrise: a moment of brilliance that signals something joyful has arrived. Learn to love that moment of brilliance, and your habit troubles fade like the night.

“Someone was hurt before you, wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, beaten before you, humiliated before you, raped before you… yet, someone survived… You can do anything you choose to do.” – Maya Angelou



    14 replies to "Forming Habits That Can Create Change in Your Life"

    • livingonafence

      Doug, I really llke and agree with all of the points you’ve made regarding habits. Start small, be accountable, etc. All great advice.

      However, the opening i couldn’t disagree with more. The love we feel is a direct result of the love we give? That is, pardon my language, complete bullshit. I gave my husband love. I loved him in every way possible. I complemented him, we had a great sex life, i gave him everything he ever wanted, and my eyes lit up when he walked in the room. For this, I WAS CHEATED ON! Do you think I felt love while he was ignoring me to go talk to his girlfriend? I loved him to death and felt completely alone.

      Using the children is a very poor example in my humble opinion. You love your children instinctively. You want to protect them, make them happy and give them every possible advantage you can in life. You LOVE them unconditionally. You won’t feel any less love for them if they tell you they hate you daily and can’t stand being around you. They are your kids.
      Your spouse? Totally different. You chose each other. When one cheats, the betrayed simply cannot feel love in the marriage just because they still offer love. They have been rejected in favor of another. They have been betrayed by the one person they thought they could count on no matter what. They are humiliated, confused, angry and heartbroken (In no particular order). Their entire world is in a tailspin. Simply loving their spouse will NOT change this. The cheater needs to step up and accept responsibility and work to make it better. The betrayed does need to work too, and needs to build some habits to start loving themselves again, because after a blow like being cheated on, you really can start to feel worthless and unlovable, and therefore you start hating yourself. This is another benefit one gets from cheating – a spouse that hates themselves.

      Sorry Doug, but loving will not make you feel love in your marriage. Building good habits is great advice. Allowing yourself to love yourself again is great advice. But thinking that if you love you’ll feel loved? Again, total bullshit.

    • tryinghard

      I agree with the above comment. One cannot compare the love on has for their children with the love of a spouse. I too did the same as Livingonthefence. I loved and trusted and was too was paid back with betrayal and ridicule. I have learned through this experience that it doesn’t make any difference how much you love or trust or believe you are loved and trusted does not make it so. Yes there are changes we can make for ourselves. Staying aware of the world around us and that includes especially the ones we love and trust the most with our well being. I love my husband but I will never love him the way I did in the past. Maybe that’s a good thing. I see him as a very flawed human being and I question everyday why I am choosing to stay with such a flawed human being. I will never trust him again. I don’t know if he will repeat his bad choices but I KNOW he is capable. That will not change. It’s like an ex-smoker. One could have quit for many years and one little indicator and they are smoking again. I believe the “bad habit” of infidelity is the same. It is true “Once a cheater/liar, always a cheater/liar”.
      My change is coming from accepting my choices of remaining in this marriage for whatever reason. Probably for love and some of it for fear. I’ve been married longer than not. I do see many positive changes in him but for how long? Everything is going well for now , however there might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back and I will be gone for good and I will be ok. He knows that, I think? I have made a choice that I will love him and I will allow him to love me as long as he doesn’t ever disrespect me ever again. The disrespect does not only come from being with someone else but ignoring me. Not putting me first.

      I have chosen not to let my suspicions rule me, but I will be aware. I have also chosen not let anyone ever pull the wool over my eyes again with spin or sweet talk. Actions speak louder than words.

      I have chosen to be more assertive with my needs. No more putting him first. I do not need this marriage, I want this marriage. If it urns into something I don’t want, I will be gone. And it won’t be because I brought another person into my life.

    • Paula

      Thank you LOAF and Tryinghard. I completely agree with both of you. I love the part about giving all of yourself to your partner, LOAF, we. too had a great sex life, loads of fun, I gave and gave and gave, as some kind of weird “insurance’ that he would treat me as I did him, with the utmost respect, I also lit up when he entered a room, I sparkled in his presence, he did in mine, too. He admits that is gone, he never sees that sparkle anymore in social situations, he misses it terribly, and wonders if it will ever return, I don’t think that aspect of our relationship will return, he killed that. Yes, good points here in this piece, but loving does not create love – it’s a great start, but no guarantees. All of us who have been betrayed here, ALL loved their spouses, throughout their cheating, we continued to give love, but it did not get reciprocated. I am with tryinghard, I still love my partner, but that love is changed, I no longer love “unconditionally” – or naively, lol – and it is also for the reasons she stated, he cheated, and of course we are all capable of that, but WE haven’t, we CHOSE to stay faithful. Trust is now not a given. In my case, I didn’t ever cheat because I love him, BUT also, tellingly, because I love myself, and I knew I would really struggle if I cheated, struggle with my own conscience, my concept of who I am. Love is all very well and good (and once it was my everything) but there is so much more, and I am learning to reclaim who I am, retain my pride in my own abilities, and in my caring nature, which I cursed when my “friend” took advantage of me caring for her and her little boy by shagging my lover, over and over and over. I never knew I had self sacrificed so much, until the aftermath of his cheating, my identity had been all but swallowed by “us.” I am SOO much more.

    • Tryinghard

      I think the most important thing I am doing is reaching the acceptance stage. It happened. There is nothing I can do to change it. There are many triggers everyday. I have to accept them as my friend. I know that sounds weird but really the triggers are my defense warning me to stay vigilant against any more hurt. I still want to tell her off and put her low class self in her place. She really thinks highly of herself but she is no match for me. I don’t do anything because I think I will do more harm to myself. You stooping to her level and all. I want her to know how embarrassed my H is by the memory of her. He knows she was low hanging fruit. Why didn’t he see it earlier? I have no clue. I may not say to him what’s on my mind all the time but I can sure think what I want. He would not like to know what I’m thinking but I don’t care. I have to heal me.

    • forcryin'outloud

      Change. That’s all I’ve had since D-day…probably since my H was actually embroiled in his EA. How about some stability?! I feel like I’ve been on an emotional and physical roller coaster ever since the admission finally came out his mouth. Living with somebody you don’t trust is a royal pain.
      I’ve done plenty of work on me and still at it. But I’ve found when someone betrays your heart and soul you will never see them with the embodiment of love you once had for them. It also changes who you are, forever. I will embrace that with our without my H. I will be better for it but you will never make me believe WE will be better because it happened.

    • rachel

      I too could not have shown my H anymore love then i did and all I did was got his cold shoulder.
      At my youngest son’s confirmation I remember kissing my H at the sign of peace during mass and his lips were cold and hard. He did not kiss me back. He ignored me. Probably dreaming of his ex g.f.
      So I usually don’t make resolutions but this year I am going to try something new. I’ve done pretty good today. If he pops into my head or I have a trigger, I immediately change my thought. I don’t obbsess about it or relive the memory. This has helped me, no tears today. It’s time to bring peace into my life. He made it clear that he doesn’t want me and apparently never did. I need to move on. I need to get healthy, the worrying isn’t good for me or my body. Its time to enjoy the present moment. Happy New Year all. To new memories and beginnings.

    • Exercise grace

      Joining the chorus here! I loved my husband with everything I had. Even through the year and a half affair. I never gave up on our marriage. We had always gotten along great, few arguments, good sex, I thought we had it all. We did have numerous life stressors come crashing in on us. I was a good example: faithful, loving, encouraging, supportive. He cheated anyway. He would tell you himself that it was me fighting for our marriage so hard, that snapped him out of the affair. If I had backed off and given him space, it might have ended with a much different outcome. While I don’t believe we can dictate to our spouses what to do or how to live, we can let them know what choices they are making that are not working for us and for our marriage. And then leave it up to them to figure out if they want to change and how to implement that. Would a stranger have more impact? I somehow doubt it. After all, WE know our spouses the best. Their habits and “tells” that something is going on. Not to mention we are not as es easily fooled by the lies as someone else might be.

    • justbecause

      I too join the chorus but am not singing the melody. I am harmonizing. I did support, encourage, love my husband . . .some of the time. I had no idea an EA ws going on. I did know my H was an alcoholic but didn’t always know when he was actively drinking. Sounds weird, I know, but some can hide it pretty well. Was it his diabetes, alcohol, depression? Turns out it was all and more.

      We lived such a roller coaster of emotions, good and bad times. I would love, support, encourage, try and then BAM the roller coaster would dive. I think it got to the point I didn’t even realize the emotional distance that had grown between us. At times he was just plain cruel and I was cruel right back. Just before I discovered the EA, I had decided to separate. As mentioned, I could not change him. I could only change me. It almost seems like fate that I did discover the EA at that particular time. It explained so much and seemed to wake him up. I read how an EA causes one to “devalue their real life partner.” Just how I felt – devalued.

      Tryinghard – I too want to confront the cow, tell her off. Is this bad? I don’t think so. I think it would help me. My H does not agree. He thinks we should drop all talking, thinking of it and move on. I do think of her, though not as much now as several months ago. I did send her my “I hate you” letter. It was awesome. Much of it was from things I learned on this site. I have a plan for my next intrusion in to her life. LOL

      • tryinghard

        Hell no it doesn’t make you bad! Well I guess that depends on what you intend to do 🙂 DON’T DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL 🙂 Also don’t do anything that makes you look bad. I hope it’s something like letting her H know or just letting her know you win and that your life is good. Remember a life well lived is the best revenge. We do not need their approval to do what we need to do. The way I feel my H doesn’t get a vote in this. After all, I didn’t get a vote in what he chose to do for 4 effing years! I didn’t get a vote when he decided to give her thousands of $. Did you get a vote when your H decided not to get his addictions under control? No! I just am not sure that if we do get the revenge we want with the confrontation we will reach any kind of satisfaction or will that just lead to a need for more? What if we don’t get the desired response? Also will it be giving the AP more power??? I try to put myself in her shoes and if someone like me were to say what I have to say to her, I would crawl into a hole and make sure I NEVER made contact with anyone in my AP family again. That motivates me! I can be pretty demeaning with my words when I need to be. Also through all the reading I’ve done I’ve learned that the OW are MISERABLE. The poor pathetic women really believed these men loved them. They believed they were “soul mates”. I love that because it is almost a cliche. The word “soul mate” keeps coming up in these stories and THEY BELIEVE IT! The women are alone. Most times they have lost their jobs and extra money they were getting from the men. Their families feel not sympathy for them because well they told them so. So they are broke and alone, depressed and well miserable.. This makes me very happy. So when I think of revenge I satisfy my need with knowing she is miserable.

    • chiffchaff

      The points about making small changes first are exactly right. While reading lots of articles on recovery from affairs etc. during the early months I also started reading self-help books about getting fitter in a more sustainable way as well as self-help articles about dealing with the high levels of anxiety I had developed even before I discovered the affair.

      Fitness started, as Doug and Linda have said, with building up gradually. Walking faster, then further, then faster still, then for longer again. Swimming regularly and then focusing on swimming more lengths and then gradually focusing on faster and better technique. Sorting out my hair, my weight, my clothes came after those habits had started.

      My life has permanently changed as a result of what my H did to himself, but the changes I made for myself are not negative ones. I also agree that my H would never change or improve while ever I was asking him to, he was resentfulness and token compliance/passive aggressive personified. I believe that in some ways he’s seen the changes I have made for myself and eventually followed. It’s always going to be a work in progress and I’m happy with that.

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