Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Moment of Opportunity for Change in a Relationship

Relationships (like people) have behavioral patterns that create separation and undesired outcomes. Making change in a relationship requires acting in the moment when the pattern that you want to change repeats itself. I call this the moment of opportunity.

For example: Say a husband and wife have a behavioral pattern of the husband turning the TV on when his wife was planning to talk about her day. She tells him about something and he half listens while he watches the football game. The wife gets her feelings hurt- feeling unheard, unimportant, and unloved. She stops competing with the TV and sadly retreats to the kitchen. She stews it for a couple of days and then tells her husband that she wants to "talk about the relationship." He thinks "Oh Man" and dutifully listens to her. She tells him that she just does not feel important to him anymore, but does not tell him why. He says, "Oh honey, you are the world to me," and she thinks that this has resolved the problem. All is well- until the next night he comes home, watches TV, and she gets hurt again. Even if she refers to the pattern more specifically during the talk, eventually, one of them will have to do something different when the pattern repeats itself.

In fact, the only way that this pattern can change is for one of them to do something different while it is actually happening- during the moment of opportunity. What if... the next time it repeats itself (and it will), the wife recognizes the moment of opportunity and stands in front of the TV set and says, "It is really important to me to tell you about my day. Is there a time that we could do that?" This may or may not be a good idea, but the point is that she is acting differently in the moment of opportunity, and therefore has created a chance for a different outcome. And he has an immediate reference to what she is talking about.

So... look for the those moments of opportunity to address things as they happen. It may be a little scary at first, but you will find that the results that you get make it well worth it.

PS: Using moments of opportunity are even more essential with children. Otherwise, they just hear your request as "blah, blah, blah."

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