Action Steps For Change

The following suggestions are all strategies I use in my therapy practice to help clients cross the bridge from identifying and understanding the problems at hand, to change. The action steps and related information are an introduction to the recommended tools to help you along your way. In the resources section at the end, there are links to relevant articles, books or other materials for further exploration.

>Do Something Different<

An integral part of personal growth is actively changing the way you think and behave, inherently changing the way you feel. Sometimes doing something different can feel scary or unnatural but moving towards discomfort is the first step.  For example, considering a potential partner who would not have typically been your “type”.  Perhaps you have missed really good, kind people with your old paradigm.

>Notice (Thinking, Behaviors, Patterns, Red Flags)<

In order to make the changes you need to be able to notice what’s happening in the first place. In the case of problematic relationships, you might also need to take seriously troubling behavior (red flags) that comes up in a relationship early on.  Did you ignore those before? Maybe if you heeded those warnings, you would have avoided some of your damaging relationships? Slow down your thinking process to really notice and take in how you feel with the other person. If you feel badly, take it seriously.

Whoa – that hurt. What just happened?

Is there a reasonable explanation or an apology soon after?

If I see this behavior now, what could the future look like with this person?

Do I deserve better? Is this what I really want in a relationship?

>Practice Mindfulness<

To help facilitate the skill of noticing, practice being mindful and present. A mindfulness practice can help you see more clearly, regulate your nervous system and rewire your brain (at any age) to feel more at ease and grounded in your body and mind.

>Learn How to Communicate Effectively<

Much of what couples struggle with can stem from misunderstandings and assumptions. Learning how to reflect back what you’ve heard, validate and empathize with another person are just a few of the communication tools that will help you succeed in your next relationship.  Know something about their wounds and vulnerabilities.  Practice conflict de-escalation like a time-out.

>Practice Self-Compassion<

Your road to breaking unhealthy relationship patterns might not be a straight one. If you falter or misstep, get back up and be kind to yourself as you would a good friend.  We are all always learning and making mistakes.  This is part of growth.

>Re-parent your Inner Child<

If you didn’t have a loving and nurturing environment as a child, it’s time to make up for lost time and learn to love your inner little boy or girl. Imagine your inner child as being a part of you who gets emotionally triggered when vulnerable. Soothe him/her. Learn who he/she is, his/her core beliefs and vulnerabilities. The more you can “re-parent” your inner child, the more at ease you will feel about yourself in relationships.

>Practice Self-Care<

Life can be stressful. I recommend everyone incorporate some kind of self-care routine into their busy lives. What allows you to relax? What do you enjoy? What are ways you de- stress? What feels nourishing for your body, mind and soul? When you are doing the deeper reflecting work you are here, it’s particularly important to be clear on what feels good and make an effort to do it! It’s an act of kindness towards yourself.

>Pay Attention to Your Attachment Wounds<

You may have attachment wounds if you didn’t have a secure and reliable emotional bond between you and at least one parent or caregiver. If you suspect this is the case, it might be useful educate yourself about the different attachment styles that exist and the ways children learn to deal with deficient connections in their early important relationships. These tend to resurface in intimate relationships as the need for security is similar.

>Seek Therapy if Needed<

The personal material you’ve explored here might be challenging. It is commendable that you are attempting to take this on by yourself but keep in mind, facing some of these things alone can be difficult and professional guidance may be helpful. If needed, a therapist can facilitate continued exploration of your relationship patterns and support you as you attempt to make changes.