One major gripe women have about their husband is inconsistency when they say they promise to change.

No really, a wolf!  © graur codrin| freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been guilty of this (and still am to a lesser degree) so I get it. It looks like this: I realise something I’m doing or not doing is hurting my wife, and I want to change. Sometimes my desire to change is partly due to what I anticipate she will do because of my change, but honestly, the primary reason I desire to change is I do n’t want to hurt, disappoint, or frustrate her. I make a good starting effort to change. I don’t do what has been bothering her, or I do a good job of doing what I’ve not been doing. For the first few days I’m essentially perfect, and for the next few days, I do well. Then I start to slide. I get busy, or distracted, or I start to forget my actions are hurting her, and I back off. Odds are my ending place is a bit better than before I started, but probably not enough to matter. Then, months later, I realise once again I’m hurting her in this way, and I make another short-lived attempt at change.

One reason for this pattern is I tend to be all or nothing. When I decide to change something, I give it everything. I try to fix it in twenty-four hours! Most things can’t be fixed quickly, especially if it is a long-standing problem. By putting in a level of effort that can’t be sustained, I set myself up for failure! The pattern is promise high, deliver low, and it’s a bad plan.

Think about it from the view of a wife who gets a big promise followed by little or no follow through. It’s demoralising, and it makes her feel unimportant and unloved. When this becomes a pattern, she stops believing her husband will ever really change, even if he manages to stick with it for longer than usual. Soon he becomes the boy who cried wolf, and nothing he say means anything to her.

The solution to this is never promising more than you can deliver. Rather than making a promise the moment you understand the problem, take some time to think about it. What can you realistically do? What might get in the way of you keeping your promise (this is particularly important if you need to do a lot of physical work – cleaning up something long neglected, fixing things, and so on). How are you going to stay motivated? How can you check up on yourself? Can you enlist a friend to help keep you accountable? Once you’ve done the thinking, make a promise, and then do everything in your power to keep your promise. If you see you’re failing, own up to it.

If promise high, deliver low is a long-standing pattern, don’t expect your wife to believe this time will be different. You should expect she won’t take any notice until you’ve kept at something four or five times longer than any past attempt. Don’t get upset at her for not believing you – you have proven to her she shouldn’t believe you! Accept that her feelings are justified and based on your behaviour, and work diligently to prove you’ve changed.

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