How To Hold Your Partner Accountable As They Set New Goals, From Couples' Counselors
Whether you name it a resolution, an intention, or a goal, the beginning of a new year often inspires change. As the year goes on, though, it's natural for motivation to wane. One of the best ways to stay on track with your goals is through an accountability partner. In romantic relationships, though, it can be hard to find the balance between being too pushy and too lenient. So, what's the best way to hold a spouse or a partner accountable as they set new goals?
1. Ask how they want to be supported.
Unwarranted accountability could give an air of superiority not support, so communication is key.
"Remember that just because someone expressed a goal to you doesn't mean that they're asking you how to make it happen," marriage and family therapist Nina Westbrook, LMFT, tells mbg. "Avoid offering unsolicited advice by giving your partner the space needed to formulate a plan and wait to see whether they request your guidance or support."
If your partner does request help, ask what that means to them.
"Perhaps they do want gentle reminders, or perhaps they want help in other ways, such as cooking healthy dinners," says certified Gottman couples therapist Kimberly Panganiban, LMFT.
Once you've established an accountability plan, psychologist Gabrielle Schreyer-Hoffman, Ph.D., recommends doing daily or weekly check-ins. This is a good time to see how your methods of encouragement are making your partner feel, while also discussing any progress, setbacks, or challenges related to their goals.
2. Become a part of the process.
Encouraging your partner is one thing, but joining them as they set out to achieve their goals may be more effective.
"Showing up, by physically being there for your partner, is a powerful way to demonstrate support," Westbrook says. "If they're making a list of activities that will help them reach their goals, sit down and talk through the list together."
If those goals are fitness-related, ask to join them on weekly walks, she suggests, and if they're nutrition-related, search for new recipes the two of you can make together.
Research has shown that couples tend to influence each other's overall health, both positively and negatively. So by adopting your partner's new habits, you're actually ensuring they stick to them. Plus, "camaraderie goes much further than verbal encouragement, which can sound like nagging or condescension, even when not intended to," adds sex and relationship therapist Indigo Stray Conger, LMFT, CST.
3. Check in on your own intentions.
It's not uncommon to get wrapped up in a partner's resolutions because they actually benefit you in some way. If you find yourself becoming angry, frustrated, or annoyed when your partner struggles to meet their goals, explore where those emotions are coming from, Panganiban says.
Pay attention to subtle or overt cues from your partner as well. "If it seems like your partner is becoming frustrated or starting to hide things from you, take a step back," Westbrook suggests. "It may be worth re-evaluating whether you care about this goal or resolution more than they do."
If they are serious about the goal but feel overwhelmed by your pressure, ask how you can better support them without adding stress. Consider removing yourself from the situation entirely, if it's what they want. Remember, in order for their goals to be sustainable, there should be a source of internal motivation as well, Schreyer-Hoffman says. "Once you've given them some encouragement or support, it's OK to leave it to them to choose how they'll move forward."
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