When you are consciously working on changing your relationship for the better, there will be times when you slip into past behaviors and patterns. It’s nearly impossible to be conscious every moment, and we are all perfectly imperfect! It’s normal to make mistakes, but it’s how you handle them that matters most.
How you handle your mistakes is important to your own self-esteem, which itself impacts your relationship. Imagine a situation with your partner that you know you could have handled better. Do you beat yourself up over the slip? Do you feel defeated in your efforts, because you fell into your old habits? Neither of these responses will motivate you to change your part.
Rather, you should pat yourself on the back for recognizing the unconscious slip - that is proof in itself that you are growing! I’ve previously talked about cultivating a learner’s mindset to help improve your relationships; you can use this same mindset to help you get back up when you fall while making changes within yourself.
You can start by asking yourself questions to help you learn, move forward again, and keep growing.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Slip Up
What can I learn? This is a great question to come to whenever something goes awry, but especially when you are trying to do things in a new way.
The way we see a situation is going to determine how we feel and respond to it. So if we see a situation as if we have failed, then we will feel and respond from that place.
Yet we DO have the power to change our perspective in a matter of seconds. When you ask yourself what you can learn from the situation, you are changing what you are focussing on, which will in turn affect your emotions and how you respond.
What need was I trying to meet by doing or saying that? We all have emotional and physical needs that we need (or want) to meet daily. We find ways to meet these needs in both positive and negative ways.
To find the answer to the question, we need to dig a bit and peel back the layers to get to the core of what is going on. It can feel intimidating or uncomfortable to do this, but if we’re not growing, then we are stuck.
It helps to identify the thought first. Thought leads to feeling, which leads to behavior. What is the first thing that came to mind? Once you have the thought, you can pinpoint the feeling that you were seeing out. If that doesn’t work, try looking at it the other way: behavior, feeling, thought.
How did it make me feel? Ahh…the dreaded question about feelings! But really - try to be your own therapist for a moment. Identify the feeling, and then keep going down the path.
You may start with anger, frustration, or annoyance… but peel back a little more. Is there something more under those feelings? You are looking for the core emotion to identify the emotional need. Are you hurt and seeking certainty or love? Are you feeling unimportant and need significance?
What can I do to meet that need in a more positive way today? I’m asking you to identify what you can do, and commit to taking that action. Explore whether there is a ritual that you could build into your day, life, or relationships to help put you in a better place.
If you are seeking love, perhaps create a ritual of kissing your partner good morning. Or if you need to feel security, perhaps taking time to plan your day will help you feel less scattered.
These questions are just a start, and no - you don’t have to use them all at once! And as time goes on, you’ll learn to formulate new questions that challenge you. As long as we stay curious, we will never stop learning about ourselves, and we will continue to grow.
Look at your “slip-ups” as an opportunity to learn and give yourself feedback about your life and relationships. You just need to ask yourself the right questions.