I know that many of you have probably heard of the so-called "21-day Habit Theory" which basically states that habits can be formed by simply completing a task for 21 days in a row. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I recently learned that this is nothing more than a myth and could not be further from the truth. I know, I know, I'm just as shocked as you are because for so long, I too believed this theory to be true. What I actually found out through research, was that the 21-day habit forming theory is actually a misinterpretation of work done by Dr. Maxwell Maltz about developing a positive self-image. I guess someone misinterpreted his findings and then told someone and just like in the old childhood game of telephone, the story spread and took a life of its own! LOL! By now, you are probably wondering, "What does all of this have to do with marriage?" I'll tell you what. Just recently, my husband and I were asked by a close family friend, if we were willing to devote a week being focused on making our marriage better? This meant that we had to limit the amount of outside work time and also limit the amount of time spent tending to our children's every need! Ouch! The actual goal of this exercise was to focus on spending "every other moment" on making our marriage better through communication and quality time with one another. At least that was my plan. At first, I must admit that I was a little hesitant, but don't get me wrong, not because my marriage wasn't worth the effort, but more because I wasn't sure I was able to meet the challenge. However, what was revealed to me in that moment, was that I could not expect to get from my husband what I wasn't willing to give myself! Light bulb moment!
So next, I resorted to the old "21-day habit forming theory" which we have just learned is nothing more than a myth. I just figured that based on this theory, I could pay attention to my marriage and treat it as a task that I performed for 21-days in a row, then it would become a habit. WRONG! The only way to form these healthy habits within my marriage is by doing the work through the "Three Phases of Habit Formation" which are as follows (based on a 2013 Forbes article on this subject) Phase 1: The Honeymoon Phase which is characterized by the feeling of "this is easy." But as all married people know, at some point, all honeymoons must end and will end. It is usually the result of something inspiring. Phase 2: The Fight Thru Phase which is when the inspiration fades and reality sets in. This is when an individual finds himself/herself struggling with the positive habit completion and old habits seem to be right around the corner. The key to being able to move into the third phase of habit formation is to be able to win 2-3 "fight thru's." This is critical and can be accomplished by using these techniques:
1) Recognize; 2) Ask 2 Questions (How will I feel if I do this? & How will I feel if I don't do this?); 3) Life Projection (imagining your life in 5 years after making changes). Phase 3: Second Nature can be described as though you have "gotten in the groove." You get the picture.
So anyway, now that we know what it takes to actually form a habit, I am happy to say, that the past few days have been worth the effort! By my recognizing where I fall short and then taking the necessary steps to correct my behavior or attitude towards my husband, how we are communicating and interacting with one another has changed for the better! This is one habit that I don't want to break!
I Lovingly dedicate this post to my husband, Cedric. Thank you for your love and willingness to form the marriage habit with me!