Support for Your Goals


One of my fellow Success Teams leaders asked me a couple of interesting questions recently on behalf of some of her team members.

  1. How do you get a partner (or a friend) who is resistant, to express THEIR goals, and
  2. How do you get a partner who is threatened by your new enthusiasm to support YOUR goals?

The answer to the first one is simple. You don’t.
You may hope to support a partner’s goal in pursuit of more support for your own. This does not often work very well.

  • Not everyone has goals.
  • Some who have goals have process goals, like staying in the moment or maximizing flow or gratitude each day, rather than outcome goals, and outcome goal-setters may accidentally tramp all over their partners’ enthusiasm because they are unable to see them as goals.
  • Some need to be sure of their own commitment to a goal before mentioning it to anyone else, even a partner.
  • Some are so afraid of creating conflict by mentioning a goal that they can do it only in anger.
  • And some have grown to suspect strings attached to any support for their goals, like an expectation of their automatic support for a partner’s goal. If you’re rummaging about for something to support as you set your own new goal, the strings will be very obvious.

The second question is a lot more interesting. How can they court support for their own goals?
Start with the very reasonable assumption that your partner who pledged to love you does and wants to show it. This might not be true, but start with this assumption in your quest to discover how to get support, or you might get mired in fear of losing your mate.
If your spouse loves you, he or she wants to wholeheartedly support your goal. Any failure to do so results from resentment towards you over some other issue or fear of what your goal will impose upon your partner. We are usually rather aware of the first and clueless about the second, so let’s talk about how your goal affects your partner.
Here is an example from the Success Team I mentioned earlier:

One has a hubby who has been really stressed about her taking time to go to our success team meetings and training with me to run a half-marathon.

Remember back when we were first falling in love, and a partner’s distress over time apart seemed like a sure sign of a good relationship? Sometime later, it feels like we’ve lost our freedom. And we fall into either-or thinking: either I keep my freedom or my partner is really stressed.
But issues like this are seldom either-or. Finding that Third Alternative that allows for our goals and our partners’ peace of mind is the answer. To find it, we need to see beyond the first-glance issues.
Her partner is not necessarily stressed by the time she spends on running or meeting. He may be stressed by having too many items on his to-do list. He may be stressed by the story in his head of why she’s doing these these things. He may be stressed by how little time they now carve out for couple time. He may be stressed by a belief that she is not grateful for what he does with his time, when he would rather be spending it on a hobby or a new goal.
One of them needs to jump the fence and say, “I want you to have this. I really do. I want what I need, too, not instead, and I am eager to brainstorm together how we can have both.”
One husband’s stress level went through the roof when his wife went off for a five-day workshop to learn to be a writer. Both had recently retired, and he was becoming so obnoxious she wasn’t sure she wanted to return from the workshop. And then she realized he might believe her new plans conflicted with his travel plans, even though she was looking forward to combining writing with travel, because they had never talked about how to have both. She’s published two books now and can write off travel to places where she runs workshops or does book signings.
Here is another example from that Success Teams leader:

another has a hubby who is upset that I motivated her to go on a girls’ only trip for her 40th birthday…He is insecure about the fact that she did not plan a special event for him to share with her on that day….(She went with me on my girls’ trip on my 50th!)

Of course he’s insecure. Telling your husband that you would rather not celebrate a milestone with him marks a change. It opens up all sorts of possible stories about the future. He cannot tell if it is a change in their relationship, a change in her approach to life that he will not like, or simply a different plan for a milestone day. And the human brain almost always goes for the most dangerous story it can invent. And then it embellishes on the danger.
If he’s still important in her life, she should say so. If her milestone affects the man who loves her, she can surely come up with a second celebration to mark it with him. His insecurity has nothing to do with who she plans to be with on her birthday. It’s all about what his future role in her life will be. The number of possible Third Alternatives for turning a conflict into an opportunity is huge, as long as she starts with, “I really want you to help you feel secure about our future, and I want to mark this milestone with you, and I want to travel with my girlfriends on my birthday. Let’s figure out how to have all three.”
By the way, if you have a dream you want to pursue, I will be launching my next international Success Team in May. We’ll be meeting by phone from 10-noon EDT on Saturdays for 8 weeks. Leave me a comment if you’re interested.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Glad to see you posting again, Patty! And you are back with a bang, I see. I especially love how you elaborated on the final example in your post. Tammy and I have made quite a habit of supporting each others’ dreams and desires. I think we realized early on the damage that could be inflicted if we didn’t and the benefits if we did. Now we can additionally focus on joint projects since we have fed the individual ones so well.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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