Read, Run, Repeat

A tale of fitness, books, food, and life in between

The 21 Day Relationship Challenge: My Experience

on September 25, 2013

You may remember that 3 weeks ago, I mentioned that I signed up to try out Gretchen Rubin’s (author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home) “Relationship Challenge” At time, she was offering up several other challenges for a small fee – but I decided that I wanted to check out the Relationship Challenge, as it seemed to be the one that was most applicable to my life. Plus, it was free… and anything with the world “challenge” tends to suck me in!


I have not yet read “Happier at Home” (I did finish “The Happiness Project”), but it is described as having a focus on relationships. Gretchen described the Relationship Challenge as “In just three weeks, you can take many small steps—steps that don’t take any time, energy, or money—to make your relationship more loving. ” Sounded intriguing to me!

Every day I received a new email in my inbox describing that day’s challenge. I actually decided to keep a list of each day’s challenge and a short description, so that I could look back at them all, and not have to go searching through emails! Yesterday was Day 21, so I thought I would share my experience with the challenge!


Here’s what I thought!

  • Apparently all of the challenges came from one of Rubin’s books – since I’ve only read 1, I can’t say that I really noticed that fact – if I had, it may have irked me, since I had already heard all the suggestions.
  • Sometimes, I found it hard to concentrate on one resolution for only one day and then move on to the next one the following day – there were times when I wished I was able to concentrate on the day’s challenge for a little longer. I know that it takes 2 weeks to form a new habit – and it was kinda difficult to –hypothetically– make 21 new habits!
  • I can’t say that I passed this challenge with flying colors – I’m not even sure if I felt closer/more connected to P when all was said and done. Data people, I need data! J I probably should have thought about that BEFORE I started
  • Some of the suggestions I loved, but some of them were things that we already do, they sounded like repeats of previous day challenges, and some were downright silly.
  • I figured out that household tasks and the division of labor are something that all couples struggle with – not just P and I!
  • Bottom line: I think the challenge was worth it. The few gems that I did latch on to are important ones, and have found myself really trying to use them. Plus, I was actively thinking about my relationship for all 21 days and ways that I could help improve it.


Here are some of the challenges that I LOVED – and I think that they are simple, but really, really good reminders/challenges for all of us.

  • Day 2: Give gold stars: I’m a behaviorist – so I believe that we all need gold stars, and need them often. However, it was the research on this challenge that I found intriguing! Men need more frequent affirmation than women, since they are less likely to receive praise and accolades from their co-workers and friends!
  • Day 3: Make the positive argument: Gretchen wrote that once you decide your position on a particular subject, you seek out evidence to support it. However, it’s just as easy to do this when you make the opposite position – you can argue both sides pretty easily. So, in my case, when I started thinking “He never does the dishes” – I would tell myself, “there are many times when P does the dishes” and would think of times when he DID do it.
  • Day 4: Under-react to a problem: I have a tendency to think that the world is ending as soon as something goes wrong. This challenge was not to minimize or ignore the problem, but to just not think that the sky was falling! By under-reacting, I felt more calm and so did everyone around me!

  • Day 5: Warm greetings & farewells: P and I always kiss goodbye and say I love you before we leave the house, but there are many times when neither one of us greets the other when we get home. For some reason, this one is a hard one for me!
  • Day 12: Don’t keep score: I think this probably happens in every relationship. You keep calculate – aka “I cleaned the litter box last time, so it’s your turn” or “you hung out with your friends last week, so now it’s MY turn.” Gretchen reminded me that when one loves, they don’t keep score – your relationship should balance out in the end (aka you shouldn’t be doing EVERYTHING!), and it’s much better to act out of love and generosity
  • Day 19: Beware of unconscious over-claiming: this one is really important for me to remember. It’s pretty easy for me to overestimate my contribution to our house and relationship. That’s because it’s also easy to remember all the tasks that I’ve done and forget the ones that P does! Along with this goes Day 15: Consider the facts about shared work  – the work that others do sounds easy in comparison to yours (because you didn’t do it!) and you assume that others will grateful that you did something, when in all honesty, they probably don’t care about it as much as you do!
  • I also liked Kiss AM & PM and plan a nice surprise – but both of those are self-explanatory and kind of obvious as well.


Some of the ones I felt were kinda pointless/silly? Jump (provides a quick jolt of energy and gives you a goofy feeling), embrace good smells, quit nagging (duh), threshold ritual (reflecting on your home and family every time you leave or enter the house), and get enough sleep (again, duh).

Day 21 is to practice all of the resolutions for a week, so in theory, I’m still working on the challenge. Overall, I’m glad that I did it – and I definitely got some good reminders. I have to say that I looked forward to my daily email, and enjoyed reading the “why” behind every daily challenge. However, I’m not so sure that this impacted my relationship in any HUGE manner.


I’ll leave you with my most favorite quote from Rubin, “The days are long, but the years are short” So true. I’m coming to realize that more and more as I get older (which makes me feel old in itself!) – how is it the end of September already?!?

Happy Hump day friends – headed toward the downward slide into the weekend – just keep moving forward!

Answer me this: Did any of the challenges resonate with you? What little things do you do to strengthen your relationships? Have you read The Happiness Project?

~ Brittany xo

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