Recently, my car broke down in the parking lot of the building where I do couples counseling in Sandy, UT. The next day was a Saturday and I brought my son with me as I tried to determine what was wrong with the car. After unsuccessfully trying to jump start the car, I determined that the battery might be bad since it was getting old. After installing a new battery the car still would not start. As I was getting out of the car from trying to start it, my son said, “Get back in and try again. I just turned something and maybe it will work now.” I asked him what he had turned and he pointed to the dipstick for the oil. I taught him what it was and explained why turning it would not make any difference in the car starting. In my son’s innocence, he was trying to be proactive and do something that, in his mind, might help the car to start.

Are you falling into the same innocent trap in your couple relationship? Are you doing things that you think are going to improve the relationship, but are actually doing nothing. Do you say to yourself, “I’m trying to improve the relationship and my partner is doing nothing”? I encounter couples every day who believe that they are trying. They believe that if they keep doing the same thing over and over again that the relationship will somehow improve. Going back to my son, no matter how many times my son turned the dipstick around, the car never would have started.

Every day I try to help couples understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they will continue getting what they are getting. Couples need to try differently. For example, if you are doing the dishes everyday, hoping that it will improve your sex life, and your sex life is not improving, don’t increase the amount of dishes you are doing hoping something will change, try something different. If your reading self-help books about how to communicate better and nothing is getting better, try differently. If you couple relationship is not going well I encourage you to keep trying, but keep trying differently.