Effective Journaling

Some people are very good at keeping journals and can easily do this task, while others feel burdened by, or uncomfortable with, the idea of keeping a journal. For some people it might be the time commitment and for others it might be a privacy issue. With regard to the privacy issue, I have provided a password-protected place for you to keep your journal. All you need to do is create your profile and start journaling. For those who are concerned with the time commitment I suggest that you start with a realistic goal. This could mean that you are writing in your journal once a week. Ideally, you would pick the same day each week and schedule it into your routine on that day.


When you become comfortable with journaling once a week you can try to increase it to twice a week. If the writing makes you feel self-conscious then think about using a style of writing that will make it easier for you to complete this task. On page 122-23 in The Critical Partner I offer an alternative style for journal entries that may appeal to some of you.


Here is the excerpt from my book:


Olivia is passionate about keeping a journal. She has been writing in a journal since she was twelve years old.  It is second nature to her. Here is an excerpt from her journal:


David and I had date night tonight. I had hoped that we could have a pleasant evening, and I was prepared to avoid any topics that might be upsetting to him and result in another conflict-filled night for us. When I came downstairs, David said, “Why do you always wear your skirts so short? You look like you’re going out with the intention of picking up guys at bars.” My usual response would have been sarcastic and cutting: “Maybe I should be going out to pick up men at bars instead of going out with my husband, who doesn’t appreciate me.” But I paused and said, “Let me go change into another outfit.”

I hate the way that he criticizes my clothing choices because it really hurts my feelings, but when I objectively consider the core of his comment, I feel that he is telling me something that I need to pay attention to as I approach my fortieth birthday. I have been wearing the same short skirts since I was in my twenties. I probably need to adjust my wardrobe choices so that they are more age appropriate. I’m still not happy with the way that David speaks to me, but I really wanted to have a fun dinner out with him. His attitude toward me became more positive when I came downstairs in a nice pair of pants. I felt pleased with myself that I de-escalated a conflict between the two of us. Our dinner was more enjoyable than usual, although not without some of our typical tense interactions. Our night ended in bed with lovemaking for the first time in two weeks, so all in all, it was a great night!

That was easy for Olivia to write in her journal. If you are someone who finds this process challenging, here is Olivia’s journal entry in more of a point-by-point format:


• Date night with David tonight.

Hurtful criticism about my clothing choice again—skirt too short.

I did not react negatively back to him.

Changed out of my skirt and into pants.

Need to reevaluate my wardrobe as I near my fortieth birthday.

Some tense moments at dinner but mostly positive.

Ended with sex for the first time in two weeks! Great night!


This alternative format requires less time and still highlights the key points of the interaction between Olivia and her husband. Both styles are easy to refer back to when you need the reassurance that you are making progress in your interactions with your partner.


Create an online journal and get the benefits of tracking your behavioral changes using the techniques learned from Love Me Don't Leave Me, The Critical Partner, ACT for Interpersonal Problems, and The Interpersonal Problems Workbook.