Professionalize your relationship with regular, intentional meetings
Carol walked confidently to the kitchen counter, pulled open the drawer, and grabbed a BIG, BIG set of scissors. She turned quickly, held them up, opened them slowly, then slammed them shut with an aggressive snap, and in a deep baritone voice said (drum roll please), “Your lives… (relax, this is not a horror story), your lives and your relationship are just like these scissors, aren’t they?”
Two pair of eyes looked at her as if to say, “What have you been smoking?”
Carol is a genius with metaphors. She said, “Let me help you understand.”
Carol has funky scissors. They come apart at the pivot point. She pulled the two pieces apart and explained, “Each of you is like one of these. You are a knife. You may be sharp, strong, and very effective on your own.” She slowly put the pieces together and continued, “But, if you choose to work together, consciously aware of and leveraging your own strengths with the strengths of your partner, you can be exponentially stronger and more effective than either of you can be on your own – in ALL areas of life. And it can be a lot more fun than struggling on your own.”
And then her call to action, “What is your choice, now? Do you choose to be on your own, hacking aimlessly through life, hoping that your fairy godmother will wave her magic wand and grant you happiness and success? If so – great. Make the decision, set your partner free and go. Or, do you choose to work together lovingly, respectfully, and effectively, and consciously create the happiness and success you want and deserve?”
The couple were in our home for a Relationship Recharge Get-away, a 24-hour package including their accommodations, meals, and couples coaching. They were both highly intelligent executives of large corporations, making daily decisions involving hundreds of lives and mega-dollars. And yet, in their relationship they were ready to part ways, even though they loved each other. He agreed to coaching because he thought she needed help. And she agreed to participate because he needed to make big changes.
We see this regularly in our work with couples. And it always boils down to this: one or both people are feeling unsafe and without choice in their relationship. Their lives are full of must’s, should’s, have-to’s. They don’t see, think, or feel that they have options to create greater happiness and joy in their relationship. And at every turn there is another snag that proves it. In blunt terms, their relationship sucks.
So what do many people tend to do? They retreat into their professions, a socially accepted form of flight – a hiding place. It is one place where they are in control. They know their area of expertise and know what to do. They have had years of formal or informal training. And they may find purpose and satisfaction in their work.
Rather than investing time and energy enhancing their relationship at home, they spend more and more time away from the relationship, buying into their own B.S. excuses about work being #1, and they “have-to” do it. And since the relationship at home is stressful, they may find someone in their work-world who adds spark to their life. And infidelity (or the thought) may occur.
Do you know couples like this? Or does it kind-a, sort-a describe your life?
From an observer’s viewpoint, it’s psychotic, causing unnecessary mental and emotional pain and suffering, besides the catastrophic financial implications.
In a 2001 Psychological Science study, Diener and Seligman found ubiquitously across 17 nations studied, that marriage (defined as a close, nurturing, equitable, intimate, life-long partnership) is a more potent happiness factor than satisfaction with job, finances, or community.
So regardless of the condition of your relationship with your life-partner, why not make it the absolute best it can be NOW? Your happiness and satisfaction depend on it.
My challenge for you, should you choose to accept it, is to apply successful business principles to professionalise your relationship and give it purpose and structure. Here are some hints.
– Schedule a short meeting (5 or 10 minutes), with the sole purpose of scheduling a longer meeting. The longer meeting is to be together, to talk honestly and openly about your relationship. This may seem starchy, but the fact is: if you don’t schedule it; it’s not likely to happen, is it?
– At the short meeting, agree to a date, time, location, and time-frame for your longer communication meeting. Plan for at least 1 hour the first time. Mark it in your scheduling systems and totally commit to keep this agreement – it is critical to building trust. If you have young children, get a babysitter or choose a time when they are asleep.
– At the longer meeting, treat it as a business meeting, which means no TV, radio, computer, cell phone, blackberry, or any other distraction. Allow the technology to take voice messages, text messages, and store emails. Hang a sign on the door saying, “Meeting in Progress” to indicate that you are not available for outside visitors.
– Agree to a Code of Conduct – and write it down for future use. Examples could be: Celebrate successes often; Speak honestly and respectfully; Listen attentively; One person speaks at a time; No interruptions, arguing, angry outbursts; Get to the point; and any others that suit your needs.
– Create an agenda template. Suggested items: Celebrate last week’s successes (great things you are doing, but may take for granted); Coordinate work schedules for upcoming week(s); Personal activities (when, physical activities, reading, alone-time); Relationship enhancement activities (dates, reading to each other, walks, meals, sex – yes it may help to schedule it); Roles and responsibilities around home (meals, shopping, child-care, cleaning, maintenance); Social activities (family commitments, holidays, entertainment). Add agenda items that are important to you both.
– Take turns sharing your thoughts, perspectives, and feelings for each agenda item. When you speak – speak accountably about your own experiences and feelings, rather than blaming. Speak in a way you would like to be spoken to. When it is your turn to listen – LISTEN to understand.
– Agree to the next meeting date, time, location, and time-frame. Example: our meetings are at home on Sunday from 10am – noon, unless renegotiated. Choose what works for you, and use your agenda at every meeting.
– End the meeting on-time by celebrating. Acknowledge yourself and your partner for your commitment – hugs and kisses work well, however, choose what works for you.
If you choose to hold regular relationship meetings, you will feel trusted and trustworthy, respected and respectable, valued and valuable, honest and honourable, appreciated and accepted. Those emotions describe love. Isn’t that what your relationship is all about?
It boils down to this: In your relationship with your life-partner, would you like to be precision tools of strength, and effectiveness? Or be victims of the horror story I compose about Carol and her BIG scissors?