We are living in an era of relationship neglect.
Particularly in the entrepreneurial community, where business can often come before everything, relationship problems are often not caught until it’s too late, or extremely hard to repair.
Yet a strong romantic relationship is fundamental on so many levels in our lives.
Happily married couples who stay together over the long-term are happier, healthier, live longer, and enjoy better sex lives. Healthy relationships literally change the way our brains respond to fear and pain, literally making our brains more resilient to some of life’s harsh realities.
Even back in 1939, the great Napoleon Hill, in his renowned book, Think and Grow Rich, noted the importance of love in a man’s life to be successful. Of all the high achieving and revolutionizing men he interviewed, “there was the influence of a woman’s love back of NEARLY EVERY ONE OF THEM.”
Love strengthens us to our core – and gives us the foundation to be strong in business and in life in general.
But sadly, relationships needlessly go down the tubes every day.
One of the first signs that you may notice if you’ve been neglecting your relationship is a sense of mediocrity. Many people don’t like to acknowledge the fact that their relationship is mediocre, and continue a parallel existence with their partners that is neither exciting nor fulfilling.
If you’re not in dire straits with your relationship, but feel like something could be missing, read on. Unless you do something about this mediocrity, your relationship may be heading down an ugly path of disconnect and struggle.
Fortunately, I’m sharing 5 steps to lift your relationship out of mediocrity
Specifically, we’ll be discussing how you need to stop sweeping your issues under the rug, schedule and automate time to connect, be honest with yourself about what you need from your relationship, appreciate each other more, and have a different conversation. Let’s look at each of these steps.
1. Stop sweeping the issue under the rug: Make an effort together
Have an honest conversation with your partner. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably value your relationship and want it to be your best. Let your partner know that. Let your partner know how important the relationship is to you and how you want to make things better. Let him know how important he is to you. We all need to hear that.
Be careful not to be accusative – this conversation is probably going to be alarming enough to your partner if it’s something the two of you generally don’t talk much about. Take a stand for each other, and ask if you can try to improve things together. Just getting this conversation started can go a long way in helping your relationship go from mediocre to more connected and valuable.
2. Schedule and automate time to connect
Once you have this conversation, all might feel well and good, but unless you change things up in your life, you’ll go back to the same old mediocrity. Make room for your relationship in your life. Business owners are really good at neglecting themselves while they grow their businesses, and as a result, their relationships get dismissed in the process. This is good for no one and is bad business as well.
An unhealthy relationship is bad business!
The solution – as rigorous and stale as it sounds – is to schedule time to connect with your partner, and automate it. Just as if you had a weekly team meeting with your associates, schedule chunks of time to just be with your partner and make sure it happens. Otherwise, your relationship will be one of the first things to go.
3. Be honest with yourself – and know that what you need isn’t too much
We live in a culture in which people are told they are too needy and dependent on each other all the time. Women would rather be anything than “too needy” in a relationship, and wind up squelching their own needs as a result. Then guess what happens? Her needs aren’t met, resentment builds, her partner has no idea what to do to make her happy, and an escalating storm of embittered disconnect takes over the relationship.
The truth that is being revealed more and more in the fields of psychology and interpersonal neurobiology is that we actually do need each other. More than we care to admit. And we are dependent upon each other.
This is especially true in romantic relationships, on which the pressure of the emotional connection that was once scattered among countless bonds in our tribal ancestry often falls upon a single partnership.
Stakes are high to get relationships right.
But the only way to do this is to be honest with yourself. Whatever you need is legitimate, for one reason or another, if you’re truly honest and vulnerable about your needs. And it’s okay to be clear, open and honest with your partner about that. If you’re partner can’t meet those needs, or doesn’t know how to, you can work on your relationship. If after some work on the relationship, your partner refuses to try or is clearly unable to meet your needs, you may wish to rethink that relationship. But either way – it’s not too much to ask to get your needs met.
This can be a tricky issue for many people whose needs never have been met, because it can feel like a thirst that’s impossible to quench. If you and your partner are willing to do the work on yourselves and with each other, those needs can get met. You have to first be honest about them.
4. Appreciate each other
No excuses here. I don’t care if you’ve never gotten a compliment in your life, it’s time to start building those appreciation muscles and learn how to dish compliments and appreciation out. It can feel extremely uncomfortable if this is something new for you, but your partner needs to hear it. Dr. John Gottman found the “magic ratio” of positive to negative interactions among happy couples to be 5:1. That means it takes five times as many positive interactions to counteract one negative one. To be honest with you, after working with countless couples over the years, I’m surprised that ratio isn’t even higher.
In a sea of compliments, the criticism is what typically stands out. So keep the sea full of compliments and appreciation to buffer your relationship against the inevitable negative interactions that are part of any partnership.
Remember, your partner isn’t a mind reader and even though it may be so obvious to you that you care so deeply about your beloved or were thinking about them, reminders and acknowledgements of those already occurring positive feelings will always enhance a relationship.
5. Have a different conversation
This can be difficult if the conversation that you are having is so deeply rooted in how you interact with each other. We all have behavioral tendencies when the going gets tough in our relationships – some of us pull away and avoid; others might push forth and antagonize. Often, partners have complementary tendencies that only exacerbate the other’s moves. John, for example, pulls away and withdraws when he feels a disconnect from Jane, and Jane nags and prods, trying to get a response out of him.
If this is your typical conversation, it can be hard to undo that pattern, but it is possible and countless couples have been able to. Try to take a step back from the conversation, zoom out, and ask yourselves how you can do this better. Understand that John isn’t avoiding Jane because he doesn’t care about her, but because he doesn’t know what to do. And Jane isn’t so focused on how John is always coming up short, as he may fear, but how she is feeling unheard, unseen or uncared for in the relationship.
Perhaps each of you have a story in your head that is reflective of your nightmare scenario – that your partner just doesn’t care or thinks that you are inadequate – when in reality, there is a much different story to be shared, and a much different conversation to be had.
Countless couples have learned to have a different conversation and have taken their relationship way out of mediocrity, and established a rich, satisfying and deep connection.
And even if this comes difficult for the two of you to accomplish on your own, expert guidance and support is available to you. I’d be honored to speak one on one with you to discuss how coaching with me might help you and your partner get your relationship to where it needs to be. Just click the heart at the bottom of the screen to set up a discovery session. If the time I have available doesn’t work, send an email to me: firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll make sure to schedule something that works.
Cheers to thriving in business and love,
Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work. Three Rivers Press: New York.
Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Little, Brown & Company: New York.