You picked the person, and called them “most special.” Now, reality has set in, and even though conceptually they are still the most special person in your day to day life, the two of you aren’t treating each other that way at all.
We were not taught the needed skills in order to maintain and deepen love and partnership and fix out marriage when needed.
As someone who survived a near-divorce experience, I’ve learned what keeps my marriage alive and thriving. I get to practice what I preach and I get to preach it widely with couples all over the world.
These are the 3 skills everyone seems to struggle with the most:
1) Making the marriage senior.
This skill means that (for the sake of the marriage!) I listen instead of talk, even if I think what I have to say is more important than what my husband is saying. Yes, even if I think I need the satisfaction of saying something mean … I don’t say it. Even if I think I’d like to sleep in, even if it’s not my turn to go get the baby, I go and get the baby so my husband can sleep.
And when I mess up on this skill, instead of defending myself (which would be making myself senior to the relationship), I apologize––in order to restore the love and connection in the relationship.
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2) Listen and Understand the Person’s Experience
First, the context: Listening is an act of deep respect and giving honor to your mate. You are giving them value. It is THE exchange rate. You actually picked your person so you could listen and be listened to better with them than anyone else.
How do you know you listened well? (Instead of preparing what you want to say?) If you were quizzed on everything they said … and you passed! Imagine you have to retell their story. That’s how you know you will listen.
Since it’s against human nature to be good at this, dedicate yourself to catching yourself when you’re not listening. You could easily go into your head. Instead, you can say what you’re hearing and ask a question that lets your mate know you have, and that you want to hear more. This is a great skill to build in times of peace, because you are really going to need it in a fight!
3) Divvying up the Work Intelligently
You can’t deny it: running a partnership or a family is a lot like running a business. Some of my worst fights with my husband were when we were both “on duty” with the kids and each of us was wishing the other one was in charge, both of us resentfully half-assing it. We finally figured out we could consciously split up the responsibilities and became friends and partners again. I’d take the morning and he’d take the afternoon. Finally we knew when we were in charge and could design it. Plus, we each had time to ourselves, which is so important for sanity! To boot, we figured out I had to be in charge of clothes shopping, the menu, and gift giving. He’d always be in charge of booking flights, car care, and paying bills. Phew. Again we could focus on doing well at the things we each were better at and cared more about.
No longer was I allowed to butt into how he was handling his things, and he couldn’t do that to me either. Sure, it took some practice, trust, and communication to fully relinquish things (so we used our listening skills,) but in the long run it was a huge relief and cut down on a ton of fights.
Unlike what Hollywood will tell you, falling in love doesn’t buy you everlasting happiness with a person. It just buys you fertile ground on which to grow and learn, if you choose to (hopefully with someone who is game to do the same with you!). Building these skills is the foundation and either person can go first. The other one will follow. You start.
For more coaching tips or to work on any area of your life that possibly needs a defibrillator, try our upcoming Design Your Life® Workshop held in partnership with Kripalu this September. You will learn how to dream, deal, and design a life you are wildly proud of.