Set for Relationship Success

Today we’re talking about relationship success. While there are always factors that can’t be anticipated, and people do change, I believe that there are some things you can do to help your relationship be more successful than most. Here are 6 things you should consider to give your relationship a good chance at success.

Attention: does your partner get your undivided attention at least once every day or are you frequently doing more than one thing at a time while talking or being with them?

Actions: how do you behave towards them? What do the actions you take on their behalf, towards them or because of them say about you and your relationship with them?

Attitude: do you dismiss them and their feelings? Have you grown to resent them or their place in your life? Do you treat them as a burden or distraction?

Care: do you show them how you feel about them and how important they are to you? Do you make a point of doing special things for them? Do you sometimes put their needs ahead of your own?

Communication: how often do you two talk? Do you share the things that go on in your day and listen to them share about their day? Do you take minutes here and there to just text them that you love them?

Consistency: relationships aren’t made or broken in one day or one event, are you consistnetly showing your partner that you are their partner, or consistently showing them you’re not invested in the relationship?

I encourage you to take time to consider your relationship this week and take the necessary steps to evaluate and improve your relationship so that it’s fulfilling for both you and your partner and has the best chance at lasting success.

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Safe At Work

This past week we’ve been hearing lots of stories from women about the unwanted attention in work situations. Of course, there’s the bullying that goes on in schools and with young people around the world, and the unwanted attention or violent actions women (and some men) face outside of the workplace as well, including too many domestic violence situations, and I talked about that on my other blog today. According to Facebook, over “45% of the people in the United States are friends with someone who’s posted a message with the words ‘Me too'”, and that’s just the people who are willing to talk about it! So this is a serious situation that really needs to be addressed, and here today I want to talk about the importance of making the workplace as safe for everyone as possible.

Work safety starts with the boss and management. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about bosses that spend time screaming, yelling, berating, ignoring and fighting with their employees, not to mention the employees who are just unappreciated by their boss(es). If you want your people to feel safe working for you, you need to be the best leader and human possible. You need to remember that we’re all human and mess up on occasion, give them the education and tools they need to do their jobs, and let them know you appreciate them doing their jobs.

Second, there needs to be an amount of respect between all of you. They may not have your title or your education or your finances, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless or worth less than you are as a human being. They may be replaceable, but at what cost? If you treat them like trash there’s a high likelihood that they’re not going to say anything positive about your company, and some may even go so far as to tell their friends and family or even companies they work for in the future never to buy from you (who may pass on the word to others not to buy from you).

Finally, while it doesn’t have to be something you shout to the world, as a business you should have a plan and resources that your employees can tap into if they face unwanted attention or violence through work or their personal lives. This isn’t about having the required sexual harassment seminars that people joke about afterwards or a file at the back of a file box from the first day the company opened however many years ago. This is about genuinely offering support that people need as well as letting all your employees know that violence and unwanted attention aren’t going to be allowed. In some cases you can work with offenders if they’re willing to honestly get help for their issues and commit to acting differently in the future, but no one should feel unsafe going to work. You can share resources through a page on your website that employees have the link and password for or an email you send out on a regular basis depending on the turnover in your company (but at least yearly). If you really want to stand up as a company in the community you can offer career training and support at local shelters and donate to domestic violence organizations and other organizations that fight or raise awareness about these situations.

The fact is there’s a larger majority of people who have a job than have a significant other. Work is something that most people do on a daily basis, so the workplace should be the place that people feel most comfortable and are safest. So as businesses we need to step up in a big way to show that unwanted attention isn’t OK and that women (and men) everywhere have the right to come to work without being harassed or mistreated. I encourage you to take a good look at your business before the end of the month and make sure that you’re making your workplace the best it can be for your employees.

A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar

Relationship Investing

Every so often I think about the topic of investing. One of the things that all financial professionals tell you is that you should have some type of investment strategy for your finances for both the present and the future. There are tons of different strategies you can tap into to do that investing, and what some people prefer you may not, and that’s OK. But today what I want to talk about is the concept of relationship investing, not financial investing. The best way to keep a relationship healthy and make it last is by investing in it consistently. Consistency is one of the things I stress with all of my clients, and one of the things that most people and companies struggle with.

When couples don’t make time for each other, when they don’t talk, when they don’t spend time alone, and when they aren’t intentional about keeping their relationship healthy, the chance that their relationship will fall apart increases significantly. Yes, sometimes people change and even if they’re doing everything “right” as a couple the relationship still falls apart because of those changes. But even then if you’re really committed you may learn to work with each others changes and see it as a natural progression of life and your relationship.

So the question is are you committed to your relationship or not committed to it? This is about more than just loving a person or believing that they’re an incredible parent, because I know many people who are “in love” that never work out and tons of people make great parents, especially when they’re not together. If you’re committed to your relationship, just like if you’re committed to your job or your future, you’re doing things that help you build and contribute in that area. Sitting in bed and one of you watches TV and the other snores isn’t relationship investing, a passing kiss while trading kids to take to events isn’t investing, and calling the annual holiday company party a date (your only one all year) isn’t investing. Those moments can be special and can be part of your relationship, but they aren’t really investing. Investing is taking time to really sit down and talk about your days, it’s talking about the finances and schedules together, it’s going on a date just the 2 of you at least every 2 weeks, it’s sharing about things that scare you and things that are changing, and it’s supporting each other through those changes and the other challenges in your lives by being there for each other in a myriad of ways.

This week I encourage you to work on really investing in your partner and in your relationship. Being proactive about that investment can make your relationship in 5 or 10 years (and many years after that) look like it did when you first met and were so in love.

Challenges, Conflicts and Relationships

All relationships include challenges and conflicts: any time you’ve got more than one person involved in something there’s an increased likelihood that there will be an issue of one kind or another. Challenges can make you stronger, both individually and as a couple, it’s good to work through them and to have a second perspective on things, otherwise the world would still be flat. But I know you’re thinking about all the times that challenges have hurt you or your relationship, and that’s very true, they can hurt you. Conflicts and challenges kill you and your relationship when that’s all there is, when both of you are trying to “be the boss,” or when the conflicts or challenges are intentionally stirred up or encouraged and not approached by both of you with the intention of resolving them.

Sometimes relationships can be very painful, even if they’re really good ones. However, you can do some serious damage, permanent damage, to a relationship, even a good one, if you let the problems and the pain stick around. In a healthy, happy relationship conflicts and challenges shouldn’t be used as tools to divide you, to get the kids on someone’s side, or to hurt the other person. But things don’t have to stay in conflict, it’s up to you, both of you, to choose to be done with the conflict and move on after you’ve discussed it and resolution or next steps.

Challenges and conflicts can cause some temporary hurt or discomfort, which will require conversation and healing time, and that’s part of the human and relational experience. And the longer you’re with someone the more likely that you’ll do something to hurt them, even if it’s accidental. If you’re in conflict all the time though I think you need to reevaluate your relationship. Some conflict is normal, conflict all the time is not healthy. I encourage you to talk with your partner this week about how you can do better with your conflict resolution and have a healthier and happier relationship.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” Wayne Dyer

Getting Past Anger and Conflicts

Every relationship has challenges, whether we’re talking romantic relationships (aka partnerships) or that of a relationship between parent and child or even the types of relationships between friends or between boss and coworker.  One of the greatest obstacles that a person has to overcome in a relationship is the challenge of conflict and choice to respond in anger, or to just give up because you’re afraid of conflict. Today’s Dr. Wayne Dyer inspiration is a simple but powerful one:

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.”

It can be so tempting to just let things get worse and worse.  It’s almost too easy to hang onto our anger and the feelings of frustration, rage and irritation that fill us when we’re angry.  Most of us don’t have the gift of holding onto laughter.  We get looked at as not taking life seriously if we’re laughing all the time. Sometimes we laugh so we don’t feel the pain or to avoid our responsibilities, but all too often we don’t laugh enough, or at the very least we’re not happy.

Many of the kids TV shows and movies, both past and present, do a good job of showing both the happy and the challenging.  There’s usually an obstacle or two to overcome, but there’s a lot of fun to be had too.  Somehow that’s one of the things we seem to forget as we get older: that life can be fun and isn’t just about the responsibilities (but the responsibilities can’t be forgotten either).

But back to anger: I believe too many of us let anger rule our lives.  We let it get in there and it sticks.  So this weekend and coming week I challenge you to take notice when your anger starts to rev up and take a step or two back instead of letting it take over.  Ask for a moment, take a physical step away, or finally take action on what you’ve let stew for a long time so that you can get to truly living and enjoying life.

The Blame Game

Do you know one of the most “popular” topics for couples, and families too? Blame. From saying that the dog ate the homework, to the kids spilled cereal (and milk) on the contract, to the relationship failing because your partner never took out the trash, we’re pretty quick to point fingers and try to get to the bottom of who is to blame.

First, let me say that it is important that responsibility is taken/given for things that happen or don’t happen. It’s important to be honest about what you’re seeing and what happens. However, it’s almost never the case that the blame rests solely on one person (or dog). It’s almost always the case that there are multiple factors, and multiple people to blame. Which means that as much as you can (and should) point fingers, you’ve really got to take stock of who else could be responsible in the matter as well, including yourself.

The key to the blame game (and its resolution), isn’t anything really revolutionary, it’s something that I’ve said repeatedly and is one of the biggest keys to a successful relationship: communication. Yes, pointing fingers will happen even in the best families and relationships, but the conversation needs to be more than you yelling at them for doing something or not doing something and vice versa. The conversation needs to discuss the issues you’ve got, why things weren’t done or were done, and what is going to happen or change moving forward to help avoid this in the future. These types of civil discussions don’t happen often enough in relationships and families, and as a result big divides are created between people.

Of course the blame and the conversations only go so far: without a willingness to change on all parties’ part and action taken as decided in the conversation, there’s not much point to having the conversation or even having the blame (and subsequent fight) in the first place. If the partner who is most to blame isn’t willing to do things differently in the future or doesn’t see their error, you’ve got a choice to leave, to make changes in your life, or you have to decide it’s not as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be. When it comes to family blame situations, you either have to take control as the parent, or get another party involved who can help straighten things out and be the leader your kids need.

There’s no shame in admitting that you need help, that you and your partner need help or that your family needs help. The only shame you should feel is if you choose to not get someone the help they need.

Free to Just Be

Today I want to encourage you to stop and just be. Stop signing your kids up for every program under the sun, stop trying to get so much done each day that you’re completely exhausted by the time you get home and have zero energy for your kids or partner, stop wandering aimlessly in your life, stop rushing period. You, your kids and your partner all need downtime more than they need another commitment, regardless of whether you or they are an introvert or extrovert.

I get that there are important things in your life that need to be done to live or things you’ve already committed to that need to be followed through on, but there comes a time when you really just have to put your foot down and say that you’ve had enough. Hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to do that before you work yourself into an early grave or isolate you from all the people you love, or burn yourself out so badly that you have to take significant time off to even function again.

I believe it’s important to fill your life with things you love and to make time for the responsibilities you need to see to as a significant other, parent, sibling, son/daughter, worker and community member. It’s good to be involved and do things and enjoy the life you have and people you love. But it’s also important to take time to relax, to reflect, to be thankful and to just be. We aren’t designed to go 24/7, we’re meant to sleep and meditate and eat to enjoy and listen.

There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking a day off (including a mental health day), or admitting that you’re struggling, or taking a break to refocus. If you’re able to take that break with your kids or partner, great. Sometimes those moments when you’re just being quiet together can be the best part of your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Will you make time for down time this week?

Worth the Effort

Last month we spent a lot of time talking about relationships and this month we’re going to be talking in part about freedom, so I wanted to start the month off by talking about a topic that’s often an important aspect of both of them: effort. Yes, there are some relationships that seem effortless or don’t require a lot of effort for you to keep them going, and sometimes freedom is freely given without any real requirements or involvement on your part. But for most of us if we want our relationships to last and be fulfilling we have to put in some effort, and the amount of effort we put in often speaks to how successful those relationships will be. Also with freedom, more often than not if we’re looking to be free of something or be free to do something we have to actively pursue that goal.

I know some people get worried or overwhelmed when they hear that work is involved in something, but if you’re really serious about making that relationship work or finding that freedom there should be a fire or drive or passion in you about it. If there isn’t you’re not likely to give decent effort towards that goal, and it should be a big red flag for you about getting more involved in that relationship or freedom goal. Yes, sometimes if you give something some effort you’ll discover or rediscover the passion or interest you’ve lost or didn’t have, but usually there has to be some interest there to begin with, it isn’t created in the process.

The thing is, I think you, your life and your relationships are worth the effort. I believe each of us can and should have a life we’re proud of, one that includes relationships with people who support and love us, and freedoms to be who we are and do what we’re passionate about. You may not have accepted that you’re worth the effort and there are people around the world who believe that as well, but it’s the truth. Sure, some people will try to drag you down, but that’s often more about them and not about you.

This upcoming week I encourage you, even though it’s summer and you may be slowing things down in your life, to put a little effort into the things that matter most to you, or the things you want more of in your life. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but choosing to put a little more effort in can make a big difference, and give you a glimpse into what it would be like if you chose to put a lot more effort into it.  You may choose to communicate more often and more completely with your partner, you may choose to do more research before making a decision than you usually do, you may choose to finally ask for the help that you’ve been too ashamed to ask for, or you may choose to dedicate time every day to making your life healthier and happier.  What will a little effort do for you?

A Little Relationship Advice

When you’re asking for advice about a relationship topic, just about everyone else has something to say. Everyone’s been through at least one relationship and everyone’s had at least one good one and one bad one, whether we’re talking about family relationships or romantic relationships. If you’ve had the unfortunate experience to not have great relationships, getting advice from others is a good idea. If you’ve had a bunch of great relationships it’s still not a bad idea to get advice from others or talk with them about how they work through the issues in their relationships. Why? Because everyone is different and they handle problems differently, so even if you’ve dealt with a specific problem before dealing with it with someone else will go differently. As well, situations change and life sometimes works differently and there are different other factors in play, so the way you’ve handled a situation in the past may not be able to be handled in the same way in the future, even if we’re talking about the same 2 people dealing with it.

Of course, just because you ask for or receive advice it doesn’t mean you have to apply it to your life, or apply all of it. And the lesson you learn from it may be a different lesson than they learned, or you may be able to apply it in a different way. I think a big part of the advice concept is the sharing of experiences and lessons. It’s not (just) about sharing how smart you are but about going through this journey called life together. Maybe they need to share the lesson more than you need to learn the lesson.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and someone will randomly share an experience with you, but other times you have to admit that you’re feeling lost and ask for help. It can be hard to ask for help, but that’s a big part of what relationships are here for. Relationships really exist to improve our lives, to challenge us at times, yes, but ultimately we should be better for the relationships we’ve had. Yes, there are always a few bad eggs, but that’s life, and it’s up to us to get out of those relationships before too much damage occurs.

So the next time someone offers some advice I encourage you to listen to it, and this week I encourage you to reach out to someone else and ask them for advice. You can ease into it with something small, but choose to get out there and build those relationships and learn from the people in your life.