by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Kids, Parenting

Can’t get no satisfaction in your relationship? Individual & Relationship Coach, Rhona Berens, PhD, CPCC, is a Parent Advocate dedicated to parents’ well being. Rhona’s insights on nurturing a strong, happy & healthy relationship first, which makes for a better parent, resonates with me.  I recently asked her for her “3 Clues” that we need to employ, and as you’ll see, I took her advice for a spin!                      -Angela


Coming up with 3 Clues to Parents’ Daily Relationship Satisfaction is like coming up with 3 healthy foods that every kid will eat. But, since I believe good things come in 3’s, here’s my take on 3 tips to enhance relationship (& personal) fulfillment:

Clue #1: FOLLOW THE 10% RULE

When we try to remedy a problem—like not feeling as close as we used to or want to—we often look for a big solution: e.g., a no-kids vacation; do-or-die weekly dates. What happens? We get overwhelmed by the planning or disappointed when our major efforts don’t cause a major shift in our relationship.

Instead of giving your all, come up with 1 or 2 easier options that take just 10% effort. Why?

(i) When time & energy are at a premium, 10% is about all we can spare

(ii) Because 10% is doable, so is our follow-through and

(iii) If 10% effort helps us connect a little, we might try 10% again. String a few together and we’ve got 100% improvement in how close we feel.

AS:   We can do 10%!  To me, this was like telling myself just work out for 20min…. & then that always turns into a few more minutes, which leads to a few more days.   Our 10%: dinner & drinks just us at the dining table after the kids went to bed.  So nice, like a date…but 10% of the effort. 


Nope, not civil or legal ones, the “I’m as right as you are” kind. It’s human nature to think our perspective & way of doing things (laundry, supervising homework, fill-in-the-blank), is the right way. Yet, in relationships there’s no one right way to do things. If you replace proving you’re right with appreciation for each other’s differences, you enhance mutual respect & closeness.

Still feeling bugged by your spouse’s approach? Nix the criticizing & get genuinely curious: What inspired you to do it like that? What’s important to you about this issue? In other words, stop instructing and start asking questions that enhance understanding (which isn’t the same as agreeing).

AS:   Why is it so hard to do this with a spouse?  It makes so much sense to talk like this with my girls or to write such an approach into my scripts.  But with each other, it comes out as “Why, on Earth can’t you put the dishes in the dishwasher vs the sink?”  So I tried, “Tell me what’s going on here?” & you know what I found out?  This is multi tasking.  Dishes in sink.  Help girls with homework.  Come back & put them in dishwasher.  I felt like a heel.  But an understanding one. 



Our lives are so busy and our plates so full, that parents—especially moms—are multitasking experts who, often, feel guilty about doing things that aren’t kid-focused (in truth, what we feel is shame, but that’s another matter). While guilt’s hard to avoid, it wreaks havoc on relationships & self-care. Instead of letting guilt stop you from spending quality-time with your spouse (or yourself), admit its power.

Instead of complaining about how you can’t do it all, tell your mate what you’d be doing with him (or her) if guilt weren’t a factor. Then, consider this: Research shows that happy parents (with themselves & each other) raise happy kids. So reread Clue #1 and start modeling relationship satisfaction so your kids will know what a great one looks like & how to create it themselves one day. If you don’t teach them, who will?

AS:   Okay, so at night I make my mental lists of all the things I’m supposed to do, forgot to do, feel bad/guilty about what I didn’t do.  Instead, I said them out loud to Greg.  Magic happened.  He took some off my plate, commiserated with me about some & added his own to make me feel better…showcasing a happy, healthy relationship bc at the end of the day that is exactly what we want for our girls, above all else. 

Thanks, Rhona!

With more than 20 years’ experience as an educator and professional mentor, Rhona Berens is a dynamic speaker and inspiring Individual & Relationship Coach. Sign up for Rhona’s free blog-posts at and receive her “5 Quick Tips to Connect” as a thank you.


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  1. avatar Faith Golden says:

    Great and very helpful advice to couples who are parenting in this stressful world. Most are trying to be super-parents, perfect mates, and the best at their jobs. It’s impossible to be the best at everything without something falling apart, and the couple relationship is usually the first thing to fall apart.
    Thanks for your common sense advice.

  2. avatar Rhona Berens says:

    Angela and Greg, I just wanted to take a moment not only to thank you for taking my “3 Clues to Relationship Satisfaction” for a spin, but for sharing your insights on what you discovered in the process. So often, we believe that shifting our relationships, changing our perceptions, improving our experience of life, parenting in particular, demands great effort. Unfortunately, that belief stops many of us in our tracks, which means it stops us from discovering that, often, shifts result from a little effort (10%) and from asking ourselves and each other some simple, yet powerful questions. Thank you both for taking the time to inquire and for trying out the 10% rule. I’m hopeful you’ll continue to take these tools for a spin!

  3. avatar Justina Wong says:

    “Our lives are so busy and our plates so full, that parents—especially moms—are multitasking experts who, often, feel guilty about doing things that aren’t kid-focused (in truth, what we feel is shame, but that’s another matter).”

    Hi Angela!
    It would be so great if you could share more about that “other matter” some day because this line really resonated with me and got me thinking. Even though I am not married, I still feel like my gender is so intricately tied to marriage – that society’s attitude toward the institution are already shaping my experiences and identity (heck, the other day a guy friend laughed at me for saying I can’t cook and told me he’d never marry someone who says that). Honestly, the idea of a “motherhood mandate” frightens me, and now that I know the repercussions of it (i.e. Shame) it seems even scarier. So it is really encouraging for me to see examples of women who acknowledge the challenge and do an amazing job wrestling with it, thanks. 🙂


    • avatar Rhona Berens says:

      Hi Justina,

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights on the impact of shame on women, whether married or not, moms or not. A wonderful resource on this topic is the work of Brene Brown, especially her book: I Thought It Was Just Me But It Isn’t. In it, Brown really explains what shame is (especially for women), its impact on our lives, and some tools to begin to lessen its effect. Again, thanks so much for sharing!