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.
CLUE #2: HONOR RIGHTS
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.
CLUE #3: ADMIT & MODEL
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.
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 www.parentalliance.com and receive her “5 Quick Tips to Connect” as a thank you.