Have you heard the saying, “The Cobblers kids have no shoes?” This expression points out how the experts will give and provide for their customers, but they and their family get neglected. I have a friend who’s a general contractor and he’s shared that he has several unfinished projects around his home. It’s the last thing he wants to do in his off time after working on homes for a living.
Unfortunately, this saying hit very close to home as it happened to Marty and me as well. We advise our clients to go to therapy when things are good because if you wait until things are sideways, it’s probably too late. We also encourage couples to do a monthly check in. Grab a cup of coffee, sit on the patio, and ask each other the following questions:
How do you feel about us right now? What leftover issues need discussion or clarification? How can I make you feel more loved this month? Marty and I stopped doing this for 2 years. Yes, I said 2 years. How did that happen? It’s easy for your life to get off center when you’re not paying attention.
During this time, Covid arrived, and we lost our largest client just as we were preparing for their launch. Our oldest son moved home from college and our youngest was with us 24/7 as everyone was working and going to school at home. We went from having the house to ourselves every other week to being “together” day and night. As with many people, this added a huge amount of stress to our relationship, but we didn’t heed our own advice by seeking counseling. Like many of you, we thought this would quickly pass and our lives would return to “normal”.
So, what happened in our relationship? We took a time out and separated to provide time and space to ponder and reflect. We considered consciously uncoupling and what that would look like.
During this time, we discovered that we really do love each other and have an amazing relationship. Instead of looking at what was wrong, we reflected on all that we have in common and love about our relationship. Sometimes taking a step back to survey a situation provides great context and insight.
We knew if we came back together and tweaked things a bit, we could create a truly stellar relationship. So, we rolled up our sleeves and got busy. We listened to audio books and read books on relationships. We went to therapy once a week, both individually and together. We got clear on what went wrong. We both took responsibility for our respective parts in the demise of our relationship.
It was a painful and emotional time for us both. There were tears, sadness, and anger. Most importantly, we re-committed to our unique and one-of-a-kind relationship. We took a stance that our prior relationship was over, and we started brand new. We’ve had deeper conversations in the last month than we had in the entire past year. We’ve both been vulnerable in sharing how we felt, even if we knew it may hurt the other’s feelings. We were brutally honest and spoke our truth. We were authentic in ways that we’d never been in our relationship before.
The interesting thing about being vulnerable is that while uncomfortable it also has remarkable freedom. To share your inner most thoughts and feelings authentically feels like you’ve been carrying around a backpack of bricks and you’re finally able to release them. Hearing your partner share completely their true feelings while initially can be painful, sometimes it’s also liberating. To know they are being true to them is a powerful elixir for deeper connection and love.
When my oldest son Ethan was about 10 years old, my mom asked him to stay with him over Christmas. He told me he felt torn that he really wanted to go with Grandmas but didn’t know if he should. I asked him what was holding him back? He said, “I don’t want to hurt you or dad’s feelings if I go with Grandma.” I asked him what he truly desired to do and he said that he wanted to go with Grandma. I told him I would miss him, and it would be strange not being with him on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but that he shouldn’t make decisions based on what other people think or feel. He should always be true to himself. I would feel worse knowing that he chose to stay home when he really wanted to be with his Grandma.
My mom died a few years later and I’m so happy they had that extra couple of days together. We all want our partners to be true to themselves. We should feel honored to be with the love of our lives and not feel obligated. Would you want someone to stay in relationship with you out of obligation? Of course not.
No matter where you are in your relationship, there is always an opportunity to identify improvement to rekindle and recommit to the relationship. It’s imperative to take a step back and evaluate where you honestly are with each other.
For us, we are committed to never missing a monthly check-in ever again. We’re also looking forward to quarterly check-ins as a couple with our therapist, even when things are going well. We’re also committed to making sure we’re actually “hearing” each other by having clarifying conversations to ensure we’re dialed in with our communication. Most of us are familiar with annual reviews and mid-year check-ins with a leader, so why not in your most important relationship.
Having an extraordinary relationship does not happen by accident. Going the distance certainly requires love, but also respect, trust, vulnerability, authenticity, intimacy, communication, compromise, commitment, humor, and FUN to have a relationship worth fighting for each and every day.