Are you happily married? Be honest!
Is your marriage going good or is it ready to fall apart? If you are still happily married you are in the minority these days. The question is then, how do you keep a strong marriage in spite of everything else you’ve got going on?
Last weekend, I’m sad to admit, I lurked around the aisles of Walmart to see whom a guy we knew was really with. Ernie and were shopping and we’d seen him at a distance. It looked like him, but it didn’t look like his wife. A minute later I discovered, it was, in fact, not his wife that he was on a little shopping excursion with. Before long, I was doing a bit more sleuthing through Facebook and discovered yet another couple in our community that had separated.
We are shocked
Ernie and I have lost count of the number of our friends, neighbors and people in the community that have broken up. We are often flabbergasted when it is someone who’s been together for years and years. It seems to be such a regular occurrence.
Isn't it supposed to be "for better or worse?"
I mean I get it if there is something really wrong. But what happened to “til death do us part” and “for better or worse”? Are we not supposed to work things out and hang on through thick and thin?
I've seen the worst, and don't like it so much
Let me tell you, we have seen the worse! Together Ernie and I have dealt with our own disagreements, financial challenges, parenting difficulties, mental illness, sick parents, trouble with the law, family feuds, horrible bosses, unplanned pregnancies, vehicle accidents and the list goes on. It has not always been easy. The truth is sometimes in our marriage, it’s been downright nasty. Yet, we stuck through those times.
I much prefer the better
Even bigger than that, we’ve seen the “better side”. On more than one occasion, together, we have watched the sun set over the lake on the most beautiful, calm evening. We have been privileged to see our son throw his daughter up in the air and hear her giggling, out of breath, saying “Again Daddy, again!” We have travelled the country together as proud parents to dance and Tae Kwon Do competitions and to basketball and baseball tournaments. We helped our kids see their dreams come true, from buying a guitar, to buying a house. Ernie and I have sat together, as best friends, night after night at the kitchen table or one the deck sharing the experience of our lives jointly. I couldn’t do it without him.
The challenge though is when everything else gets in the way
Yet not everyone makes it. You might be one of those ones he is hanging on. I commend you for that. Faced with grueling challenges at work, the stuff we have to deal with as we raise our families and our own inner battles around weight, confidence and household duties, there is little left over for our marriage. But we need to figure out how to make our marriage one of the parts of our lives that gets attention.
I've been learning about this for a while now
Ernie and I are celebrating our 27th anniversary this week. We will once again spend it camping together; focusing on giving back to each other. Here are 3 things I’ve learned about creating a successful marriage in the last 27 years.
3 Strategies for strengthening your marriage:
1) Respect him and his situation
As a leader, you have a lot to deal with. No matter what your partner does for a living, so do they. It may not be the same challenges that you are faced with, but it is their challenges. Respect where they are at. They have bad days too. They get overwhelmed, stress and may feel exhausted at the end of their day.
Ask them about their day. Express interest in their incidents for the day and the worries they are having trouble letting go of. Let them dump. Allow them to vent. Be a listening ear for a few moments. It shows you care, both about their situation and about them. Allowing them to let go of their day puts them in a better place. They might also then be in a better place for you to then turn to you and let you do the same.
2) Ask for help
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. It’s not gonna happen! Tell them what you need. Don’t demand it. Don’t insist. Ask. Here I am really talking about the over and above normal things. Perhaps you have a daily routine, a division of chores and responsibilities that sorta works. Then one crazy day, you just can’t handle your end of the bargain, just because you’ve had a really bad day. Ask your partner to pick up pizza on the way home. Ask for him to bath the kids, take the dog out, wash dishes, give you 20 minutes piece or sit and listen to you. Ask. He won’t know what you really need until you ask.
3) Offer help
On the same token, there will better days for you, and worse days for him. Give to him those days. Offer back whatever you can offer. A little extra sleep, a neck massage, a special dessert, extra time for him at the office or a listening ear. Whatever it is that you can give back, do. He won’t ask for it either. In fact, he may not even know that he needs it. Use your intuition to guide you.
Marriage is a give and take
There will be times when you are the one giving and other times, receiving. It may seem very unbalanced, for long periods of time. That’s just the way it is. The awareness though is what will help to bring the balance back sooner. Lean into each other often. Lean in through the delightful times and through what seems like merciless times when you aren’t sure how you are going to make it.
What is one thing you can do today to strengthen your marriage? Share below so that you can get other people motivated and inspired in growing their marriages as well.
Choices you make every day, choices that turn into words and behaviours, profoundly impact your team at work, but maybe more importantly, your kids at home. Have you given much thought lately to the subconscious messages you are giving your kids about work and life? Might I suggest, that it’s time you did.
We created a tradition
Yesterday as I sat down at the supper table, I remarked, “When did my kids get to be grown ups?” It was our regular Sunday Night Supper. That means that whoever can, and wants to make it, comes home for supper and dessert. We typically only have dessert on Sundays. Yesterday it was my 3 oldest children along with some significant others. It was an opportunity for me to look around the table and even surprise myself at how they’ve grown up or maybe how I've survived parenthood.
This tradition was created by choice
All of the kids (I have 4) don’t always come home for supper on Sundays. They do have other things they choose to do. But it’s a regular occurrence to require the leaf in the table on Sundays to accommodate the extras. This Sunday routine did not happen by chance. My husband and I have cultivated it. We had supper later some nights when one of the kids was still working. Other times, we had to go pick a child up to make sure they'd be home. We did what it took, to make sure that we were all together as a family for supper once a week.
My kids now believe in Sunday Night Suppers
Why do my kids return home? Free food perhaps plays a large role. But beyond that, there has been an instilled value of family. By my husband and I putting our own time aside for the last 20+ years to make Sunday supper special, and everyone senses how important that is. Newcomers to our family quickly catch on. My kids find value in it and express that value in their own words and ways. My husband and I always have done our best to be home on Sunday’s for supper. If we have to travel or be a work otherwise, there was a recognition that it is rare and not our first choice.
Traditions are part of creating a legacy for your children
Having family traditions is one way of leaving a legacy for our children. Think back to your own family traditions. Many traditions are around holidays, but there are also tons of other “that’s just the way we did it” kinds of things. For example, we usually went to church on Sundays as a child. We were active in extracurricular activities. We put our earned money in a bank account. Those actions, gave me messages about life. The way my parents raised me, and the way your parents raised you, has left a legacy.
What is the legacy you are now leaving for your children?
What is legacy really anyway?
Legacy is the way people approach work and life,
as a result of having come into contact with you.
Galford and Maruca
That is true in organizations and it is true with your children. The way your children do approach work and life and how they will in the future,is profoundly impacted by your actions, your behaviours and the words you choose to use today.
Consider the conversations at home that you have about your work.
Our kids learn a lot unconsciously. It's not like you sit them down at the table and say "Honey, my work is hard. I don't like it. But I must do it to pay the bills". However, consider what your children hear you say to your spouse about your work. What do they overhear you say on the phone, perhaps to your employees? What are the messages they get about your work or work in general?
Kids are real good observers
It's not only what they hear, it's also what they see. Consider what your children observe in your behaviours and actions and what messages that gives them. For example, what do they pick up from:
This isn't to make you feel guilty
Lord knows I neglected my children more times than I care to remember. I dropped them off in their pj's at the sitters early in the morning without breakfast, so that I could catch a plane to a management meeting, more than once. The point is, in your heart of hearts, what do you want. This isn't about keeping up with the other Mom's. It's about what how you truly want to parent and the lasting impact you want to have.
Take a moment to consider the legacy you want to leave
Often when we take a moment to consider this, we realize that we may not be giving quite the message we intended. You may consider it’s time for a bit of adjustments.
Try this exercise to get clear
Take a moment to sit down and consider the legacy that you want to leave behind.
Imagine it's 10 or 20 years from now and your children are leaders in an organization. Imagine they are great leaders and awesome parents. See what kind of a leader they will be. Visualize the impact they have on the people around them. Notice in your mind their relationship with their own family.
Then come back to now. If you want to leave that legacy with your children, what do you need to do now to create that impact? Remember legacy is the way people approach work and life as a result of having come into contact with you. Your kids are in contact with you or have the potential to be each and every day. How will your contact today influence their approach to life when they are grown?
Question: Where do you need to course correct to get your desired impact on your children?
Are you lying when you say your family is the most important thing to you? Probably not. However your actions do speak louder than words. Even though you say your family is the most important thing to you, for many people, the time and energy you spend at work, says work is #1. Work-life balance leans precariously to the work side all too often.
I used to put work first
Looking back over my years as a leader in an organization, I spent many late nights and weekends at the office. Additionally, you would have usually found me at my kitchen table on alternating Sunday afternoons working on payroll. The truth was, if I weren’t at work physically, my mind would be there. I wasn't always the best role model for wellness in the work place.
I still struggle to balance my time and energy
Although family has always been my #1 value, I haven’t always demonstrated that it was. I won’t lie to you; even today I have to work hard at not letting work slip into the #1 time and energy space of my life.
When a deadline is looming or someone pushes me to do something, it's easy to find myself putting my best self into work, leaving very little left for the rest of my life.
I am not alone
Among desires such as freedom, honesty, health and success, family is cited as one of the top 5 most important things on many people’s lists of what are key priorities in their lives. Like me, you probably very much want to spend time with your family. You want them to be a higher priority than work. You want to be able to focus on quality time with your family. Yet strangely, my actions, and perhaps yours, often show otherwise.
Many of us struggle to find the time and energy to put family first
The problem is, by the time you get home most days you have very little energy left for your family. You often say, “as soon as I get through this busy time…” or “I’m putting the time in now so that we will have time later”. The problem is, later never comes.
When you are with your family, it's not quality time
You run the kids to their extracurricular activities while you finish phone calls. You quickly check emails while you try to get supper on the table. You glance up from the computer as you talk to your kids about their schoolwork. As you wind down your night, you check your emails, in bed, beside your spouse, who incidentally may be doing the same thing. Is this the quality family time that you envisioned? My guess is not so much!
Take an honest look back, is it quality time?
Look back. Can you honestly say over the last 6 months that you feel you met your vision of how much quality time you would like to focus on with your family? If you can answer yes to that, congratulations! My assumption is that you are the minority. Most of us look back over the last 6 months, me included, and say, ummm…not quite.
It's time for a change
My goal moving forward is to have more quality time with my family. If you are in that boat too, here are some ways to increase your quality time with your family.
4 Ways to increase your quality time with your family
Nothing is worth more than this day
If you give this day, this time and this energy to work, you can’t get it back to spend with your family. It is gone. It takes concentrated effort to keep bringing your focus back to family when the demands of work are so incredibly strong. It is worth it though, because you already know that your family is #1.
Question: Which of these suggestions will you implement this week and how will you do that? Share your intention below as you will be more likely to follow through if you do.
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.