pre-marital advice

Will This Last? Part 4 of 6

If you haven’t read parts 1 through 3 of this series, take a moment to read them here –

1. Goal and ambitions – do you share similar life goals and ambitions?

2. Getting along with others – how your partner interacts with your circle of family, friends, strangers, etc.

3. Time and money – how you manage your time as a couple, how to handle money matters

Here in part 4, we explore a simple topic that has many layers – whether your significant other (SO) has a focus on you, including what’s important to you. And no, this isn’t about your SO watching every move you make and wanting to be joined at the hip. But you do enter their sense of curiosity some of the time? Do they ever curtail their personal interests to engage with you because you are now one of their personal interests? Or, are all your discussions about the children, work and the bills?

How do you know your partner is thinking about you? Below are some easy questions you can use to determine whether they have a focus on you.

1. Do you have a title?

Out of nowhere they have a title for you that they use around others. You have become ‘My man,’ ‘My woman,’ ‘My boo,’ ‘My bae.’ And remember; it’s not enough for them to have a name for you when you’re all alone. Do they use that same name when they’re around people they care about? It’s okay to be their ‘Boo’ when you’re alone. But it’s another thing all together when they call you ‘Boo’ in front of their best friends and family members. Have you gotten a title yet?

2. Does your partner make an effort to understand you?

Understanding comes by study. You want to be in a relationship with someone who cares enough about you to study you. The person that has a focus on you actually takes the time to contemplate everything about you. They really think about what’s important to you and then use that information to engage with you. Does your SO try to exist with you in an understanding way?

3. Does your SO find ways to make you happy?

You’ll start to experience little surprises. She got you something in your favorite color or made plans and tried to surprise you. He recalls something you said in conversation and asks you more about it. These little surprises don’t have to cost a thing – a thoughtful gesture, a handwritten note or cozy night for just the two of you. Is your SO trying to see that smile on your face?

It really is the ‘little things’ that help relationships endure. Now that you have read and answered questions for 1/2 of this series, how would you rate your relationship thus far?

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or email me directly at hiddenruleshq@gmail.com

Will This Last? Part 2 of 6

If you haven’t read part 1 of this 6-part Will This Last series, take a moment to read it here. In part 1, we explored questions about your partner’s goals and ambitions. When you and your partner have similar goals and ambitions from the start, you’re more likely to remain strong and committed when that initial “lust phase” wears off. That’s because your relationship is built on a bond that’s deeper than physical attraction and butterflies.

In part 2, we will review a series of questions about your partner’s interactions with others, specifically how he or she gets along with others. Your partner’s ability to get along with others is a clear indication of how they’ll get along with you long-term. If he struggles with his family relationships, he’ll likely have a hard time getting along with yours. If she is rude to your friends, how do you plan to blend your lives for social gatherings and fun?

So, just like in part 1, let’s explore questions to help you assess how well your partner gets along with others. This section is short and sweet with only 3 questions to consider.

1. Does your partner get along with members of his or her own family?

Have you ever dated that one member of the family that didn’t seem to get along well with anyone else in the family? Of course, the family could be “off,” but what if the real problem was your significant other? One of my former clients had been in a committed relationship for several years with a man who had a difficult time controlling his temper. Then came his family reunion.

There was no real blowup at the family reunion, but she did notice that other family members seemed to enjoy each other’s company while keeping their distance from him. Also, when he wasn’t around her, she got along well with his family members and everyone seemed to feel more at ease. It put her in a tough position because he got along great when it was just the two of them, but with this family, there was a clear challenge. She asked whether I thought the two of them would last. Here’s the thing, if your partner doesn’t get along well with biological family members, that might be a major indicator of their ability to get along with you for the long haul.

2. Does he or she get along with your friends and family?

In the movie Hitch, “Date Doctor,” Will Smith gave the best advice about getting along with your partner’s friends. He said, “This first date is about how you get along with her friends, not about how you get along with her.” Your friends are people you’ve known for years and you trust them. However, they have no skin in the game when it comes to your dating life because they’re not as emotionally attached to your partner as you are. That means you can get fairly unbiased feedback from your friends and you can watch the interactions of your partner and your friends.

Does your partner try to actively participate in conversations with your family and friends? Does she ask you things about your friends in order to get to know them better? Does he try to find things in common with your family members? Can your partner be him or herself around your friends and family?

3. How well does he or she get along with people…in general?

I’m safely assuming you’re dating someone friendly but you may be surprised to see, the more time you spend together, how they really treat people in general. I’m not referring to whether she’s an introvert or whether he’s the life of the party but more about common decency. Things like saying, “please,” and, “thank you” to wait staff, being kind to those in the service industry, holding doors for strangers whenever possible and not speaking ill of people for fun. This is about common decency and showing respect to people outside their immediate circle...and to you, long-term.  

If you are able to honestly answer, ‘Yes’ or affirm all of these, then congratulations, you may be in a relationship that will stand the test of time. Don’t worry if your answer to some of these questions was, “No,” or, “I don’t know…” but do keep these questions in mind as you move forward in your relationship. Uncertainty isn’t a reason to quit now but it is a great reason to pause and review where you are right now. In the next article, we’ll discuss time and money.

Will This Last? Part 1 of 6

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Three of the most common questions I’ve been asked over more than a decade of relationship coaching are,

  1. “How do I know if this person is really my soul mate?”
  2. “Are we meant for each other?”
  3. “Will this relationship last?”

That last question keeps people awake at night. I totally understand their fear because I had similar doubts before I got married, even knowing all that I know about how to build and maintain a healthy relationship. I actually asked my mom, “How do I know I’m really in love?” She gave me an answer that I’ll never forget, but that didn’t help me one bit. She said, “You’ll just know.”

All 3 of these questions and the feelings they stir up are warranted. Choosing a life partner is a huge decision you only want to make once. It’s scary because the beginning of a relationship is always perfect because you both are on your best behavior. Soon you stop seeing it as being each other’s best behavior and you start thinking it’s your real behavior because your emotions are clouding your judgment. Over time you realize that those best behaviors have faded and the real person is standing right in front of you.

As Dr. Phil says, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” so if you’re seeing some behaviors you don’t like, take note. You can find a quick relationship quiz online to tell you whether you two are meant to last but those quizzes don’t factor in the behaviors that are unique to your relationship. To help you answer that question and feel settled in your final answer, I’ve developed that 1 question into these 6 key areas -

1.     Goals and Ambitions

2.     Getting Along with Others

3.     Time and Money

4.     A Focus on You

5.     Trust

6.     Fun and Work

When you and your partner have similar goals and ambitions from the start, you’re more likely to remain strong and committed when that initial “lust phase” wears off. That’s because your relationship is built on a bond that’s deeper than physical attraction and butterflies. If you’re not sure whether you have similar goals and ambitions, consider these questions -

1. Do you have similar life goals and ambitions? Are you going in the same direction? Do you both want children and if so, are you open to adoption or foster care? What are your career goals and aspirations? Compromise is required in a relationship; however, if you have to give up all your goals and ambitions to help with someone else’s goals and ambitions, in the future you may feel you paid too great a price. Compromise is important but compromise isn’t giving up everything you want to help your partner get everything he or she wants.

2. Are they interested in you and the things you care about? When you discuss what you care about do they try to get more information so they know what you’re trying to do? Even better, do they spend time trying to understand how they can be of support? Or do you get comments that discredit and minimize the things you care about?

3. How similar are your value systems? Values will affect everything from how you train your first puppy together to how you raise your children and conduct yourselves throughout the ups and downs. Do you have the same fundamental spiritual practices? What is his/her moral code? How does he/she treat others in the service industry?

If you are able to honestly answer, ‘Yes’ or affirm all of these, then congratulations, you may be in a relationship that will stand the test of time. Don’t worry if your answer to some of these questions was, “No,” or, “I don’t know…” but do keep these questions in mind as you move forward in your relationship. Uncertainty isn’t a reason to quit now but it is a great reason to pause and review where you are right now. In the next article, we’ll discuss getting along with others.

Actions That Show You've Got A Keeper

“Actions speak louder than words.”

When you are getting to know someone, give yourself time to observe actions. If the actions line up with the words, then the words can be believed. Here are 8 behaviors to look for early on in a relationship. If the person that you've seen these signs consistently in someone who you are dating, he or she might be a keeper!

  1. You are made a priority over time. He/she has time for you in his/her life and routinely puts other things aside to spend time with you.

  2. Sex is not always on the agenda. Sometimes they just want to be around you. You really are that special.

  3. You have a title. “This is my woman.” This is my boyfriend.”

  4. They have introduced you to the significant people in their life such as parents, children and friends.

  5. They want to be seen out with you. They want others to see the connection.

  6. They open up over time and give you real information about themselves. What was their childhood like? What do they think about their job? What are their interests?

  7. They put forth effort to build you up in your own eyes and the eyes of others.

  8. They’re bummed when you change plans and they can’t see you. Watch out for jealous or possessive behaviors on this one!

If it feels a little too fast, it probably is. That’s no reason to run, but it’s a great reason to slow it down. Remember, when you pay a lot of attention to what’s being said and watch actions just as closely - you can prevent heartbreak. Remember… actions speak louder than words.

If you are in need of guidance to navigate the relationships in your life, from work relationship to your home life - contact Art

5 Pillars of Relationship Health

Every relationship has its ups and downs. If you've read "Choosing Your Life Partner: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself," then you know that before entering a relationship, there are a few areas to be examined. But why are these areas of life so important? How can they make or break a long-term relationship?

  1. Purpose: Not sure what you and your partner's shared purpose is? Start by making a list of things you want to accomplish as a couple for the greater good. Some examples are charities to support, church missions, community service, art or business projects, etc. Some couples also have success creating a shared bucket list and benchmarks for "relationship success." But don't forget to save time for each of you to experience self-discovery along the way!
     
  2. Communication: This is essential to a strong life partnership. Problems spiral out of control, emotions get misconstrued and people grow apart when folks don’t feel heard, valued, and respected in conversation. When in doubt, just (actively) listen! 
     
  3. Personal Development: Working on personal development is a sign that your potential life partner isn’t seeking the easy way out of life. He or she is likely to be more open-minded, communicative and take responsibly for faults. People who challenge their own way of thinking tend to challenge their partners as well. Challenge leads to growth. Refer to #1 to make sure you two grow together and not apart.
     
  4. Respect: This one is self-explanatory, but I see a lot of disrespect between couples in my office. Sometimes, we take out all of our frustrations with those closest to us - pushing them away over time. Something as simple as respect and gratitude can prevent emotional detachment and all of the problems that come along with that "falling out of love" feeling. 
     
  5. Intimacy: In marriage, two people are in it for the long haul. Make time for each other. Be a non-judging soundboard for your life partner. Be spontaneous and not just in the bedroom. Leave thoughtful notes for each other or verbalize how much you adore your partner - whatever works for them and usually they will return the favor.

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Every relationship is different. Think about the status of each of these pillars in your relationship. How do they stack up to your expectations or goals? Discuss this with your partner or take action to initiate. If you need help in getting the conversation started, schedule a call with Art for advice.

Choosing Your Life Partner: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself

Choosing a life partner is a daunting task. This is not an area of life that you want to make a mistake. However, with divorce rates hovering over 50%, it seems that people are rushing into matrimony or not being honest with themselves or their partners. I meet couples all the time who are excited to get married because they’re honestly in love, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make from the start. Choosing your life partner should not be based on love alone. Love is not enough to maintain a successful relationship and often, it’s the result of a strong bond, not the glue that holds it together.

Before you decide on a life partner, answer these 5 questions:

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QUESTION #1: Do we share a common life purpose?
Marriage is forever and forever is a very long time. What do you plan to do with your partner to fill the time? And I don’t just mean sharing meals, going to the movies or hitting the gym together. What is your common life purpose outside the day-to-day chores, child-rearing and routine life activities? Having a common purpose is a way of reinventing your relationship in many ways over the years. Relying on each other to fulfill this common purpose can deepen your commitment and connection to each other.

QUESTION #2: Do I feel emotionally safe?
Emotional safety means knowing you can openly communicate your thoughts, feelings and ideas with your partner without being “punished” for doing so. I cannot stress enough how important this is; so often couples are in my office trying to work through this very issue. Your level of communication is a reflection of the quality of your relationship. Can you effectively communicate with each other? Have you mastered the art of fighting fair? Do you feel safe sharing exactly how you feel for better or worse? [Related: 6 Phrases You Should Never Say To Someone You Care About]

QUESTION #3: Is he/she focused on personal development?
Read this one closely because it’s a good segue into the final question. Is your potential partner focused on character refinement and personal development? Examples of this personal development include reading, journaling, attending inspirational conferences, meeting with a life coach or being part of mastermind groups. Do they work on personal growth on a regular basis? Are they serious about improving themselves?

QUESTION #4: How does he/she treat other people?
Before you answer this, think about the following: How do they treat people whom they do not have to be nice to, such as waiters, flight attendants and taxi drivers? What about how they treat their own family? Are they gracious, friendly and respectful or rude, arrogant and dismissive? Is this potential life partner a gossip or can he or she be trusted to keep secrets? 

QUESTION #5: Is there anything I'm hoping to change about this person after we're married?Too many people make the mistake of marrying someone with the intention of trying to "fix" them after they get married.

I often tell pre-marital clients, "You can probably expect someone to change after marriage...for the worse!"  If you cannot fully accept this person the way they are now, then you are not ready to marry them.

Once the shine of dating starts to dull and you get married, your partner will settle more into his or her ways. Can you live with that? Are his quirks deal breakers for you? Are her red flags something you can move past for a happy life? [Related: Will He Or She Change After We Get Married?]

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Lead with your head and let your heart follow. Like I always say, “The best time to get out of a bad marriage is before you get in one,” and doing your homework is necessary! If you need help sorting through your emotions or even your partner’s perspective, contact me for a free 20-minute consult.

6 Phrases You Should Never Say To Someone You Care About

  1. “You need to get over it.”
    These 6 words can shut down a person’s feelings and block further conversation. This is usually said when an issue is unresolved and one partner keeps bringing it up. “Getting over it” doesn’t solve anything. In most cases, it makes things worse by leaving issues unresolved only to stack up over time. This is an inappropriate phrase to use no matter the size of the problem. It is perceived that your partner’s feelings are unimportant or that you are not interested in or working through the problem.
  2. “You’re so needy.”
    Sometimes your partner will say, “You’re so clingy.” This may be a sign that he or she doesn’t recognize your emotional needs and/or struggles with being intimate. “Needy” and “clingy” behaviors are often one partner seeking more attention and coming off too strong to the partner who is closed off emotionally. These words are hurtful and make the “needy” or “clingy” partner shut down, thus making it difficult to address emotional issues. If being “needy” or “clingy” is how you express your insecurities, this is something you and your partner need to discuss instead of dismissing the feeling with hurtful words. [Related: When your spouse won't go to counseling]

  3. “You always…” or, “You never…”
    Avoid generalizations because no one really ever “always” or “never” does something. Often, when you accuse someone of “always” or “never” doing something, they become defensive and argumentative. Those behaviors derail productive conversation making it so that you end up off topic having solved nothing.

  4. “I’ll never be good enough for you.”
    This is defeatist thinking (and speaking) and simply doesn’t provide a way for you and your partner to engage in good conversation.  Where do you go from a statement like that? A true partner, invested in the relationship, will love you just as you are. Is your partner frustrated at something said or done?  Is your partner feeling overwhelmed and can’t quite put those feelings into words? Take the time to find out the underlying meaning of those words.

  5. “I’ll file for divorce unless you {fill in the blank}.”
    Ultimatums, fear tactics and empty statements like this don’t work, especially since people rarely follow through on them. Threatening divorce won’t solve anything and it usually pulls you two further apart.

  6. “You should know how I feel.”
    You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again, your partner is not a mind reader. No matter how much you love each other and how many years you’ve been together, he or she will never be able to read your mind. A big part of the work of relationships is effectively communicating your needs – not just once but every single day.

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Practice intentional communication! Sometimes, hurtful phrases can “slip” in frustration. If you care about your partner, you can ratify the way you speak to them. If this is something you struggle, it isn’t uncommon. Contact me for a 15-minute consult.

Master the Art of “Give & Take” in Your Relationship

You may have noticed that marriage is a lot of work. Like most couples, you may not have known how much work it actually takes to build and sustain a healthy marriage. And by work I mean communication, sacrifice, and commitment to name a few! Even when things are going smoothly, there will always be something or someone that requires more attention from either you or your partner. I’m not talking about infidelity; that someone could be a new baby, family member in need or a demanding new boss. No matter how much work you put forth, it’s important to learn how to master those uneven times in your relationship – times when you must master the art of give and take.

Give and take means taking care of your spouse’s needs, your own needs and attending to that something or someone new in the picture.

5 Tips to resolve an unbalanced relationship: 

1. Keep first things first – Don’t let your partner feel as though you take them for granted. Sharing in your new role as parents, taking care of a sick relative, starting a new job or moving the family to a new city; these are just a few of the times when you’ll be taking care of many needs simultaneously. Sometimes simply telling your partner that you haven’t forgotten about him/her makes all the difference in the world.

2. Practice active listening – I know, from personal experience, that most men are “fixers.” When my wife has a rough day, I want to fix her problem so I can tell her about what happened in my day. It’s not that I’m not listening to her, it’s just that I want to solve her problems, and make her feel better so we can move our conversation forward. That has never worked well for me and most times, even when I mean well, it just upsets her more. Practice listening to your partner. I read somewhere that Americans only listen for about 17 seconds before we interrupt someone speaking. The more you practice listening the more in tune you’ll be with your partner’s emotions and realize everything is not all about you.

3. Don’t keep score – Give and take means sometimes one person has to sacrifice what they need in the moment to care for someone else. Life and death are prime examples of this. Bringing a new baby into the family means the needs of just you two have to be put aside for a while. Laying a loved one to rest means one person might need more comfort and attention in that moment.

4. Check in with your own emotions – Even though you’re not keeping score doesn’t mean you don’t have needs that deserve to be met. Speak up, ask for help and share your needs.

5. Realize that change is constant – There will never be a time in your relationship when you don’t have to balance your relationship with give-and-take principles. Some days will seem more balanced than others but most of the time, there will be something or someone that interrupts your flow. It’s all part of the process and work that goes into building and sustaining healthy relationships.

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Over time, some relationships can be chronically imbalanced. It can be difficult to find that happy median for both partners. If you could benefit from a process to bring more balance to your relationship, contact me for a FREE 15-minute consult.