On my wedding day, I asked my father-in-law, a highly respected salesman, motivational speaker and the most charming person I have ever known, how he and his wife had stayed so happily and romantically married for so many years. He considered and said he only had one piece of advice after all that time together, “Never call each other names. You can never take them back.”
I thought about that, and he probably never knew how much it meant to me, but I took that advice even further. If you would never call each other names, then why would you ever say bad things about each other? Or even worse, complain about each other to your friends?
This led to the next question, “If you pointed out the good things and focused on the positive in each other, what kind of marriage could you build?”
I decided to pursue reinforcing statements in my marriage and I can tell you with certainty that what you say builds and becomes your reality.
No, it will not make a dysfunctional relationship good or turn an abusive spouse into a good one. No magic wands here, my friends, but if your relationship is good, it will definitely make it better. Be proud of your spouse, to your friends, your family, your children, and your co-workers and see what happens to your perception of him or her.
What are the expectations?
These are the critical questions of any interview: “What do you expect of me? What are the rewards and/or consequences if I fulfill or fail to fulfill your expectations? What is my job description?”
As the non-working spouse or primary caregiver, you are often the “conductor” of your home and family life unless your partner is the primary caregiver. Let’s face it, respect and support should not be gender specific
I had a fascinating conversation with friends about a mutual friend who was running for political office. She devoted her after-career life to raising her children, making a wonderful home, and running several of the most important committee functions for the school district and now she was taking the next step. The local paper patronizingly referred to her as an “at-home mom and volunteer.” Why, we wondered, were these important functions referred to so disparagingly?
How do you make yourself feel more professional in your role as the COO of your family corporation? Is a title like VP of Human Resources something that might help? Here are some other suggestions:
- First, consider a salary. It doesn’t have to be a large amount, depending on your financial situation, but you should have a sum that is yours to spend on a monthly basis. You may decide to spend it on your kids, and that is okay, but it will be your choice. If you work and run the house, the dynamics are a bit different and you should retain control of some of the funds you bring in. The advice here focuses on the stay-at-home moms who are more likely to feel a bit powerless in this area, In addition, iI you are getting a “salary” from the family, yours should increase a little whenever your spouse gets a raise. He or she couldn’t do what they do, without you doing what you do at home. A wise spouse acknowledges that gratefully and graciously.
- Second; set up yearly reviews of expectations. Keep the expectations simple, but SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Yes, I know Achievable and Realistic are a bit redundant, but I didn’t make up this system; I am just sharing it. The important thing is giving you goals for yourself and for your family, allowing you to achieve them. It also encourages your spouse to celebrate your accomplishment with you. Dr. Stephen Covey says in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that people “want to be understood” and he is right, but they want more than that: They want to be appreciated.
Working Spouses (often husbands but not always!): Your second job is giving praise verbally to your spouse, and about your spouse to your children.When a child hears from people they respect and love how wonderful the other parent is, they feel safe and loved. When you have disagreements, and of course you will, the respect and admiration you have expressed to and for each other will often lead you to discussions instead of arguments, and this is what your children will model on in their relationships.
- Third; make time to be together alone on a regular basis so that if expectations are not being met, or if they have changed in some way and need to be discussed, you do this in private and not in front of the children. Critical or sarcastic remarks are like poison to a relationship and if you decide to make them part of the dialogue, beware.
- Fourth; don’t neglect self-care in your expectations. Unhappy and unhealthy people don’t usually do a good job of parenting, so make sure that at least one of your expectations includes self-care as soon as possible (children have to be old enough for child care, etc. so there are some limitations). One thing that totally saved my sanity was hiring a housekeeper once a month (all we could afford at the time) and getting out of some toilet cleaning duty!
Hey, it’s different for everyone.