Relationships are a key part of our happiness in life, whether with our partners, friends, or coworkers. For myself and many of my clients, creating happier and more connected relationships is an area of importance when we work on creating our extraordinary lives. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to create better relationships even when we want to… And I’m speaking from experience!
My husband and I have a great relationship now, but that wasn’t always the case during the early days of our marriage and parenting. We were actually joking the other day about how passive-aggressive I used to be, which made me realize how far the both of us have come. Now that I know how to create better relationships with my husband, kids, and others, I want to share those tips with you. And for a slightly awkward trip down memory lane, I’m going to share the tips as they relate to my marriage.
Have you ever heard the saying, “when you assume, you make an a** out of you and me”? It’s a play on how the word is spelled (ass/u/me), and it holds so much truth. When my husband and I were first married and parenting a toddler, I was the queen of assumptions. For whatever reason, I had it in my head that it was up to me to do everything and my husband wouldn’t be willing to help even if I asked. This created a lot of resentment (and the aforementioned passive-aggressiveness) on my part.
We had friends that were doing couples counselling, so we decided to give it a go. Again, I went into the appointments with expectations. I assumed that counselling would be a place for me to air my grievances and complain about my husband and how hard things were. Boy, was I shocked when the therapist gave me all these ideas on what I could do to change the situation, like hire a babysitter or mother’s helper for support.
Undeterred, I decided that she “wasn’t a good fit”, and we tried a second therapist. This time, my husband wasn’t a fan because her take was that he had to make some changes. He decided not to return to couples counselling at the time, but I felt validated and kept seeing her for about a year. It was great at first - I’d go and spend an hour complaining and getting everything off my chest. But after a year of this, I realized that the counsellor’s responses to me were putting me in the role of the victim. And that didn’t sit well with me.
This change in perspective happened when I opened up to my yoga instructor about how I was feeling about my husband and our life. The thing you should know about my instructor is that I’ve now been attending his classes for over ten years! He’s much more than a teacher, but is also a mentor and friend. At the time, I’d been going to his classes for a while, I’d met his wife when she came to class, knew about his family, and my husband attended classes on his own sometimes. I felt comfortable opening up to him, and valued his perspective.
Well, my instructor was actually pretty harsh with me about my victim mentality. He pointed out that it was up to me to change things in my life that I didn’t like. It wasn’t the support I’d been seeking, and I was kind of mad at the time! But as I let his words sink in, I realized he was right. It turns out that I didn’t want to spend an hour a week complaining and feeling like a victim; I wanted to feel empowered so I could change things for myself.
My husband and I did end up seeing another counsellor that was a “middle ground”, where we found solutions for the things that weren’t working for us. For example, we found help to take care of my husband’s elderly mother, which freed him up to help me more. I also took the responsibility of getting more help when I needed it at home. Taking control of my situation felt a lot better than complaining about it.
Couples counselling helped us learn to communicate with each other better, and it was great to find solutions so I didn’t feel overwhelmed at home. The best thing we did was to hire a babysitter so we could go out on dates together. We had our first fairly early in our relationship, so we didn't have a ton of alone time together pre-children, and after we had her it wasn’t easy to spend time alone together between baby, work, and chores. We’d forgotten to take time for us.
Especially when you have kids, you need time alone with your partner. Because one day, they’re going to move out, and you could find yourself living with someone you don’t even know anymore. The same is true for friendships, business relationships, etc. If you don’t make time to nurture them, they will fade away. Perhaps not so dramatically as in a romantic relationship, but it still applies.
In the early days of marriage, I spent a lot of time thinking about what wasn’t going right, or what I wanted to change. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, seeing friends go through divorces, or just the wisdom that comes with age, but I’ve been seeing my husband in a different light the past few years. I feel like I’ve caught a good one.
Something else that has helped my point of view shift is my intent. Every morning I write out my ten dreams for ten years from now, and one of the first things I write is that I want to be an extraordinary wife. What can I do to meet my husband’s needs and wants? And looking to the future, what can we do together once both kids leave home? I start each day imagining my goals, and who I want to be; and one of those is a great partner.
Newlywed Crystal spent a lot of time looking for what was wrong in her life. Today, I’m focusing on what’s right. When you view the world through gratitude, your energy and how you act with your partner changes. It shifted how I look at and feel about my husband, and now our relationship feels deeper than it ever has.
I took a course called “Business Friends Mastery” with Kristy Rogers, and something she said has always stuck with me. It’s that people generally aren’t out to get you, or take advantage of you. This applies to personal relationships, too.
You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, as am I, and so are our partners, kids, and everyone else out there. I find that when I believe that about people, I get the same type of response in return. So the next time someone seems snappy with you or you’re making assumptions *ahem* about their intentions, remember that you don’t know what’s going on in that moment for them. If you take a second to remember that it’s probably not about you, and give them a little space or grace, it will make both of you feel a bit better.
I’ve been with my husband for nearly twenty years, and we both have grown and changed a lot. I’m so happy that the lessons we learned along the way have brought us closer, and have taught me how to create better relationships with all of the important people in my life.
Now that I’ve unloaded my marital story on you, what stuck out the most to you? Let me know in the comments, or even send me an email!
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