I had a great conversation with a good friend today. We talked about the steady decline of marriages over the past couple decades. It really made me think. I started wondering why some people decide to fight for their marriages and some don't.
Now, I'll never be the one to say that all marriages should be saved. Quite frankly, some people get married for the wrong reasons. That being said, I think we often do more for other causes, live saving the whales, than we do for our own cause: marriage.
So why is it that we don't put more effort into improving/saving our marriages? Here are a couple reasons I came up with:
It's hard: Marriage is not easy. I'll say it again: Marriage is not easy. It takes work. It takes time. It takes communication. You can easily help save the whales by contributing 47-cents a day or sponsor your own giant mammal. You can't throw money at marriage to make it work.
But you know what? What's better than a great marriage? What's better than a loving relationship built on trust and solid communication? I don't think saving the whales could be that fulfilling (no offense to whales and whale lovers). Marriage is worth fighting for.
The mainstream message: We've been told time after time that marriages are inevitably headed for divorce. Over half of all marriages end in the splits. Why the hell do we listen to this? It's like buying a car and listening to everyone who tells you, "You shouldn't have bought that car. You'll get in a wreck one day!" It literally becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.
If I listened to everything I heard on TV these days (don't even get me started on the news), I wouldn't want to keep going. The news is constantly negative. Guess what? No matter how strong you are, after a while all that negativity starts to crack your protective shell. You start thinking, "My friends Bob and Susie just got a divorce. They survived and seem like they're doing OK." You start to rationalize the crap because you can't get away from it. Stop listening to the nonsense and build your own reality.
Looking inward: What's the old saying? "Marriage is a two-way street." It's true. Unfortunately, marriages and relationships can warp into a one-lane expressway to Me-Ville. At some point it becomes all about us. We can do no wrong. It's always our partner's fault.
I'm here to say from personal experience, that that mindset it total B.S. Before fixing the marriage we need to look at ourselves. Take a look at what you're doing to hurt your relationship. I had to do it. I kept putting the blame on my wife. What I figured out (after a kick in the ass from a good friend), was that I was a big part of the problem.
I know what you're thinking, "Carlos, what if my partner cheats on me?" I'm not even gonna go there right now, but I will say that it's not always on you. What I'm saying is that it's always helpful to take a look inside first.
So there it is. Save the whales or save your marriage. One can be accomplished with the click of a button. One can be accomplished through years of hard work and communication. Can you do it? Are you ready to put in the work?
What can you do TODAY to strengthen your marriage?
Are you struggling with an unhappy marriage? When did it all start? Do you even remember? What have you done to try and fix it? Who's to blame? Is it sucking the life out of you?
Before I go any farther I want to put a couple things on the table:
1. Marriage is not easy: Marriage takes work. It takes communication. It takes compromise. We grow up watching and reading stories about "happily ever after", and when we don't experience the same thing, we give up. That's not what a warrior would do. A warrior would fight for his love.
2. A lot of times it's our fault: I had to realize this one myself. Instead of looking in the mirror and analyzing my own faults, I looked at my wife and started compiling a list of all the things SHE was doing wrong. Dumbass! When I finally realized that there were a lot of things I wasn't doing right (like communicating), and I dealt with those issues, things got A LOT better.
So what in the world does all this have to do with being a Warrior? I've recently had some wonderful conversations with friends. During those conversations I found a common theme cropping up: men are not acting like men.
What does that mean? It means that as men, we are confused. We don't fully grasp who we were born to be, and who we're supposed to be. One of the first places this hits home is in our most intimate relationships. Our lack of identity and purpose soon leads to an unhappy marriage. Why? Because we're confused by the role we're supposed to be taking at home.
Let me tell you something. First and foremost, your wife wants you to be a man. If she wanted to marry a woman, she would have. It's your job to be her knight in shining armor. It's your job to protect her when she needs protecting. It your job to fight for your marriage.
In coming posts we'll talk more about what it means to we a Warrior in your relationships. We'll talk about being a "manly" man, but also an emotionally present man. But really it all comes back to you.
Are you ready to fight for you marriage??
Guess what? I'll bet your English teacher lied to you. "What?! Not Mrs. Anderson! She was amazing and made the best cupcakes at Christmas. How could you say that about her, Carlos?!" I'm not talking about how nice she was. But, did she teach you how to be a better communicator?
We've probably all had similar experiences in grade school and beyond. You know, the lessons on proper grammar, how to write a letter, etc...
I think a lot of that instruction comes back to bite us in the ass a bit. Why? Because we've essentially been taught how to communicate like a robot (see picture on left).
Is that how you talk to your friends? Is that how you interact with business acquaintances at a networking event? Probably not. If you do talk like a robot, you may need professional medical attention (no offense to all you real robots out there).
So how do we blend the two worlds of personal and professional? How do we sound more personable over email? Try these seven steps and be a better communicator in your business dealings.
1) Find your voice: I am not suggesting you learn how to sing. I'm saying that you need to figure out who you are. How do you interact with friends? How do you interact in a professional setting? Is it possible to blend the two? You need to find your voice. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do you sound like a robot? You are absolutely unique. Don't try to sound like someone else. Most people can sense "the fake" a mile away. You know, the guy or gal with the cheesy smile and unnaturally high voice? Is that really you?
2) Analyze your style: Go back through some recent emails. Read your writing. Is it personable or robotic. Does it sound like a line from Jane Austen or like a line from an Eminem album? Are you properly blending your personality with your professional responsibilities? Are you showing others that you ARE approachable? Be honest and don't cheat on this one.
3) Ask others: Ask some of your business friends to analyze your email conversations. Tell them you want a truly honest opinion. No sugar-coating people! You may be surprised what they tell you: "Dude, you sound like my boss when you email me about business." "Girl, you need to lay off the caffeine."
4) Read what others write: Go back to your email account again. Read some of past correspondence with other business contacts. Who sounds real? Who sounds like a robot? Who can you try to emulate and improve your own communications? Who is a true example of how to be a better communicator?
5) Practice: Ok. Now it's time to try out your new gift for gab. Respond to a couple emails. Try to sound professional yet personal. Instead of "It was a distinct honor and privilege to have met your acquaintance upon yon window sill," try saying, "It was great chatting yesterday. Can't wait to see you at the next water cooler gossip session." It's in no way over the top. It's just personable enough. Practice. Practice. Practice.
6) Re-Analyze your style: After a few day of perfecting your craft, go back through your sent emails and do an honest assessment of where you stand. Are you making progress? Would YOU want YOU to email YOU? Does it sound like you're trying to make a friend or close a deal? (Hint: it's always good to try to make more friends even in business) Do you still feel like you can be a better communicator?
7) Do it over and over again: This stuff takes practice. Exorcising the robot demons isn't always easy. We all fall into the trap of "Well, it's just an email to a client. I'll just stick with the facts and forget the personal touch." I know it's easy to do. Just try NOT to do it. Have a conversation over email. I'll say that again: "Have a CONVERSATION over email."