RELATIONSHIP MAINTENANCE-STABILITY

Relationship Stability

“A stable ship can sail unstable seas…”

The Stability and Longevity Relationship

Longevity has always been synonymous with equaling success and a direct ramification of longevity is stability. If we want our relationships to last, they need a strong stable base from which to spring from. That means planning and constructing an environment meant for stability and thus longevity by design. As men, it is our gender expectation to take the leadership role with guiding, managing and fostering the relationships we desire and enter into. A critical component to this is initiating the cultural baseline within the relationship that influences those elements that contribute to a stable and healthy relationship to begin with and to make sure it stays that way (the maintenance part). In each case, we can discern a series of interaction patterns within both healthy and successful relationships, as well as un-healthy and failing relationships, where a mindfulness or lack thereof plays a critical role in determining the stability of those relationships. If you are not working toward relationship stability, you’re not working toward relationship longevity, plain and simple.

The Power of Positivity

It should come as no surprise, except for the severely dysfunctional, that thriving couples (happy and healthy) accentuate the positive in life more so than those that live in languishing relationships (unhealthy and co-dependent). We have seen before that emotions act as powerful contagions and we should be wary of accepting poor attitudes, dark emotions and negative outlooks, which are highly contagious and insulate ourselves by behavior and action from this outcome prior to it becoming a rapid adverse selection spiral from which we cannot escape. Doing so is a form of emotional boundary setting. While we can come to experience such feelings, we should not dwell there, nor permit those feelings and emotions to take root with ourselves or with our partners. Likewise we need to be vigilant and guard against negative messaging behavior, such as incessant criticism, sarcasm, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (avoidance behavior) that is the antithesis of stability, which creates fertile ground for negative attributions , distancing behavior, re-casting relationship narratives and incentivizing solutions outside of the relationship to fulfill our needs and desires (such as extra-relational fucking around). In this regard, it will take a particular man to be able to face not only the demons in his life, those of his partner, but also to face and turn away the negative beliefs, attitudes, outlooks and behaviors his partner is exhibiting or fostering, without alienating her in the process (diplomacy anyone?). In this regard it pays handsomely to have a strong masculine frame within the relationship that is able to sort out emotional trivialities, to define and interpret what is important, by taking issues into perspective, by accepting accountability for one’s emotional state, and being emotionally secure in the face of adversity… we need to be emotionally supportive of our partners, but not emotionally immersed where negativity is at root and command, least we become consumed by it and our relationship drowned by it.

Value of Openness

Couples who stay together tend to exhibit high levels of operational maintenance in making sure that the relationship is open for both parties to express their wants, needs, objections and concerns freely and have worked in advance to make sure this is the relationship climate and experience. There’s always a certain amount of inertia that must initially be overcome to start difficult communication let alone begin a conversation after a history of pent-up frustrations, fears and anxiety that have already been established, let alone in conditions where real damage has previously been sustained and our partners are nurturing grievances. In all cases we lead by example and as such we need to be open and receptive to receiving feedback and actively soliciting it from our partners, prior to our expecting them to do so. We need to have already shown and exhibited a forum and willingness to talk about issues of the day, the operations of our relationships and personal frictions long prior to when we actually have an issue to overcome. In doing so, we need to express and exemplify cooperative and optimistic behavior in our approach and dealings with problems as they arise… note the term ‘as they arise’, avoiding communicating frictions and troubling issues doesn’t just save them for another day, it is a form of management neglect that is far from benign, but quite cancerous. It formulates a situation where the issue will not be addressed until it reaches the conflict or crisis point, at which damage is already being done to the relationship. This is where having weekly one on one meetings directly with your partner to gauge their temperature, reading of their emotional state, what their emotional reserve is and the overall state of their morale, provides a natural and reoccurring opening for just such dialog between the two of you. We should be aware of what internal and external factors are driving the emotional status of the relationship and to make relational tune-ups as necessary to mitigate unnecessary wear and tear on each other and the relationship.

Importance of Reassurance and Providing Emotional Sanctuary

Anxiety is typically associated with turmoil and concerns governing future projections of fear, stress, worrying and often accompanied by an overreaction and sensitivity to a given situation. If your partner is in doubt about the nature and your future together, fully expect a high degree and measure of relationship anxiety and behavior as a consequence… By clearly communicating our intentions, our thoughts, beliefs and feelings about our partner and relationship we can clear the anxiety laden air of doubt and insecurity. Saying “you are my team”, “You are my girl”, “I am in this with you”, “I’m in”, “you are my safe place” are all very clear indicators to soliciting trust, reducing distrust and an investment of hope within your relationship, while providing a measure of emotional security that asserts that she is an essential asset and part of your life and future she has a place with you. Likewise we need to provide accurate, timely and specific recognition of those elements in which our partner is contributing to the relationship. This form of recognition, validation and acceptance is commonly seen in the form of a sincere and genuine compliment and praise, which has the effect of helping to raise your partner’s self-esteem and promote more of the same. People naturally want to know that their presence, contributions and efforts are appreciated and valued. Denying that is both foolish and ill-advised. Displaying and expressing that thankfulness, not as a reward, but as a form of showing gratitude and appreciation, is the primary means for creating a positive relationship internally. As the leader of the relationship, it is your responsibility to formulate the relationship culture of appreciation, acceptance and love… by looking for and accentuating those healthy traits we are promoting them in our partner, in our relationship and ultimately within ourselves.

 

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Relationship Maintenance Management

Like a boss

“Big problems start from little ones”

Maintenance Objective

The purpose of relationship maintenance management is to generate an atmosphere conducive to regenerating and increasing emotional energy committed to the preservation of invested relationship capital between two parties; that is between you and her. Just as with any other goal or objective, if you know where you want to end up, you are vastly more likely to get there. With relationship maintenance management we want to sustain and reinvest those initial feelings, energies and beliefs we have of our partner back into the relationship, in order for it to increase our overall feelings and satisfaction associated with emotional connectedness, intimacy and love, to minimize wear and tear on the relationship and ultimately to preserve it.

A man’s responsibility

Despite incredible transformations regarding gender equity within our cultural make-up, women on a whole still expect and desire men to take the leadership role and be accountable for the health, direction and vitality of the relationship they are in. It is simply your gender assigned role, biologically and culturally expressed and as men we are defined by it- boys just don’t take on these roles. While many women would openly deny this, or profess a measure of egalitarianism towards responsibilities and accountability(what they say), what women actually do is quite revealing…(don’t trust what people say, trust what they do), as indicated by the most cited reason for instigating a dissolvement of a marriage (women instigating divorce 70% of the time), was the wife’s unhappiness within the marriage; that she just wasn’t happy, validated or fulfilled, i.e., not for actual cause or violation of marriage covenants, but an inferred responsibility of the man’s inability to manage and maintain her satisfaction within it. That responsibility falls to you; she says so, society say so and the family court system too.

***I make no bones about it, choosing to be in a relationship vastly increases a man’s obligations three-fold; first mastering himself, second fostering relationship competency within his partner and third in stewarding accountability of the overall relationship. It is little wonder why in this culture with removed incentives towards relationships, that many men are opting out of relationships altogether for a whole host of legitimate reasons, the least of which are the honest complexities and accountability involved in establishing, managing and maintaining a healthy, vibrant relationship.

Dominance associated maintenance

Repeated studies have demonstrated and reaffirmed the common observation of the consistent erotic appeal of male dominance, as sexual cues of attraction and desirability for women in pre-relationship partner selection. Similarly, dominance associated attraction plays out within relationships when men maintain and enforce relationship structures (male leadership-accountability coupled with responsibility in meeting men’s gender expectations culturally and biologically), regulate patterns of behavior acceptability (boundary setting) and are disciplined in the care and adherence of behavioral actions protecting the health and vitality of the relationship (relationship maintenance). These acts of dominance have proven to have considerable impact to not only a man’s desirability sexually within relationships, but as importantly to a woman’s measured satisfaction within that relationship, which is the proven hallmark of relationship longevity, as a slew of studies and surveys consistently prove. Thus the unapologetic masculine trait of male dominance plays a significant role in providing a maintenance response to a woman’s natural hypergamic inclination (see hypergamy) of social and status dimorphism expressed by her partner within a relationship.  If that wasn’t enough, the simple function of dominance in nature is to reduce unnecessary energy expenditure; emotional, psychological and physical stress (ego depletion severely limits an individual’s and a groups efficiency) and the risk of injury between all parties.  When leadership is clearly established, behavioral codes enforced and the health and vitality of the group protected stress between individuals is greatly reduced, individual anxiety diminishes and the overall measure of satisfaction increases.  Women may cringe at the thought of the value of masculine dominance in leadership roles, but the alternative being proffered by feminism leads directly to loss of sexual attraction, relational and marital strife, divorce, single-motherhood, broken families and children raised with first hand understanding that marriage doesn’t work (there’s a -14% risk reduction in marriage if both partners parents are still married.)  Ladies, if you children truly mean the world to you, you’d be wise not just to let your man, be the man, but make sure that he is.  Make sure that he knows his role, obligations and duties and take ownership and accountability for those roles.  I have no doubt you’ll like the results far better than the current alternative.    

Technical competence

The most effective leaders, lead by example. They exemplify themselves as models for other to follow, which means a never-ending process of self-study, reflection, education, training and experience gathering through responsibility and accountability seeking. To be a competent leader, your technical skill sets have to be sufficient enough to supervise and as already explained, you are expected to lead and thus supervise your partner. In relationships, that means your relationship skills, management and maintenance abilities need to be mastered or you will be found to be a deficient leader and thus partner. You simply must understand and be proficient in the dynamics involved in relationship maintenance (see future blog post on relationship maintenance), if not you need to take corrective action to rectify that.

Education pay gap

I believe that this biological and cultural tendency of women to shirk leadership, accountability and responsibility roles even within relationships, plays directly out in the mythical ‘pay gap’ between men and women, when viewed that males tend to take on jobs and careers that require higher and more specialized education, training, experience, responsibility and accountability associated with those jobs, not to mention the health and occupation risks and overall nastiness of the nature of the jobs or careers that they take. As such, it would benefit men highly to recognize this fact, in developing similar highly specialized education, training and experience when it comes to relationships, i.e., that what we do for our careers and jobs, we should equally do for our relationships and as a consequence our lives would likely be enriched and rewarded just as effectively.

(RE: the ‘Pay Gap’- On the whole men tend to do dirtier, nastier and more dangerous work which pays better than cleaner, nicer and safer work conditions that women naturally seem to choose. Within similar career fields, women tend to choose work environments that have more social elements to them and less of a specialized and arduous educational regimen; women tend to be nurses, while their male counterparts become doctors. Those women who do become doctors tend to be general practitioners, which requires vastly less specialized training, education and acquired skills than surgeons, which is a vastly male dominated field.)

An alternative perspective to this position is if your partner is the typical average western woman, seeped in narcissistic ala cart feminist, entitlement, prized-princess, victim cultured mentality, well versed in the ‘single and loving it’ frame of mind, holds divorce fantasy infused marriage beliefs and your relationship maintenance skills are below or at hers, well you and your relationship are doomed.

Maintenance culture

As the relationship CEO, you are responsible for developing and sustaining the maintenance climate of the relationship, for ensuring the relationship is appropriately cared for, that the standard maintenance protocols are established and followed, while providing or directing resources, responsibilities, training, counseling and mentoring within the relationship. These are your maintenance management responsibilities. As too is ensuring that appropriate time is allocated within your relationship strictly for the care and preservation of it and that these efforts are clearly communicated, received and accepted by your partner. This is simply the business end of relationship sustainability. It often tends to be dirty work no one wants or cares to do. Too often we hear the ‘communication is key in a relationship’, nowhere will that be tested more than when communication is difficult, strained and to a very real degree unwanted (nobody like negative feedback), but honesty and open communication during these times is critical. As such, this will require both yours and your partners attention, directed energy and focus upon these efforts. Lip service to these efforts should not be tolerated. Your job is to lead the maintenance efforts; it is both your responsibilities to strengthen the relationship, as a result of it. It is far better and wiser to start that culture of open, honest maintenance centered communication when it’s easy, emotional goodwill is running high and the risk low, than when it’s needed in dire straits.

Managing Ego Depletion

Fuel-gauge

Men trip over mole hills, not mountains…

 

Limited supply of emotional energy

The problem with stating an obvious is that it doesn’t invoke introspection of the baseline idea or concept into our lives and how the obvious plays into our management and decision-making surrounding any number of issues that we face. They’re too easily glossed over. Much like an idea or concept hiding in plain sight, it’s just not seen. This is particularly true of the ego, the pool of emotional energy reserve utilized for self-control, decision-making and willpower. When this energy level is low, it typically impairs one’s ability to facilitate appropriate decision-making both on a personal level and on an interpersonal level which are exemplified by aggression, reduced ability to make trade-offs, decision avoidance, impulse decision-making and impaired self-regulation. Not quite what we want for a healthy relationship structure…

Emotional Muscle

Researchers in social psychology contend that the ego is much like a muscle, that it can be strengthened and built up over time through exercise. It is one of the reasons that older individuals tend to have more ego reserve than the young, is the fact at having lived longer lives and have as a consequence learned to manage this emotional reserve better through experience. And like any muscle, exercising it will drain and fatigue it, but given appropriate rest and refueling, it will grow stronger. But we don’t do that… we chronically strain ourselves and then pile on acute stresses on top of it, much like a cross-fitter who grossly over trains and ultimately ends up injuring themselves in the pursuit of health. When we chronically strain ourselves and then pile on acute stresses on top of it, we must increase the degree of self-care to counter it. If we don’t, we will be running ourselves on an emotional deficit and quickly become ego depleted and suffer the corresponding impaired, undesirable and maladaptive behaviors we wish to avoid in the first place.

A Morale Correlation

While there is a strong correlation between ego depletion and morale, one does not nessicitate the other though. An example is a marathon runner at the completion of a 26 mile run will suffer from a degree of ego depletion, in their ability to make cognitive processes the same way, as if they were well rested- they’re simply exhausted, but will likely be in high morale for having completed a strenuous task. This would be an example of an acute stressor with high morale. If the same marathon runner was then told they would have to walk back, now a chronic stress, we could expect morale to drop dramatically. The same is true in reverse, that we can give fuel to the ego, by ways and means of increasing morale. A relationship partner suffering from chronic or severe acute ego fatigue is a leading indicator for poor morale and future relationship ability impairment. If left unaddressed or mismanaged it can lead to very deleterious behaviors that ultimately lead to the relationship’s failure. How many people are led to cheating on their partners due to sustained chronic stresses built up within their relationship, or external forces acting on it? Learning to identify factors giving rise to ego fatigue, monitoring yours and your partners levels of emotional reserve and countering the effects of ego depletion are tremendous skills to utilize to avoid bigger issues down the road and sustaining a healthy long-term relationship.

 

IMPULSE CONTROL & SELF-REGULATION

You cannot release tension by creating more of it…

Rationally, we know we cannot expect to live harmoniously with our partner at all times, but seldom do we emotionally accept that fact. Frustrations, unmet expectations, let downs, incivility, broached personal boundaries, poor behavior, brushes with insecurity issues, confrontations with un-resolved emotional developmental tasks can often trigger deep emotional reactions that fuel and give rise to unchecked jealousy and anger. These impulses drive our temptations to act utilizing rash behaviors and short-term decision-making that satisfy our basic instincts of self-preservation and immediate self-interest in releasing pent-up tension by lashing out. In the moment there is nothing more compelling and satisfying than completely releasing your engulfed rage and anger… …and then it is over… the moment and the relationship. You simply cannot have a healthy relationship where trust and respect do not exist, and in that moment of lost control and lack of self-regulation both were highly diminished if not destroyed. Just anger should be displayed in incredibly rare occasions and where it is truly warranted, if ever. Ultimately an angry defensive outburst moves you further, rather than closer together.

Negativity spiral of hostile reciprocation

It doesn’t have to be a flash of uncheck rage or anger that kills your relationship. The ease at which negativity, hostility and resentment builds into conflict, strife and reciprocated negativity is frightening, as it spins into an almost unrecoverable spiral of destructive behaviors, as partners interact in an absorbing state of animosity and hostility that fuels itself causing more harm to trust, respect and mutual admiration along the way… This negative spiral is one of the very real reasons that breaking up is the norm, not the exception in intimate relationships. We simply unwittingly fan the flames of demise without squelching them early when conflict is most manageable.

Pro-relationship action

An important function of promoting and enhancing your relationship is your ability to respond constructively rather than destructively to negative impulse temptations. To prevent damage to your relationship and to your reputation regard anger, frustration, the surge for dominance or aggressive competitive action to be ‘right’ or ‘win’ as a caution sign to alert your to problematic emotional situation. The angrier you feel, the less effective you will be able to solve any problem, as it decreases your ability to think, take in new information, take fresh perspective or to come up with new solutions. This is especially true in any form of group activity where consensus building or collaboration building is essential in pursuit of any shared or common goal.

Stop!

Taking a moment to take in a deep breath and letting the surge of adrenaline and emotions to pass through you, to clear your mind for an instant to think before you speak and to think twice before you act, may be all you need to release the tension and relax the body and mind from the fight or flight mode you’re currently on. It is this interruption that allows you to build awareness and establish self-control, to regulate yourself and to act through your beliefs appropriately. Taking a moment to stop and re-affirm your core values will ease the effects of hasty anger by reminding us why those values are important to us. By recognizing that anger is an emotional caution sign, it will help us focus on our long-term objectives, rather than short-term gratification and avoid our natural hazardous responses.

Look!

In the moment of pausing look into not only the situation, but what you really want. Take perspective. How you want to be regarded. Where you want the relationship to take you. How do you value the relationship. Who do you want to be. What are your values and are you acting through those. Focus on your behavior (the only thing you can control) and not of your partner’s is essential. Empowering yourself instead of attempting to control others or the situation is a key component of overcoming anger tendencies. Control what you can- you.

Listen!

Listen to your partner. Not just in what she is saying, not just in what she is doing, but listen for what may be driving those words and actions. Utilize your powers of perception to try to understand what are her needs, wants and feelings of expectations that are unresolved or unmet? What is she emotionally aching for that she cannot reach? Before we speak, before we act, be very careful not to invalidate your partner, as once we have the opportunity for any productive discussion or problem-solving is all but gone.

Listen deeper!

Listen deeper still. Listen to deep within yourself and ask yourself why you’re responding negatively rather than positively to a potentially destructive partner’s behavior? It most likely will underscore unresolved emotional or developmental tasks for yourself well beyond the initiating event. Mentally bookmark this emotional reaction response and investigate it by performing a psychological self-analysis by looking at emotional patterns of behavior, as well as perform a relationship autopsy of those relationships that surround those feelings. Frequently strong emotional responses are unconscious and subliminal signals that unresolved dependency needs and developmental tasks are unresolved and will hinder the health and wellbeing of not only your relationship, but for you as well.

Ego-depletion

Self-control is not the whole story in regulating impulse control. Stress, general frustration, exhaustion, poor nutrition, lack of sleep and competing simultaneous demands will affect will-power and self-control reserves of anyone. It is important to recognize that your self-regulatory strength may be limited. As it is depletable. As it is renewable. Even someone who is committed to his or her relationship may fail at self-regulating due to self-regulating strength depletion despite their motivation.

Self-monitoring

It is highly beneficial if we can self-monitor not only ourselves, but the circumstances and environment in which we are party to for signs that we may be taxed, fatigued or worn down and act to counter it. In many instances we can foresee and anticipate that in an up and coming situation we may reach a similar point, and instead of just ‘sucking it up and driving on’ we can actually pre-plan rejuvenating and energy replenishing actions strategically. Whether this is getting extra sleep and rest, eating properly, treating yourself well, taking a moment to pause and reflect, exercising, sharing a good meal with friends or having sex lavishly (even if it’s just with yourself) can all have a remarkable effect on your ability to express gratitude in life and confer an enormous happiness advantage in general.