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.

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Managing Feedback, Coaching & Mentoring

Coaching-Mentoring

“A relationship is only as good as the partners in it”

 

Developmental stagnation and the cycle of failure

We have an expectation that people over time learn, develop, and grow. We formulate these thoughts and notions under the heights of our own explosive growth, as children and young adults and just assume that, that progression continues throughout life. By now, if we honestly reflect upon that notion, we know it not to be the case, that unless the individual is honestly applying themselves in the search of knowledge, seeking out new ways of thinking, acting or behaving they’re developmentally stunted, in the age in which they learned those particular skills or knowledge base. Quite often it’s decades old and from another period of their life. We also have a fond notion that people learn from their mistakes and while this ‘can’ be true, it too, normally isn’t. It’s just far too easy to accept failures, big and small, reframe, and cast blame, then to continue on having truly learned very little. It is why people who seek to succeed continue to train themselves, seek direct feedback, solicit coaching to find their blind spots and objectively guide their process, while forming mentorship to help put it all into perspective. If we’re interested in developing relationship skills, fostering management ability and establishing maintenance protocols, nowhere is this more readily available and pertinent than that of the relationship we’re in. In that regard, relationships are tremendously fertile grounds for testing one’s abilities, attributes and to learn, if we create and utilize a framework for doing so.

Nurturing a culture of development

It is important to recognize that your partner is you team and like any good team, developing trust and communication is a key element for group performance. It is incumbent upon us, as relationship leaders and managers, to establish open lines of communication within the relationship, foster and nurture the trust in the communication process, through proven experience and exercise in their utilization. Simply put, we must practice good communication and trust development prior to our having to need them in a time of crisis. Learning a new skill during a time of crisis is a horrible learning environment and piss poor planning and management. We can start this by recognizing and validating our partners in what they are already doing well and what we appreciate. We can also solicit from them the same. Not only does this foster incentive for the behavior, but also initiates a communication process regarding behavioral performance. Over time this process quickly becomes part of accepted relationship culture and develops a natural reservoir of good will, that then can progress to specific negative behavior performance remediation with less resistance. While we cannot directly control our partner’s orientation for overall receptivity and likelihood of acting on feedback, we can foster an environment of support for it, by establishing trust, respect, and interpersonal validation in early communication efforts with our partner, rewarding performances improvements and clearly communicating a strong link between value and outcome.

The (3) ranges of development management

In developing a frame-work for personal development it is important to recognize three major categories in which development takes place and need to be managed separately; much like goals they consist of a series of ranges from short, medium and long-range in nature. They are the following:

Feedback– short-range in nature, that provides explicit, factual information on performance with specific emphasis on technique and skill. These elements can be measured and appropriate goals set with associated follow-up. They are task specific.

Coaching– will require greater knowledge transfer with longer duration of involvement. It requires an establishment of a solid connection of trust and respect and communication rapport within the relationship and centers less on technique and more on process and direction of areas of developmental concern, which may not be entirely known or identified at that time.

Mentoring– is done throughout the lifespan of the relationship. It is primarily process focused, requiring strong levels of emotional ties, broad objective viewing, and developmental guidance and support for future role and relationship visioning.

Application

At any given time, in investing in our partner and our relationship, we may be called upon to utilize these management traits in concert, in series or alone. If our partner by example lacks a particular skill, it will be incumbent upon us to provide specific feedback regarding that, provide a frame-work of coaching in which that skill development can be exercised and visionary guidance in the form of mentoring.

We may become aware that our partner has a subconscious developmental issues from their past that are playing out within our current relationship and needs/desires assistance and support in discovering, analyzing and overcoming those issues.

We may also find that our partners look to us as examples, a source of strength and inspiration or simply a vision for how to live and be.

Now rather than later

It is important to develop a positive and proactive culture of giving and receiving feedback, mutual coaching and peer mentorship within a relationship, to not only continue personal growth, development, and health, but to preemptively stop conflict spirals, which have their root cause in poor feedback, an erosion of trust and respect and poor interpersonal behavioral performance. During a process of relationship conflict, which is bound to occur, it is not the time to come to terms with previous errors of judgment, revisit old sources of tension and renegotiate how to coordinate with your partner, which is often the case when we don’t. By then you’re well behind the power curve. It’s far better to start now.

 

Soliciting Feedback

Soliciting Feedback image

“Houston we have a problem…”

Receiving honest feedback or better yet, soliciting honest feedback is a terribly challenging thing to do initially. Often we are afraid of the answers. We just don’t want our eyes opened to them. We’re afraid of change and the emotional and physical toll on our psyche in accomplishing them. Lastly I feel that we’re also very much afraid of being accountable and taking responsibility for our actions and behaviors in how they affect others and how they affect our relationships. It’s just simply easier to stay comfortable in not knowing, not addressing and not being accountable.

Mind the Sting…

Don’t react to the initial sting of negative feedback, by becoming defensive or guarded. The sting is there to get your attention and to call upon your focus. Learn to recognize it as such. Critical events are confidence-testing junctures and almost always opportunities for learning even though they are moments in which you are managing conflict. With receiving feedback your competence and individual performance are being addressed by your partner as she is expressing her emotional needs. If unsolicited and the more raw, insightful and direct with regards to your long-standing personal traits or behaviors, these can very much trigger self-esteem and self-image issues of the ego in adverse ways. Recognize the value of this opportunity and the information being presented, as it will likely hold value you haven’t addressed or capitalized on and is coming from a trusted source with intimate knowledge of the subject at hand.

 “Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them”

The initial shock to your system will dissipate shortly, if you have the appropriate frame of mind and stay positive by living in the moment. You’re a man. This is the time to display those qualities associated with stoic calm, self-control and fortitude of mind. This is your chance to showcase leadership through example and action that you are able to overcome immediate destructive emotions that will limit communication, reduce trust, marginalize respect and deter potential for personal growth. The qualities of being open, receptive and supporting of personal accountability to your behavior and how you make others experience being around and with you, is central to high emotional quotient leadership and diplomacy, which is essential to being successful in our world today.

I’ll take that criticism with a side of understanding, performance optimization and positive incentives, please!

Criticism is not appropriate feedback for a healthy and respectful relationship. Criticism without a better cognitive understanding of the issue being addressed, alternative task performance behaviors options and positive incentives or associations with performance objectives, creates stress and anxieties which left unchecked will fester into a negative relationship spiral of hostility and resentment, leading to deeper future tensions and conflicts. The point of feedback is not just to alert one to an issue, but to provide constructive means of developing awareness of behavioral consequences, alternative strategies, techniques or procedures to mitigate such performances, and to develop a bond between the parties of trust and respect throughout the interaction, which is the hallmark of developing empathy within a relationship.

Nagging is not your life on auto-correct!

If your partner is unaware of the importance of respectful feedback to a relationship , unfamiliar with actually providing constructive and supportive feedback, it is up to you as the leader within the relationship to maintain that boundary issue of respect, consideration and clear communication, by addressing this deficit by teaching and coaching them through the process of it. Often to have effective communication, we have to clear the channels of communication of what is hindering information navigation. Nowhere is this more important than when dealing with personal animosities and incompatibilities while trying to be emotionally supportive within an intimate relationship. We must first establish the patterns and formats of constructive communication prior to actually attempting to communicate.

Be Gracious…

What we do speaks louder than our words… When your partner is providing you sincere feedback, be gracious and extend a strong measure of gratitude by actively listening to what they have to say without distraction, without proffering excuses. Practice all the skills of an effective listener, by having open and receptive body language and posture, kind and welcoming facial expressions and actively encouraging them to continue to discussion the situation, it’s context, the specific performance tasks being addressed, with possible alternative solutions, as well as the incentives to doing so. This respectful behavior shows your partner that you care and respect them. That their concerns matter to you. That they matter to you.

“Ouch!”

Be aware of becoming defensive and that the more critical the feedback is, the more likely you are to feel defensive. It is completely alright to take a moment and acknowledge that you’re feeling vulnerable and defensive with your partner prior to continuing. Feel free to share that information openly. They likely are to relate that they are feeling the same way in addressing you and bringing it up. It’s common ground. It’s common ground you can work with. It’s common ground you both share in valuing the other. Acknowledging that can reduce the tensions, anxieties and frustrations a great deal prior to continuing.

Check the message

As you actively listen to your partner, seek out opportunities in which you can check and verify your understanding of what they are attempting to communicate to develop a solid consensus of what the real issue is. If you are unclear or unsure of their intent ask and probe for specifics to provide more clarification, until you are sure and they are aware of it. Make sure you are able to communicate back to them the context, the specific performance task in question, what it means to them, how it makes them feel and how its affects their perception of the relationship.

Seek out solutions

Compassionate leaders value others and their input in collaborative problem solving. They will seek out their input in crafting responsive solutions and smart answers to problems. They don’t believe they have and hold all the answers, nor believe that an awareness to a problem is the solution to it. Compassionate leaders have a solid belief that they can find and discover appropriate solutions in conjunction with others, and strengthen the relationship and themselves in the process. Compassionate leaders embrace the power of creativity in navigating challenges. They are able to successfully harness imagination and incentive to drive the engine of change. The power of solution seeking is about your values, confidence and connectedness with the issue and people surrounding them.

 Provide Thanks…

Never conclude a feedback session with “OK.” Much like the Olympic gymnastics, you need to stick the dismount. You need to provide and sincere ‘thank you’ and show your appreciation at their care and consideration, respect and support in voicing their concerns with you. You need to do the same in recognition of that fact. It’s not just good manners, it’s good relationship management.

It may be them, not you…

Not all feedback may be legitimate. You may actually disagree and that’s fine, as long as you clearly understand what your partner has tried to address, how it has made them feel and you’ve been respectful and open to their position and have taken all of it into consideration upon your conclusion. Other times you may not be as sure. At those junctures it would be wise to seek the insights and feedback from others you trust and respect, to gather more information and determine the reliability of the initial insights.

Follow up

While it is highly important to seek solutions to improve, make sure that your partner is prepared to assist you in recognizing when you’re making an attempt at change and to call attention to it while you are doing so in the form of praise, but to benchmark progress to review your performance over time to verify performance modification and acceptance. Doing so will help remove uncertainty which distracts from actual task performance, improve your motivation and lead to more efficient and healthy relationship.

Simple mind reading

When surveyed people were asked how happy they were in their relationship, which was remarkably accurate in predicting the longevity of the relationship over the course of the survey period. Short of mind reading our partners the best alternative is to solicit their opinions directly. Having the self-confidence, courage and integrity to seek their guidance, input and feedback during the relationship can help you mitigate facing the same issues, in a brutal fashion, when she leaves a failed relationship. Either way you’re going to get the feedback, one way or another.

Providing Feedback

“Without feedback you’re operating in a vacuum”

We live in a world and age of constant feedback, most of it subtle, others not so much. We recognize intuitively, if not rationally, that there is a direct correlation between performance and structured feedback, yet in an area as critical in our lives, such as an intimate relationship, we tend to provide little leadership and guidance to our partners, until a boundary has been breached. A strong, healthy relationship will be one in which both parties are able to grow and develop within a safe, secure and trusting environment. That growth and development will be fostered in part under an observance and guidance of well-meaning and appropriate feedback, geared towards removing conflict and improving the relationship bond.

Checking your relationship altitude

To perverse goodwill and not risk alienating our partner, structured feedback should only occur if there is truly a constructive purpose for it and you have a surplus reserve of emotional goodwill in supply. (There is a major difference between providing your partner feedback and becoming her parent.) You should be well versed in the 4:1 praise-criticism ratio where this is the baseline between respondents stating that they feel “OK” in their relationships and not being “OK”. Going below this ratio level and we are at risk of alienating our partner and ultimately bankrupting the relationship. This simple form of social diplomacy should be a basic guide and indicator of how much emotional reserve is available and potentially how well received your feedback will be, prior to deciding to initiate any structured feedback with your partner. If need be, build your relationship and partner up prior to putting any additional pressures on them or the relationship. Note: this does not mean metering our praise like a ‘yes, ladder’ just prior to going for your ‘sale’ of providing feedback.

A.S.A.R.

Providing feedback in real-time may not be to everyone’s, nor the relationship’s best interests or option. Even though any incident or concern may be fresh in everyone’s mind, discretion is the better part of valor. Rather than focus on a general policy of ASAP in addressing an issue, a better and more appropriate approach of ‘As Soon As Reasonably Ready’ (ASAR) should be considered. This gives you enough time to collect your thoughts, prepare them and to initiate the discussion in a calm and reasonable manner, aka ‘like a man’.

Value Follows Energy

How you approach a critical conversation, how you initiate it, the tone and attitude of your words and the nature of your body language matters more than what you say to your partner. The first few seconds of the interaction sets the tone for everything that follows, whether your partner feels under attack or is being guided and received by a loving and caring hand. It is important to remember that value follows energy. Where is your emotional state when addressing your partner? Is it loving? Is it controlling? Is it angry? Is it upset? Is it condescending? Learning to control the emotional state of the conversation will do more for helping to direct the consequences of your conversation, than your words ever will.

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Un-prepare content is rarely palatable. In conveying your thoughts make sure to infuse and express appreciation for your partner. Doing so not only takes off the rough edges of the topic but adds fuel and incentive for initiating change. It is also important to express concern regarding the nature of relationship, as this discussion is about avoiding breaching potential boundaries or failed expectations, which will have a much greater damaging effect to the relationship if left un-addressed. You must be sincere in this regard. It communicates that you care and have respect for your partner. Without it you’re unlikely to foster and empower change.

The Power of “I”

Before launching into the specifics of your concerns it is vital that you place it in context. This is about how you feel. This is about what you have observed. This is what you are noticing. These concerns are about your perceptions. Make sure your partner understands that, by addressing your concerns with “I” statements. Once you have done so, then you are free to address your specific concern, while focusing on the behavior or actions in question. It is important to never make this about your partner, but upon specific behavior or issues. No where during this is it appropriate to bring in snarky comments, sarcasm or character attacks. Lead the relationship by example.

Channel Dr. Phil

Having just communicated the issue of concern, but before actually making your request for change, elicit your partner’s input into the situation. What’s driving the behavior? Why do they feel it’s appropriate? Are they aware of how this makes you feel? In conducting any emotional needs communication it is important to be honest about your own needs, while at the same time validating your partner’s, by providing respect in understanding them by applying the techniques of active listening, prior to soliciting change or proffering specific suggestions of alternative behaviors and collaboration in doing so.

The Cornerstone

Only after your partner has been heard, understood and re-affirmed are you truly free to make room for change. Having done so, frequently people will fail to verify acceptance or understanding back from their partner in exchange. Confirming that your partner hears, understand and recognizes the importance of what you have expressed, after-all, is the cornerstone of the entire conversation. Check their understanding not only of the issue at hand, but their commitment and agreement to amending the issue.

Bring it together

In going through the conflict management points of determining the context, setting the tone, taking perspective and discussing emotions it is vital to resolve any emotional needs communication with re-affirming your belief in your partner as a person and the value you hold for the relationship in general. We started this process with an understanding of the hazardous half-minute, end with the same sensitivity, caring, affection and appreciation.