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- SUSTAINMENT

woman-playing-chess-with-husband

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

 Proactive Practices

Relationship maintenance sustainment practices and protocols are skills, management ability and efforts directed at keeping a relationship on-going, making sure it stays on-course, continues to be vibrant, flourishing and exciting. They are pro-active by nature, meaning they should be done with a degree of frequency prior to any loss of effectiveness and satisfaction within the relationship (normal wear and tear). Historically relationship maintenance has been the sole domain of the feminine; supporting, caring and nurturing the relationship and its dynamics, but as society and culture have shifted towards a more feminine-centric society, many of these dynamics and their accountable responsibilities are more aptly placed within the masculine prerogative and leadership role. It is important to keep in mind that these tasks and behavioral patterns of proactive relationship sustainment are not typically associated with elements of relationship fault or repair (when there is a malfunction or damaged within the relationship- these will be covered in later blog posts), but are more associated with sustaining emotional energy and health levels within a relationship, such as relationship morale, maintaining relationship value and managing ego depletion, to make sure that the relationship stays on track, is well nourished and alive.

The Big Four

Relationship sustainment efforts should fall under four distinct categories of behavior efforts,(which will all be covered under individual future blog post) but are limitless, as to the specific nature and action elements one can take within each of categories, which include;

 Relationship Stability efforts– which focus on longevity

Relationship Quality efforts– dealing directly with satisfaction, love and intimacy

Maintaining the relationship Status Quo– maintaining specific stages or states within the relationship such as attraction, trust and respect– (opposing Hypergamy).

Maintenance of relational Dialectic Tensions – natural opposing forces or ideals found within relationships, such as connectedness vs autonomy, predictability vs novelty etc…

A Tailored Program

A successful sustainment maintenance protocol or program isn’t just a ‘to do list’ and a process of checking off of the relevant and completed boxes of completed tasks, but an established and tailored program centered specifically on the context of your relationship (because relationships change over time and within one’s life trajectory arch), the objectives you have for the relationship, and the needs, desires and values that each of you want from the relationship. Understanding specifically what you and your partner need and want will help immensely on what to focus on and the frequency it should occur at. Understanding that meeting or exceeding expectations is fundamental to relationship satisfaction, which ultimately determines the relationship heading. Furthermore, the simple reality is that it is human nature to become incredibly enmeshed in routine patterns of behavior, occupied with the rigors of life and to come to expect maintenance behaviors by your partner to occur routinely, which introduces negative behavioral traits into the relationship, namely, taking each other for granted. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as ‘cheating’ at life; either you get it right or you don’t. In this regard, it just makes sense to be organized, diligent and assertive in taking specific timely action to counter our basic instincts and to create a tailored proactive relationship program for ourselves that should include routine elements, tactical application efforts and strategic campaigned efforts to maintain overall relationship satisfaction in the following manner;

Daily Temperature Readingswhat’s your partner’s emotional state and morale? How is this affecting them and the relationship? Are you actively listening to you partners body language, tone, attitude and demeanor when they speak? What is she really communicating and are you letting them know you care in return?

Weekly Gas Ups- We only have a limited degree of emotional energy (ego) and managing ego depletion is critical. Weekly emotional/ego refueling is essential for satisfaction in life. Often the best fuel isn’t having fun, but simply de-stressing and increasing intimacy. Know what works best for both you and your partner and be generous in the refueling. Never run a relationship on an empty emotional tank.

Monthly Tune-Ups- noting what’s impeding relationship satisfaction and taking steps to remove or remediate it, as removing a negative is 4x-8x more effective than adding a positive (actually negatives are just simply that much more destructive than positives, so we should first focus on those first). One of the most important is a self check; what’s your branding status? Are you being the guy you lead her to believe you to be?

Annual Check-Ups- noting the relationship direction in relation to the relationship’s objectives. If the relationship were a ship, does it need to be righted? Are you on the right course despite the relationship tack (alignment in relationship to the wind)? What isn’t happening and what needs to be done? Like ships, relationships rarely sail in straight lines to their objectives and doing so may actually be less than optimal. Understanding the forces that surround your relationship and sailing appropriately is always a better course of action.

Great, healthy relationships just don’t happen. They take a considerable amount of work, empathy and foresight to get right the first time. We naturally get better at those tasks and functions we repeat often and with thought. Our actions define who we are and the quality of the relationships we are in. Often it’s as simple as knowing what needs to improve and taking the necessary steps to act on what we know to be necessary. Understanding the framework that governs that surely helps considerably.

 

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 Conflict

AngryCouple

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional”

The Nature of Relationship Conflict

Real conflicts in relationships are more than just elements associated with let downs, frustrations, incivility or broached boundaries. They’re deeper and more powerful than arguments and disagreements would at first appear. Relationship conflicts are situations where you or your partner perceive an emotional menace, whether that menace is real or imagined. What’s worse is that they tend to repeat and don’t go away from one relationship to another—that is, these menaces will travel with you into your next relationship and with a new partner. These are highly visceral reactions to situations that rationality will not clear away unless the phantoms that are driving this behavior are identified and addressed. It is important to realize that conflicts more central to issues of attachment and commitment will evoke not only a greater threat response from you or your partner, but are more likely to be the structural fault within your relationship and will be a leading candidate for that relationship failure. That is, unresolved emotional issues have a markedly disproportional negative effect on the health and viability of your relationships and as leaders and managers of our relationships we have a responsibility to lead and manage these.

The Nature of Conflict Avoidance

Much like the real issues driving emotional conflicts, conflict avoidance hides several significant motivators to avoid conflict interactions and serves as a good analogy to the hidden emotional issues behind conflicts. Most people can relate to a very basic element of conflict avoidance just because of the very nature of conflict itself; that it is absorbing, energy-consuming and honestly we want to believe that we have better things to do… but is that truly why we avoid conflict, or are there other issues that are really motivating us from venturing there? Would it be more true to recognize that we may be lacking conflict skills and have had a history of poor utilization of those skills and almost no recognizable ability to manage conflict in a healthy and productive way? Are we too afraid, feel too vulnerable or unsure how to bring to the light of day deeply guarded emotional issues with our partner? Are we honestly too insecure about the nature and true character of our relationship to test it in the crucible of conflict and are afraid to find out the reality of where it stands? Understanding these and any other motivator you may have to avoid conflict will be the first step you take to managing conflict within any relationship.

A Lack of Social Fluency

As children we go through the process of learning and developing a large number of social skills facilitating our interactions with others. One of the most important, but seldom taught or developed is conflict skills. And like all skills, unless as adults we continue to develop, nurture and hone our abilities, we’re slaves to the maturity skill level of our abilities of when we initially learned them, regardless of our actual age. It’s why you’ll see fully grown adults resorting to acting like children, because they honestly have no real ability to do otherwise. Their skill set is limited to that of a child’s. On a fundamental level the ability to hold constructive and healthy conflict sessions is a mark of maturity and one relegated to a fully developed adult. Children need to be taught the critical skills of collaborating with others, restraining anger escalation, rejecting shutting down and emotional withdrawal as a viable conflict management strategy and avoiding or changing destructive behavioral patterns of aggression, to resolve or manage conflict. If as an adult you have not developed those, have positive experience utilizing them and have confidence in your ability to enact these abilities, it’s time you sat down with your inner-child and have a heart-to-heart about developing them.

Emotional Gateway

In an emotional conflict people rarely convey the needs at the heart of the problem; the words being said isn’t what your partner is trying to communicate, the issue being addressed, isn’t really the true issue, as there is often a bigger issue behind a closed emotional door, that contains a very large emotional elephant. If we really listen to our partners, not only in what they are saying to us, but in the patterns of behaviors that bring us back to this same very place, time after time, we may come to realize that they are in fact bringing us to an emotional gateway. We ourselves may not even be aware of how deeply a particular issue from our past affected us, until a situation involving conflict has occurred to uncover it. Partners that don’t trust themselves, have the ability or established an operating pattern and history to discuss pertinent, at-risk issues appropriately will often utilize inappropriate methods to advance an issue into the forefront. They will start a minor conflict to segway the discussion into a larger and more important issue, that they feel inadequate discussing, often called a lead-in. A partner who fears holding a particular discussion due to fears of evoking abandonment issues, relationship flight (you leaving her) or heightened emotional insecurities, may in fact deny the presence of hidden issues, even when directly asked (she may not actually be even aware of it herself). We should be cognizant of this possibility and book mark emotional conflicts, so that if we keep returning to them, we can realize that there truly is something else there, even if our partner is unwilling to openly address it, or the fact we can’t see it. In such a case, finding and knocking on these emotional doors may not be enough. Our partners may continue to deny their existence. In such cases, it is not our responsibility to open those doors, it is our partner’s. If they choose to keep them shut and us out, we can only identify that we were aware, willing and offering a safe environment for them to share with us, but they are ultimately accountable for not doing so. Regrettably these issues tend to be the leading cause for relationship failures, known or otherwise and that is of their making, not ours.

The Crucible- a Test of Character

Emotional conflicts within relationships test the character of the relationship itself and can tell us as much about the relationship, as it does the individuals within the conflict. Just as we can deduce an individual’s social fluency by observing their social skill mastery, we can evaluate a relationship’s strength, health and vibrancy by observing how conflict is handled, regarded and managed within the relationship. Is the conflict not only addressed in a manner which seeks resolution by both partners, but do the partners separate the individual from the issue with tact and respect and do the partners utilize the source of conflict for greater understanding and comprehension of their partner? When done so, conflict can be a tremendous opportunity to lead to deeper respect, trust and intimacy. Conflict tests relationships and individuals more rigorously than other forms of interactions and can be very frightening because of it, but by developing our and our partner’s ability to handle, manage and constructively resolve conflict can we gain honest confidence in our relationship’s true strength and character, by having navigated through it.

Conflict Cost

We must learn to manage conflict because the risks involved in not doing so are very real and very, very costly. Appropriate conflict management prevents physical and psychological aggression within intimate relationships. We are vastly less likely to lash out with physical violence, in releasing engulfed rage and anger that has built up rapidly within a spiraling and unrestrained conflict setting. We are less likely to be physically domineering and physically aggressive, in an attempt to control or manage a situation where our skill sets have failed us. We are less likely to commit emotional and psychological harm in delivering vicious and insidious personal verbal attacks in moments of lost self-regulation. We are less likely to lose relationships that we have invested heavily in emotionally, physically, sexually, socially and financially. Beyond the total sum cost of any failed relationship, the cost of not developing conflict management skills is that this lack of ability will likely be handed down from Father to child. Parents that manage conflict appropriately are less likely to neglect or abuse their children and are more than likely to pass those positive behavior skill sets down to their children. The same hand that guides the Mother will be the same hand that guides his children.