MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

route-66

 

 

 

“Route 66”

“If you ever plan to motor west,

Travel my way, take the highway that is best.

Get your kicks on Route Sixty-Six.”

The Open Highway

For relationships to be healthy, meaningful and satisfying we should measure them with more than just ‘longevity’ as the sole matrix.  Relationship should last because they’re beneficial and good for the parties involved, and because both parties desire the relationship to do so.  The key then once a relationship has become set in a stable and relatively predictable state is how to manage that status quo over the course of time.  An appropriate analogy would be that of the Great American Road Trip where the destination in which you’re going to, in many cases, is less important than the overall experience of the trip, the unplanned and planned excursions you take along your journey and the quality of time spent with your partner on the open road together, but like most things can be ruined by common minor elements, that build up over time or a single major fouling.  Keep in mind that a negative has been proven to offset a positive at a ratio of 8:1, and therefore the majority of what we will cover are those elements where we typically get in our own way of relationship health, stability and satisfaction.

 Letting go of the wheel

Our gender schemas are deeply embedded within our own cognitive and social frameworks regarding what defines masculine and feminine and the roles for each.  Social agents work to formalize, instruct and to guide us in these roles, which are often at odds with biology and unspoken expectations and negotiated agreements established through behavior within the relationship.  One of the clearest examples of this is ‘who leads and manages the relationship?’ (who’s driving the relationship), which was negotiated through unspoken expectations and behavioral actions in the beginning of the relationship and the problems that become of it when that early agreement is renegotiated at a later stage.  At its core, relationships begin to fail when a man let’s go of the leadership obligations he’s entrusted with and is expected to carry out.  I’ll let Greg Swann, a good friend, philosopher and thorn in many people’s side, pick up the argument in a blog post he did a while back;

“Do you dispute this? He was in charge of the relationship from the beginning. He initiated it. He nurtured it. He pursued it. He escalated it. And he put the ring on it. Is any of that untrue?

He is the leader of that marriage, and he is the only leader of that marriage, because the relationship exists only because he quite literally made it happen.”

Ladies, in the beginning, you were happy to forfeit agency, accountability and social equality in lieu of privileges your gender is offered in traditional social structure, but now once comfortable and secure within the relation, seek additional benefits and privileges by renegotiating those terms under a la carte feminist ideals, prerogatives and sense of entitlement…  which technically is fine, but just don’t be surprised and blame your partner, when your relationship fails or you file for divorce because you were “unhappy” (leading cause stated for divorce, of which women initiate +70% of the time).  If your ‘happiness’ did depend upon your partner to provide it (as claimed) and you’ve taken the responsibility, accountability and agency from them to do so… sorry cupcake, that’s your fault.  I can totally empathize with women and understand the desire to grab a wheel of a moving vehicle when the driver isn’t in command of the vehicle (relationship) or is absent-minded and distracted from his duties.  Your job is NOT to grab the wheel and wrestle for control, but to wake him to his deficit.  Should that fail, you’d both be better off if you where honest and upfront about it and took a different journey with an appropriate man behind the wheel…  Guys, should you have any passenger grab the wheel of your relationship and attempt to steer it, I would immediately pull over and let them off at the side of the road.  This would be true for ANY passenger; her, her friends, parents, sibling, children and to include your family, friends, etc… otherwise, if you’ve decided you’re just going to ride, don’t get behind the wheel in the first place.  On the other hand, if you are truly interested in maintaining the status quo that you had when you first started dating; learn to drive; whether that’s a Ferrari, mini-van or school bus.

Falling asleep behind the wheel

A significant issue to long-term relationships is the compliancy that comes with the security of a stable and predictable relationship.  We simple invest less energy into the relationship, because it doesn’t demand it and we fail to ask for it.  We fall prey to a comfortable trance, that turns into monotony,  that dulls our sense of spirit and adventure.  We can address this by not falling asleep to relationship maintenance elements of sustainment, stability, quality and relational dialectical tensions.  As partners we should carefully drive the course of the relationship between these lane markers associated with balancing these relationship maintenance elements and towards our objective goal.  And much like lane dividers and rumble strips, we should communicate to our partner and they us, when the relationship is veering from these guide lines and for us to then take action and properly steer back onto our course.

Driving within your ability

Far more sinister and damaging is the increased compliancy associated with not having our emotional, physical and sexual needs met within the relationship, nor holding frank, open and honest discussion regarding these with our partner.  This is in large part due to a number of factors that we fear holding these discussions, whether from the built up relationship equity, the fear of conflict and where this known conflict may lead, a lack of our abilities to hold, manage and appropriate conflict accordingly and any personal and social stigmas we may feel are attached to these sentiments, desires and needs, can and often hold us back from essential sharing and critical emotional communication with our partner.  We fear the risk to our comfort, more than we do our own authenticity and the health of the relationship.  By not establishing a case history and success within the relationship of being open and vulnerable to express our feelings, desires or needs, we subjugate these feelings and any solution that may be available, to an unhealthy status quo.  We simply will not risk testing the strength of our relationship in a significant way, where it hasn’t been proven capable of in a lesser way.  This of course poses a paradox between comfort and growth, defined by the saying “there’s no growth in the comfort zone” and the fact that relationship should be grown over time.   The status quo of personal and relationship development is advancement, which fundamentally means change.   As such, it would be wise to take the relationship only as fast and on a course, in which we can safely manage, but to steadily increase our ability to do so.  Are you advancing your knowledge, skill and experience base consistently to advance yourself and the relationship in an effort to stay together?  Do you have a repertoire of skills from which you can draw upon for difficult situations and are you adding to them on a regular basis?  This is your skill set and ability to drive a relationship safely and effectively.   If we cannot hold a conversation about minor relationship concepts of respect of property or space, such as shutting cabinet doors after use, how do we expect to hold an honest and open conversation about our partners in ability to hold our sexual attraction and meet our needs of intimacy?  To span this sort of gulf between us and our partner we need to already have established a setting of trust, respect and safety for already having navigated simpler, less stressful and dangerous situations.  Our abilities and skills need to be proven or the speed of the relationship needs to be slowed to the degree in which we can safely navigate these challenges.  We must also be keenly aware that the environmental conditions in which we find the relationship play significantly into our abilities to manage these tasks… the more adverse the conditions, the more care we should take in response.  This ultimately means we should not be advancing  any relationship beyond the limits of proven ability- a girlfriend with whom we cannot be committed to being fully honest, open with and that has sound conflict management skills (girlfriend track) should never be taken onto the marriage track under any circumstances where the risks, dangers and consequences are far greater.

The Sing-Along

The ‘sing-along’ is a time-tested ritual utilized to pass the time, break the monotony and to bond participants together as a group.  These songs are often central to our sense of identifying with those experiences and the timeframe in which they existed in our lives.  As children they may have been children’s songs or common folk songs.  As we get older they are replaced by anthems of youthful vitality, independence and freedom.  The question becomes then ‘what is the soundtrack of your relationship?’ and ‘what are you doing do foster it?’.  Playful relationship rituals thus become key to entertaining each other through the passing of time, to break the monotony of the rigors and stresses of life, to bond you and your partner together and to keep our interest in each other vibrant and alive.

Running out of gas

It isn’t a road trip if you can complete the journey on a single tank of gas… knowing the general range and context of your relationship travels will help you to manage the essential elements of individual and relationship ego depletion (emotional energy), of which there is only a limited amount, prior to exhaustion.  Just like a car, we can run on empty, as long as we’re constantly re-filling our emotional reserves and we are within range of those services, but should we knowingly face a journey in which that range and services will exceed our current reserve, we’d be wise to prepare for that in advance of that journey or as soon as possible, once we realize it.  To maintain a relationship in a healthy status quo we need to make sure that the degree of individual and relationship self-care exceeds the stresses and demands placed before us and the relationship.  This is where an emotional and empathic partner is invaluable.  Too often we will run ourselves low and to a breaking point, and they can identify it and help us to remediate the effects of stress through active de-stressing techniques, increasing simple acts of intimacy and uplifting our spirits in a wide variety of ways. 

(*** bonus tip for the ladies;  if you list being ‘sarcastic’ as an attribute on your dating profile…good men see this as a warning flag and will naturally avoid you out of self-interest and preservation.  Being ‘sarcastic’ means you’re only destructive- sarcasm never builds, it only destroys.  Who honestly thinks they can build a relationship, let alone a life, with anyone who’s valued attribute and nature is to destroy?)    

 

The Pit Stop

On any great journey there is going to be a need to take care of a wide variety of personal and relationship type needs.  Much like a pit stop on a road trip, these are the times in which basic service and maintenance checks and services should be completed.  We should be asking our partners about their relationship satisfaction, even if you’re aware of their general feelings of happiness and satisfaction, there’s always room for removing stray bugs that smear and litter our relationship windshields.  These are the points in which we should be checking the levels of relationship communication and making sure that the mechanisms of sharing and expression are well lubricated.  How’s the alignment of the relationship tires?  Are they properly inflated and is tread wear within service life conditions?  Verifying, tending and reinforcing relationship boundaries needs and expectations are all critical to safe (drama free) and efficient running relationship.  Soliciting feedback will be more accurate than solely utilizing observation techniques to gauging this.  We should also plan on these occasions relationship planning; checking the course, direction, distance and destinations in which you both intend to take the relationship to make sure that the relationship and life journey is mutually satisfying for both of you.

Settling for Winona

Some trips are one-way affairs, with no intent upon returning back from whence you came.  The intent is to take the relationship to a particular destination and for it to permanently reside there.  I began this post with the analogy of the Great American Road Trip and I specifically kept the ideal Route 66 in mind.  Now I’d like to add to it just a little bit…  That highway was originally the route settlers took starting from Chicago to go to California and was utilized to avoid crossing the Rocky Mountain and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, which was consider very risky and dangerous for the time.  The song by the same name, Route 66, delineates stopping points, towns and cities of that journey within its lyrics;

 It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

On a two thousand mile journey, a lot can and more often than not, does happen, especially if you’re a settler in ox pulled carts, let alone in an air-conditioned convertible (Yes, people actually do drive with the top down and AC on full- its awesome).  There is a notion in the West that where some people’s wagon wheels broke, they settled, for failure of financial capital, resources, knowledge or sheer gumption prevented them from settling where they initially intended or set out for.  In the frontiers of relationship development, if your choice destination is that of California, make sure that you plan and prepare for these types of predictable occurrences, so that you do indeed settle in California instead of Winona and that relationship management, maintenance and repair are a part of your relationship status quo.

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MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIP QUALITY

Relationship Quality

 

 

 

 

 

“Quality is never achieved by dropping standards…”

If you don’t have the ability to interact with, entice and compel your partner to invest herself with your time, presence and service (what you bring to the table), you’re not in the business of maintaining the quality of that relationship. You’re simply running on borrowed time and built up relationship equity to pay the emotional bills, for your relational insolvency (liabilities that exceed your value). Partnerships at their core are about mutual exchange of value to advance individual interest. If we become complacent, negligent, or destructive about maintaining value or care regarding our partners interests, we should take full accountability for the initiation of that relationship’s deterioration. As a strategic matter people should learn to avoid those people who are unwilling or incapable of providing for our needs prior to a relationship and that goes as well for relationship once they are already initiated. If your needs are not being met, seek to resolve those internally, but be prepared to walk away.

Frame control

Frame or the underlying structural support that makes up a physical composition of a subject, in this case a relationship, was negotiated and accepted early, even long prior to any formal commitment or recognition thereof a relationship. In particular, you being a man, having the social expectation to lead, to be its steward and to have it molded by you. When men relinquish control of the relationship frame devastation occurs. Nowhere is this better reflected and recorded than when viewing divorce statistics… over half of all marriages fail, with women doing 70% of the filings, the primary reason for which was ‘a lack of martial satisfaction’… They simply were ‘unhappy’. This begs an important series of questions; if they were unhappy, who’s responsibility were they expecting to fulfill their needs of satisfaction? Obviously their partner, from whom they are divorcing, but what lead to this? While there will be a myriad of individual responses, a disproportionate number of them will center around the man abdicating his masculine role and responsibilities within the relationship. Because of this we should rid ourselves of any preconception that women want, need, care to share or should have control of the relationship frame if we want our relationships and families survive and thrive. Sorry ladies, your actions speak louder than your words…

Attraction isn’t negotiable

Repeated social studies have demonstrated and reaffirmed the common observation of the consistent erotic appeal of male dominance as sexual cues of attraction and desire for women, whether those are the hypergamous triggers of physical being, social behaviors or status display cues of dominance or ‘alpha’ traits. Please keep in mind that these base traits of desire do not diminish over time. In fact they are terribly consistent. At a woman’s base biological need is a desire to be with an unapologetic masculine male- a Man. Social dominance plays such an important role in feminine attraction that manipulating this single variable socially has repeatedly shown and proven dramatic improvements in a man’s sexual market value- the degree to which he is sexually valued by women. This social dominance begins and ends with a man’s perceived self-worth and is nowhere more clearly reflected in action than by his command of the word ‘No!’. A man of worth has standards and his behaviors and actions reflect those, especially in the face of perceived opposition. It is human nature to value that which is earned, which makes giving women a pass, is a sure way to sell yourself short and display low value. Beyond that it is bad practice as it is a form of rewarding bad behavior, and that which we subsidize we get more of, much to many a men’s ultimate regret.

Branding

It’s the job of the seller to sell the value of a product or service by making a connection with their customer base and extolling the virtues of it… This is called branding. In many ways it’s simply identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors and then hammering those in a visible way. One of the things that attracts people to a certain brand is the power of presence they project known as the halo-effect, which is identified by the strength of the initial idealization, as the greater the initial idealization the greater the reports of satisfaction over the following year. This held true for products, services and amazingly enough relationships too! Another way of looking at this is that people we interact with tell themselves a story of who they perceive us to be. We feed that story by making a series of statements by our presence, actions and words that tell people who we are and what they can expect from us. These studies in short tell us that it is far better to be the Lone Ranger, than it is to be the actor who portrays him. Your story needs to be robust enough to attract their attention and keep it. You need to be prepared to live that story out loud (by actions, as it build credibility), because soft-spoken stories rarely give rise to rapt audiences.

Meeting their emotional needs

The leading indicator for relationship quality is best measured by the degree of relational satisfaction- the degree to which our needs, desires and appetite are being fulfilled within the relationship. When we meet our partner’s needs, it creates the greatest degree of happiness, acceptance and validation in turn, which is emotionally transferred into the context of what we describe as love. Unfortunately not all needs are created equally, nor equally valued by each individual, which make it particularly important to respond to our partner’s needs if we want satisfaction to remain high. Your job is to find out what those are, to what degree are they valued and how to best meet or achieve those. Affection and intimacy are two critical emotional needs that are often seen as the cement of a relationship. With it we’re bonded to each other, without it we are totally alienated by its absence. This is where the value of rituals comes into play. By having consciously established patterns of behaviors focused on intimacy and affection helps safeguards the relationship because they are simply lost in hard times when we need them the most.

Positivity as an essential

One of the most important characteristics of relationship satisfaction is the ability of couples to accentuate the positive in life more than those that choose to revel in the negatives of life. While shit happens to everyone, we command the choice to be miserable or not. It should come as no surprise then that miserable people have miserable relationships…which usually end miserably. The point here is that it pays handsome dividends to have a healthy masculine male leadership who is able to sort out emotional trivialities, to define interpret what is important, by taking issues into perspective, accepting accountability for one’s emotional state and being emotionally secure in the face of adversity (especially her disapproval) to cease negativity where it serves no positive function within the relationship (all these are renown masculine traits not feminine). Simply put that may mean calling your partner out on her negativity and setting the relationship cultural tone for promoting positivity over adversity. Please bear in mind the law of emotional contagion (the unconscious tendency to mimic the emotions of others) that the strongest frame will win out.

Nature of commitment

An inherent feature to relationship satisfaction is powerfully linked to the qualitative nature of commitment. The degree to which our partners identify with and actively reduce our cautionary reactions to fears and insecurity regarding our vulnerabilities of relationship future projection, actively mitigates the degree of distrust we feel based on those natural occurring anxieties. Until we can alleviate our partner’s predominant concerns for self-protection, emotional safety and security they will be reluctant to develop a deep and abiding faith in us or our relationship with them. We need to recognize the importance of promoting trust by clarifying our intentions, validating our partners and highlighting the value we hold of our relationship, through regular assurances which are reinforced by gestures and behavior as demonstrations of commitment and loyalty.

Engaging Social Networks

As social creatures we have a deep need for social approval and acceptance. It is not surprising then to know that studies on depression have routinely placed positive social events on par with the effects gained through medication to remediate the state of low personal mood associated with sadness, emptiness, worthlessness and hurt. In fact, many doctors will actually prescribe social events with friends, family and loved-ones as a course of action to take to limit or reduce the effects of depression. As such social events make incredible tools for improving the quality of relationships. Integrating our relationship within greater social circles has the effect of expanding the degree of affirmation, validation and support we receive, which greatly offsets life’s challenges. Care must be taken though, when our social circles come into conflict with our relationships, because they can be as detrimental as positive. Boundaries in these cases need to be clearly articulated socially, if not physically, depending upon the nature and intensity of the conflicts, as history and literature are replete with examples where relationships are made or broken by the acceptance of a given pair in a social construct.

 

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.