RELATIONSHIP MAINTENANCE

 

Man Looking Under Hood

“Your service life may vary…”

 

The culture of replaceability and technological obsolescence

As a culture, we’ve grown accustomed to industries and services that afford us the luxury of replacement over maintenance and repair. It is further enhanced by the love of new and evolving technologies over existing tried and true products that are developed and produced at affordable pricing to allow designed obsolescence. At best, it’s manufacturers who’ve created products that are intentionally designed to limit user maintenance, tune-ups and repair from their daily life and in many respects from the product’s service life almost entirely. We’ve also developed economies that afford us the tremendous ability to outsource those tasks and services that we would rather not due to nature of that labor, the environmental conditions of that labor, technical skill required to undertake those jobs and the time requirements associated with doing those functions. It’s a remarkable first world achievement. The hidden underbelly of this effect is that we are not cultured to the ideas, concepts or practices of maintaining other elements in our lives that need and require those skills and management abilities to flourish. We simply have excised the concept of maintenance from our lives. This cultural mindset has taken root into the sexual market place, where it is vastly easier to replace a partner than it is to learn the skills and management ability maintain a relationship, let alone repair deficiencies due to standard wear and tear, or exercise restraint in operational use to prevent a breakdown. The hidden cost is dramatically high, emotionally, financially and physically. This cost plays and radiates out from an individual personal level, to the family, into a cultural and ultimately within a society as a whole. The inability culturally to maintain and support personal relationship structures, such as marriages, has proven to collapse entire social cultures and threatens greater societies on a whole.

The nature of maintenance

Maintenance on a basic level accounts for operator observation to the performance of the system being utilized, the characteristics of the environment in which the system is being utilized and how that affects the system standards of performance and wear and tear expectations, the life cycle point of the system, standard conditional use benchmarks for inspections, testing and servicing of subsystems and to the servicing and replacement of subsystem faults, as they occur or ideally before they actually fault, as part of a service replacement schedule, to include integration of safeguarding practices. Having relationship maintenance skills and management protocols and abilities in place to ensure care, appropriate handling and servicing of the relationship and your partners needs will help afford for the relationship’s reliability, quality, longevity, provide increase relationship safety and to preserve invested relationship capital and equity.

Vehicle maintenance analogy

If we choose to use a vehicle as our model for a system, maintenance would start with the driver being cognizant of observable traits, characteristics and performance levels for the vehicle… He’ll notice when the tires a low, when the vehicle pulls to one side when being driven and the unique characteristics of the engine sounds as it moves along, accelerates and decelerates. He will also recognize the environmental conditions in which the vehicle is being driven will affect performance and maintenance requirements… stop and go traffic is very different from highway driving… not only will your mileage vary, but so to the wear and tear. Don’t get me started with racing and drifting… (It amazes me how many guys treat their relationships like something out of the movie Fast and Furious and are perplexed when they wreck it.) Likewise the life cycle point of the vehicle is important… simply the age of the vehicle will dictates the degree of maintenance requirements, as well as expected performance. Brand new vehicles need to be broken in and handled with care, as do antiques. Vehicles in their service years need increasing servicing, as the demands on their individual subsystems mounts (hydraulics, oils, belts, tires, brakes, transmissions etc..). These subsystems should be inspected and tested prior to anticipated fault points, not just evenly periodic intervals or mileage benchmarks. A hard driven vehicle pulling considerable loads will need more care and attention than if it was simply being taken out for weekend country drives. Lastly the operator will include safeguarding measures to prevent corrosion, ensure structural integrity, and safety considerations whether that comes in the form of washing and waxing a vehicle to prevent corrosion, the driving practices that limit damage, or the safety practices of wearing a seat belt and having appropriate insurance coverage. Intimate interpersonal relationships can draw directly from this analogy, even though the major subsystems will be quite dramatically different, the key then is knowing what they are.

Maintenance is not repair

Repairing a relationship once broken is not maintenance and should never be considered as such. Utilizing a system beyond its breaking point is terribly poor maintenance practice and management, yet that is precisely what most people do with their relationships because we lack the skills, experience and proven ability to do otherwise. Repair should be closely linked to a one-time costs and expenditure limits associated with brining the relationship back to fully serviceable condition. This is to ensure the appropriateness for one to make the repair in the first place, to obtain operational effectiveness afterwards and to make sure that a series of subsystem failures do not exceed one’s maintenance expenditure limits. Sadly people too often keep investing heavily in relationship repair when they shouldn’t be, that the repair are unlikely to result in operational expectations and that smaller sub-issue failures ultimately exceed the value of repairing the relationship. This isn’t to mean that there are not cases where it is entirely appropriately to completely salvage a relationship and completely re-structure, re-tool and to rebuild it, but those cases are few and far in-between and in the majority of the cases always involve children.

Willful misconduct

Worse off than negligence are those acts of willful misconduct either in damaging the relationship initially or through the consequences of our failure to appropriately manage the relationship repair once the initial damage is done. This occurs when we are hurt, angry and vengeful and we lash out in defiance to our partner, the situation and ultimately from the emotional dependencies from our past that are triggering and inflaming our response. When we harm our partner and our relationship in response to a relationship fault, we ultimately hurt ourselves. The inability to recognize and respond appropriately to boundaries, to control one’s emotional impulses and resolve personal emotional dependencies apart from relationship issues will invariably lead to the wrecking of the relationship, from our own accord, not from the original infraction. We are never justified in damaging others or our relationship in seeking a resolution to a fault or infraction. Relationships and partners handled in that regard don’t need repairing, should be classified as unserviceable and ultimately junked in quick order.

 

Managing Ego Depletion

Fuel-gauge

Men trip over mole hills, not mountains…

 

Limited supply of emotional energy

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

Emotional Muscle

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

A Morale Correlation

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

 

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.

 

Socrates Anthology Released!

Socrates Anthology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anthony @ The 21Convention just released not only my 21Convention-Austin video presentation, but complied all the talks that I’ve given for the 21Convention into a packaged ‘Anthology’. I’m more than touched and truly when I started down the road of self-improvement and assisting like-minded men, I never had any of this in mind. I am deep impressed with the work that Anthony has done over the years and continues to foster a growing community of awareness. He’s truly a remarkable individual and I am grateful for his trust and friendship that he has continually shown me over the years.

Yes, you can watch the videos for free, but take it from me, the $6 spent to get all of them full-length and in HD (better to see the ‘big guy’) are really worth it. It is also a small token to help support the 21Convention and the cause of self-actualization and lifestyle design which is the backbone of the movement Anthony started with the 21Convention.

In all honesty I found myself taking notes on my own talk, both for context I wish to explore further in my own blog and future talks and shamelessly because a line or two has receded into deeper memory and the video sparked it fresh again, or it just could be my age.  In any case, if you enjoy the blog, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the videos.  If you have any questions regarding content with either the blog or any of the talks I’ve given you can talk to me via email and I’ll be sure to respond.

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.