Avoid inevitable relationship breakdown by doing this one thing…
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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
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Remember the first time you bought a brand new car? Chances are, it was the start of an awesome relationship. Perhaps it was love at first sight, or, you took your time to find the perfect match for your driving pleasure. Either way, before the ink on the purchase papers was even dry you were hopelessly, deliriously in love. You couldn’t wait to spend all your time with your new “partner”. Going places and doing things together just the two of you, while beaming with pride as you secretly hope others will notice your newfound joy. And somehow, this new car just understands you like no other could. Sound familiar? New love relationships are a lot like buying a car you’ve lusted after for some time. And, just like any vehicle, relationships require ongoing and periodic preventative maintenance if they hope to achieve consistent high-performance and avoid otherwise inevitable breakdown.
If you don’t change the oil, the engine WILL blow up
I have a friend who purchased a brand new SUV for her family. She loved that car and used it every day for the purpose of supporting her growing family. Unfortunately, she was oblivious to the notion of checking and changing the oil on a regular basis. So one day, after several years of neglect, while driving on the freeway the engine just… stopped. This effectively destroyed the entire vehicle given the cost to replace a blown engine. It could have been worse. Brakes failing or a tire blowing at the wrong time might result in someone getting hurt or killed.
Now most people, unlike my friend, know that you need to perform periodic preventative maintenance for anything as complex and important as a car. Just common sense right? Yet, how many couples think the same way about the most important thing in their life, their intimate relationship? Judging by divorce statistics, along with other metrics of relationship satisfaction, not many at all.
And, there is a very simple yet profound reason for this…
Preventative maintenance is easy when it’s not personal
It is easy to think in terms of preventative maintenance for a car because it is not personal. There is no judgment that enters our head which somehow implies that by changing the oil and rotating the tires, we are in some way inadequate, wrong, broken or at fault. In fact, most of us know if we don’t do those things on a regular basis we ARE wrong, at fault, and something WILL break.
However, the very thought of doing preventative relationship maintenance when things seem so perfect is tantamount (for most couples) to inviting problems, conflict or judgment in an otherwise perfect union. This is the story most couples tell themselves to avoid doing the work that will help their relationship grow, rather than stagnate or self-destruct.
Every single couple on the planet will experience little “warning lights” that start to flash after the honeymoon period. Maybe you notice that he tends to look at other attractive women more than he used to. Perhaps you sense she doesn’t seem to be as interested in sex as she was earlier in the relationship. Maybe you are becoming dimly aware of how routine, career, distractions, etc. are having a negative impact on the connection and spontaneity you used to enjoy. These are just examples of many different kinds of relationship warning lights that will continue to flash more urgently until you do something about them, or the relationship effectively blows up.
Warning lights are not a sign that there is something wrong with your relationship, you or your partner. They are merely indicators that the relationship is overdue for some important preventative maintenance. It is only when you continue to ignore them (as most couples tend to do) that something will eventually breakdown.
Repairs are far costlier than maintenance
I was recently interviewed on the radio by licensed marriage therapist Lesli Doares. The whole point of the show was about what couples could do (i.e. preventative maintenance) to avoid major issues in the first place. During one of the breaks she told me that by the time she sees a couple seeking help, it is usually too late. That’s because they’ve been ignoring the warning signs for years until something breaks. And, just like with cars, it is vastly more painful and expensive to fix something that is broken than the cost of doing regular maintenance. And all too often, the relationship is not salvageable.
Typically, most people don’t wait for their car’s oil warning light to come on to remember to change the oil. Not only are you risking future damage, your car’s performance is probably already impacted. It is equally unwise to wait for your relationship warning lights to flash when you could simply do the necessary tuning and maintenance.
Your Preventative Maintenance Schedule
My Life Partner and I have been together nearly four years as of this writing. Rarely, if ever, do we have a conflict or see the flashing signs that something may need attention. Additionally, our current level of emotional and sexual fulfillment far exceeds what we experienced during our honeymoon phase. And it only continues to grow richer and deeper every day.
I believe we have this kind of extraordinary relationship because we do the following to keep it running at peak levels all the time…
(Author’s Note: I know I’m stretching this metaphor to the breaking point, but bear with me.)
- Gratitude– the first thing we do both upon waking (whether together or not) is give sincere, heartfelt gratitude for each other being in our lives. We have found gratitude to be an effective antidote to complaining and victimization.
- Meditation – our world is very frenetic and has many distractions vying for our attention. So we each spend a few minutes in the morning quieting our monkey minds and re-centering.
- Presence – we insist on being fully present for each other when together. Whether eating a meal, listening to music, having fun, walking on the beach, tenderly kissing, greeting or saying goodbye to each other or making love.
- Authenticity – we insist on always showing up as our authentic selves and saying what is on our minds without pretense or fear of the other’s feelings being hurt. This gives us the confidence of knowing the other is not hiding or holding anything back.
- Separate the Ego from the Heart – we each subscribe to the very powerful context that our Heart, not our ego, represents our true essence. This allows us to take any relationship pain and make it not so personal. This makes conflicts rare, and when they do happen, relatively easy to mend.
- Respect Gender Differences – we are each acutely aware of our hard-wired gender-based emotional and sexual differences primarily due to our default Sexual Operating System. And with this knowledge we strive to adjust our respective behaviors so that these differences no longer have the power to rob the intimacy and fulfillment from our relationship.
- Scheduled Lovemaking – my Partner and I typically schedule our love making on the weekends. From a practical perspective, this is necessary because we usually spend two to four hours every time we do. Contrary to being unromantic, it says we care so deeply for each other that we will always find time to express our love in this most intimate of ways.
- Shared Activities –This includes dancing to live music, hiking, kayaking, walks in nature or taking in an interesting lecture. This helps keep things fresh and alive and something to always look forward to.
In addition to the above, we also schedule several annual adventures, usually in the form of major trips. Beyond just the fun, these provide unfamiliar contexts which are a great way to learn and appreciate even more about each other.
High-performance relationships are available for everyone
We have a relationship that most couples can barely fathom as even possible. Yet, we are just normal people like you. All we did is make the deliberate and disciplined effort to do the necessary maintenance to keep our relationship running like a high-performance sports car.
No one ever buys a new car with the intention they will allow it to become a clunker out of neglect. Likewise, you have a choice when you enter into the most important relationship of your life. As the saying goes: “Pay me now or pay me later.”
Ask anyone who has gone through it. You do not want to experience the pain or see the bill of a relationship that blew up when it could have been so easily avoided.
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