Ownership Within A Marriage

2019-10-30 06.41.45Here’s a parenting challenge we’ve been dealing with for a few years.

If we don’t get her out of the house, 90-minutes after she wakes up, then our daughter gradually becomes anti-social. She doesn’t like to putter around. We’ve been muddling through for years. and it is why I used a ton of sitters => to get her engaged and into her day.

As I’ve phased out help we’ve been forced to deal with things we’ve been avoiding (article here).


 

I’m certain every marriage has repeating conflicts not between spouses => conflicts that give rise to frustration between spouses.

The conflict is never all that big.

Easy to endure for a little while.

But it repeats.

As it repeats, frustration morphs into bitterness towards the other spouse.

There is a simple fix.

Make it crystal clear who owns the situation.

  • Saturday mornings => down to me
  • Organize a swim meet => down to my wife
  • Get the kids to gymnastics, ski team or water polo => down to me
  • Sunday mornings => down to my wife

So when conflict arises, I know who’s in charge.

This helps me:

  • let go from outcome when I don’t own; and
  • own my frustration within my domain => instead of sliding into blaming… fix it, or grind it out.

 


 

With ownership assigned, we need a process for assessing if the job is getting done.

This can be tricky!

With babies and toddlers in the house, I could not reconcile my leadership principles with my marriage principles.

#1 being => I will never ask my spouse to do something I am not willing to do myself.

I do not like spending time with toddlers. So I used a lot of childcare, preschool and after school activities (~50,000 hours). It was a difficult, but temporary, time.

These days, I chuckle and remind my wife that the kids will start moving out “soon.”

Soon being eight years.

 


 

Increasing My Capacity To Own

Over the last two years, I have put the key elements of “my life” into the time before my family wakes up, or when the kids are in school.

Going back five years, I made my daily schedule visible to my spouse.

These two changes created the capacity to own more of my family life.

I also changed my attitude. I am willing to take on, or eliminate, anything. I’ll either do it, or eliminate it.

Own the predawn, live an open life and fix repeating pain points.

In this case, better is better.

Quenching A Thirst For Adventure

2019-08-30 19.44.42Being sensible for too long can leave me with a desire to BUST OUT something extreme.

However, there is a substantial hangover if I’m away from home for long.

How to maintain an adventurous spirit without putting a huge strain on our lives?

2019-08-30 18.38.03I’m fortunate to have pals with serious jobs, who do fun things.

I’ve been paying attention to their mini-adventures and planning my own.

  • Excitement => moving through nature in darkness
  • Novelty => route finding in new places
  • Risk => uncertainty, weather
  • Companionship => sharing the trip with my son, or my wife
  • Short duration => back home within 30 hours

Small, frequent doses of shared adventure, while meeting my obligations on the home front.

Do you know your “good enough?”

2019-08-31 08.32.02

 

Three Marriage Habits

2019-08-24 11.04.17Consider the purpose of your marriage.

Why did you get married?

Why stay married?

2019-08-14 08.14.55-1I am in my marriage for Lifelong Companionship

It is an overriding theme to everything.

Consider…

Do my actions move me towards my desired outcome?

2019-08-13 18.30.02Three habits I seek to create.

#1 => Tell the truth, slowly – foremost to yourself, also to each other.

If your life can’t handle the truth then change the way you’re living.

Being open with each other can be awkward but it’s better than the alternatives.

I always overreact in the short term, so I need to speak my truth slowly. A 24-hour time delay is usually sufficient to avoid an unforced error.

Daddy_blanket_and_Ax#2 => Do more than your share – I’ll illustrate with a story. For the last year I’ve been getting up early, working out before the kids are awake and keeping the hammer down for a couple hours once the house gets rolling. I was kinda looking for an “attaboy” or a “you’re incredible” from my wife. Instead I got…

You’re not lazy.

Reflecting on my “lack of laziness” indicated:

A – our spouses do more than we realize

B – because of “A”, your spouse might think you are lazy

Visible housework is one of the best things we can do to correct misinformed opinions.

2019-08-12 07.41.26#3 => Never rip your spouse – in public, in private, in your mind. A habit of bickering will not serve you well.

Negativity drives good people from our lives. Bring yourself back to the goal… lifelong companionship.

Talk like everyone is in the room.

wedding

You are going to think that you need to get your own way.

Our minds spin all kinds of stories about how our lives will be “better” if we get our way.

Pay attention, most disagreements are a habit of taking the other side.

Lifelong companionship is far more valuable than short term victories.

Yield.

 

 

 

Dealing with Difficult People

2019-07-09 08.06.27We rolled through 14 years of marriage last week. So good!

My marriage is my most important, and easiest, relationship in my life.

This is surprising because I have a track record of being a very difficult person to live alongside.

A favorite bit of advice, paraphrased…

If you are surrounded by difficulties then remain open to the possibility that you may be playing a small role in creating them.

In my 20s, everyone tried to get through to me. Friends, co-workers, mentors, bosses, family… they were ineffective with their attempts to improve me.

Some might think the lesson is not to try.

That’s not my experience.

My experience has been to “try smarter” by focusing on: (#1) myself and (#2) getting expert advice on what those around me are likely to value.

In applying expert advice, I found it easiest to remove little bits of the “small role” I play in my relationship difficulties.

2019-07-04 19.17.39Bit #1 => my attitude is the main source of my (relationship) problems

I’m lucky to live with two people that are VERY easy to get along with (my son and my wife). They are my “canaries in the coal mine” – if they start to bother me… something is out of whack.

This is a major improvement for me. I used to get to the point where everyone, everything… would be bothering me.

When I’m on the other side of “everyone,” I pause and reconsider.

+++

Bit #2 => I can stay mad for DAYS

This is more common than any of us let on.

The good news… anger only becomes a problem if I act on it.

If I’m wandering around the house doing power-housework then my anger is only making myself miserable (see #1).

The payoff… once I settle down, there’s no emotional cleanup.

+++

Bit #3 => treat others the way they wish to be seen

The deep reservoir of goodwill I have for my wife and son comes from the match between their instinctive treatment of me and my deepest desires.

I am often unaware of my values & desires but I can intuit them by reflecting on the people I like to hang around.

For other people, I can sit quietly, listen and tweak my approach.

Call out culture does us a huge disservice, I have yet to regret leaving negative thoughts unsaid.

Better to keep my mouth shut and use the energy to improve myself.

2019-07-04 17.38.43-1

Better Relationships

2019-06-12 15.56.43June’s a happy month for me.

June 2000, June 2004, June 2005, June 2011 => milestones of a better life.

Before I arrived at better, I had a lot of experience with making my life more difficult than it needed to be.

“Relationships” was a particularly weak area.

When I got married (for the second time), I had no experience of being in a good marriage.

However, I had a willingness to look carefully at my role in creating a divorce.

Invert.

Do less of what moves you away from your goals

+++

As a coach, I would advise my athletes to:

  1. cut your intake of alcohol, sugar & cheese in half
  2. pay attention to what causes you to binge
  3. pay attention to what causes you to miss training

What were we doing?

  1. Learning how to take things out
  2. Learning how to get out of our own way
  3. Training the ability to look at our shortcomings and, gradually, address them

+++

What are the things that screw up relationships in my demographic?

Avoid being away for long periods of time. With no kids this meant business trips under 14 days duration. With three kids (6, 8, 10) this means I’m rarely alone.

Why’s the above important?

Let’s see…

Athletic couple, physically attractive, raising their heart rates independently, frequently apart.

Don’t come home tired. My wife put this on me a decade ago and it made an immediate difference. I’d go further…

Be seen to help out. When you’re smoked, don’t park yourself in the middle of the house and do nothing! I’ve made a habit of puttering around doing housework. It serves me well.

Away a lot, coming home tired, not assisting… if I wanted to create the perfect storm for my spouse to burn the relationship down (and feel relieved doing it) then that is a good place to start.

+++

Anyhow, we got to “better” and then we had kids!

Six years ago, our crew was 0, 2 and 4 years old.

Back then, my wife’s goal was pretty simple… Get. Through. The. Day.

Working through that period is when we noticed 1-2-3 (above) resulted in better.

Better, not easier!

+++

But the kids grew up and it does get easier.

And I looked around and discovered that I know what a great marriage looks like.

Nothing like what I would have expected!

 

18 Months to Make a Habit

2019-06-05 05.33.55Dalio’s book (Principles) shares that habits sustained for ~18 months are likely to become permanent.

Aiming for 18 months (~550 days) was a change because my typical time horizon is a 30-day test.

30 days is not enough time for the impact of a change to percolate through your life and impact your peers, family and spouse. Changes are still happening from an adjustment I made in December of 2017.

My main thing was “wake up in the 4s.” I got the “wake up early” from Jocko’s book (Discipline Equals Freedom).

It appealed to me because it fits into lessons I’ve learned:

  • Try faster before going slower – Daniels
  • Prove you can do it by diving into a cold pool – Purcell
  • If it’s important then do it first – Covey
  • 4:55 is more than ten minutes different from 5:05 – Willink

I can make my life experience a lot better by making my daily life a little more difficult.

“How am I going to wake up in the 4s for the next 18 months?” is good problem to have.

The problem (up early) points me towards solutions in other parts of my life:

  • Exercise early (what else is there to do at 5am when the kids aren’t up for another 90 minutes)
  • Drink less alcohol (being binary, I simply stopped)
  • Fall asleep (if not tonight then most certainly tomorrow)
  • Start every day with a win

What does winning look like on the home front?

By 8am:

  • I’ve done a workout (win for myself)
  • My kids have eaten, read and brushed their teeth (win for my family)
  • I’ve done an hour of visible housework (win for my marriage)

There’s a TON of noise associated with the above.

Does it really matter? Is this the best use of my skills? Dude, you’re only squatting 95 pounds! My “career” is taking out the compost every morning?!? Shouldn’t I be sub-contracting the busy work?  Blah, blah, blah. Why so angry, bro?

Apply those thoughts to what happens after 8am.

Managing Towards 1,000-Day Outcomes

2019-02-23 09.55.59I can get a lot done, while achieving nothing meaningful, by solving problems all day.

Am I managing towards desired outcomes, or focusing on my problems?

2019-02-23 14.54.54

My favorite thing is doing stuff in nature and I want to have a successful marriage.

So, I try to be open to the experience of sharing things in nature, with my wife.

One catch…

  • 1,000 days ago, my wife couldn’t ski
  • 500 days ago, she was better but we were not sharing the vibe (more like enduring it)
  • So, we both did what it takes so that we could share skiing together, and enjoy it

1,000 days of focus was enough for the two of us to capture the bulk of the benefit (but it did take 1,000 days!).

+++

The big picture points:

#1 – We managed to strengthen our marriage by doing something neither of us was good at three years ago.

#2 – If your younger self was achievement-oriented then working towards mastery in middle age is extremely satisfying.

This is a game we can play, together, for the rest of our lives.

2019-02-24 09.18.11

1,000 days ago, this guy was Level Zero at the ski school. We kept signing him up for lessons and he didn’t get one tick on his skill list!

He showed NO signs of aptitude, for a year, but he enjoyed the process.

Now he’s skiing the entire mountain and loving it. His price was a whole lot less than mine. It took him ~100 days on snow and a million vertical feet.

If you don’t the work then you’ll never know if you could have achieved the result.

Be wary of letting “problems” get in the way of gradually moving towards desired outcomes.