As the year closes, it is a great time to review and evaluate how things are doing. Most of us are familiar with assessing our productivity, grades, health, weight, or finances, but do we assess our relationships?
I recently had the pleasure of listening to Jack Canfield speak, when he suggested that we check in with our partner or spouse every week with the question, “On a scale of 1-10, how am I (how are we…) doing this week?” He then told us that whenever he suggests this practice, someone in the audience invariably asks, “Why would I want to do that! I don’t want to hear about it!” He then, half in gest, but fully in truth, said, “I’ve found if I don’t ask the question, I’m simply the last guy to know. My mother-in-law, housecleaner, best friend, even the lady at the nail salon will know the answer before me!” We all laughed knowingly.
While asking is one way to find out, often we simply need to take a deeper look or acknowledge what we already know. We avoid doing this because looking deeper might reveal a problem that requires some effort to change. The truth is, however, that if simply “looking” or “listening” reveals a problem, the problem is already there. Nothing improves from neglect. When we illuminate the problem, we have the power to do something about it.
So before you ask your partner (or other important relationships), consider what you already know. Reflect on what you have seen, felt and heard. Assessing the relationship doesn’t just mean looking for what is wrong. Be sure to also acknowledge what is working and what you love and appreciate about your partner.
Health, or a lack thereof, leaves symptoms and signs, even in relationships. This will get you started in noticing:
Observation: Does your partner (or boss or children or parents or siblings or employees or coworkers) seem to be happy or distressed? Are you?
Communication: What has he or she already told you? Has your spouse/partner requested that you work less, go on vacation, help around the house, take better care of yourself or better care of them? Are your words to each other and about each other kind? Do you compliment each other and show your gratitude? Or, is your verbal communication with each other harsh, sarcastic or manipulative? Are your facial expressions and gestures toward one another kind and supportive or judgmental? Have you listened to what the other has been saying? Do you feel heard?
Physical: Do you touch each other in nurturing and intimate ways? Do you hold hands, comfort through a kind touch, hug daily? Are you equally content in the physical expression in your relationship? Has your partner made requests that have been disregarded? Have you?
Time: Do you choose to spend time together? Is there a balance in the time you spend together between work, family, chores, the nurturing of dreams and goals, romance and recreation?
Spiritual: Do you nurture your spirits together? Do you read uplifting content, have deeper conversations, spend time in nature, pray, or celebrate your blessings together?
Imagination: Are the stories you tell yourself about how your partner feels about you positive or negative? Are the thoughts you think about your partner kind and grateful or discouraged and discontent? If you were to guess your partner’s relationship happiness on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extraordinary, what number do you think they would pick? What number do you pick to rate your own relationship happiness? Usually when one is unhappy, the other is too.
Have you been ignoring anything important?
If your relationships are showing signs of distress, ask yourself, “What can I do to create a healthier relationship?” And, start doing it immediately. A few slight timely adjustments can save you from huge issues, even divorce. Remember, while relationships can be a bit of work, little to none of the “work” is on the other person. If you don’t know what to do, just like anything else you want to improve: study, learn, and practice. There is a wealth of resources available to you.
In my experience, when the goal is to be closer to our loved ones, we either need to practice gratitude, lovingly touch and talk more and/or spend some time in recreation (re-creation) together. Take responsibility for your piece and others will respond differently to you.
If you pay attention, you will find that you are the first to know how your relationships are going. Sometimes the deeper inquiry gives you cause for celebration of a good work in progress. If not, you just discovered what you can give your spouse, family or partner for the holidays and into the New Year… a healthier, happier relationship.