It can often be easy to get caught on the how-do-I-make-my-sex-life-better boat when it comes to your relationship. Because sex is what typically separates our romantic relationships from those with our friends, we want to make sure our sex life is all that it can be. Although I strongly believe that focusing on your intimate time in the bedroom (or wherever your sexcapades may be) is important to keep your relationship hot and desirable, it is also important to not neglect the “business” side of your relationship. With the business side neglected, the sex my also suffer no matter how hard you try to steam it up. Therefore, I advise hopping off the sex boat once in a while and board the business boat.
What do I mean by business?
Business in your relationship includes things like what your social plans are for next week; deciding on a gift to buy for your sister’s wedding; how you are getting overwhelmed at work and would like some extra help walking the dog; discussing that you want to buy the new grill you saw on sale, etc. No these aren’t always fun conversations to have but it’s important to “check in” with your partner so everyone’s in the loop.
Although business chats are aspects of a relationship that warrant discussion, conducting the business conversation in the most effective way can be tricky. Here are some helpful Dos and Don’ts:
Don’t – Talk business all day every day.
Constantly bringing up business with your partner can cause him or her to get irritated, which can turn into avoidance or arguments. Further, verbally attacking your partner when he or she walks in the door every day or every time you see him or her is a big no no.
Do - Schedule a half hour of time each week devoted to business.
I know the last thing you want to do after you’ve had meetings scheduled all week is to schedule another, let alone one with your partner, but before you roll your eyes at me let me explain. Having a time set aside each week allows you to think about what you want to say and gives you time to cool down any angry emotions. The scheduled time also gives you the comfort in knowing you can have your partner’s full attention and also have time to say the things that are on your mind.
Think about it, would you bombard your boss with questions about a project every time you see him or her when you know this Thursday you have a meeting set? No, you wait and prepare for the meeting and only ask the boss something before then if it’s urgent. So, instead of verbally bombarding your partner all the time, have the peace of mind that the business stuff will be discussed later in the week and for right now spend some quality time snuggling.
It is not effective to yell like you did when your sister stole your clothes from your closet or fight like you did with your younger brother because he was being, well, your brother. Yelling at your partner will cause him or her to become defensive and to likely shutdown. In response, you will become angry your partner isn’t listening to what you are saying. The results? Nothing gets accomplished.
Do – Talk like adults.
There are many ways to talk effectively with your partner like the adults you are. First, take turns. The point of the business meeting is to have a conversation, not a one-sided accusation or complaining session. One way to do this is for each partner to say up to three statements regarding a certain topic, and continue back and forth. This helps keep things even and prevents interruptions. It also simplifies the discussion because if you say three statements on different topics your partner isn’t going to know which one to address first. So, rather than saying, “I need help walking the dog, my parents are coming into town in two months, and we need to look over our budget,” Pick one to discuss before moving onto the others.
Secondly, use “I” statements. Instead of saying, “you make me mad when you don’t walk the dog, you need to help more” say “I feel mad because I feel like I’m the only one walking the dog and I could really use more help”. What this change in sentence structure does is puts the responsibility of feelings on yourself. Your partner can’t force you to have certain feelings, you are in control of your own feelings. Also, by saying “you, you, you!” the chance of your partner becoming defensive will increase.
Next, your partner should repeat back what you say (and vice versa). Going along with the dog-walking situation, your partner’s response would be something like “you’re saying you feel mad because you feel like you’re the only one walking the dog and you want some more help, is that correct?” It may sound silly to repeat things but it ensures everyone is listening and understands what is being said. Often, feeling heard can be all that is needed to remedy a problem. After clarification, your partner would respond with empathy. Your partner doesn’t have to agree, but to validate your feelings, which also helps with feeling heard. Once you discuss back and forth about the dog-walking issue using the three-statement rule, you can move onto the next order of business.
Lastly, if the discussion ever starts to enter “fighting like we’re siblings” territory, take a timeout for 15-30 minutes to cool down before resuming the conversation. Having a timeout sign can be helpful because it adds a visual aspect to your words when you request a timeout. The standard time-out hand signal is always a good and easily remembered choice.
By putting all the elements together, a conversation may look like this:
Partner A: “I feel mad because I feel like I’m the only one walking the dog and I could really use more help” (three statements)
Partner B: “You’re saying you feel mad because you feel like you’re the only one walking the dog and you want some more help, is that correct?” (Repeat)
Partner A: “Yes” (Confirm or clarify)
Partner B: “It must be tough feeling mad and like you’re the only one walking the dog.” (Empathy) “I want you to know that I took the dog for a walk every morning this past week. I know that I don’t do that every week but I feel like I am doing my part in this responsibility” (three statements)
And so on.
Overall, to ensure smooth sailing in all parts of your relationship, make sure that between your efforts on adding passion to your relationship you schedule “business meetings”. Not only will your relationship benefit, but you can also wear pajamas at these meetings – no suit required!