Making Marriage Work Better

Love is one thing, although a very important thing. And work is a completely different thing — also crucially important. The conventional wisdom is that these two facets of our lives require radically different values and demand of us almost diametrically different attitudes. We’re supposed to approach love and work completely differently.

But I have begun to think that what once might have been true no longer holds. And we might do better at home if we lugged back with us every evening not just piles of work but the mindsets we deploy with our coworkers, underlings and bosses

Studies show that we’re spending more and more time at work, in part to get away from home. Our home lives are a mess.

The divorce statistics leave no doubt that we are living a virtual civil war at home. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce and the rest of them are not a whole lot happier. Life at home has deteriorated.

Life in the office holds fast. We may dress more casually there, these days, but we don’t act casually or treat our coworkers with contempt.

Many men and women believe they can walk in the front door at home and, casting aside the stresses of their lives, immediately become their worst, most uncivilized selves. They put on their ugliest clothes and their most self-centered attitude. They park themselves in front of the TV demanding amusement and don’t get up until the spirit moves them or they need a bio break. They balk at carrying out the tasks that help the whole household to function, or delay them until it suits them and them alone.

A difference of opinion over, say, when the dishes should get done or the garbage should be emptied could result in a shouting match or a standoff. A similarly mundane task at the office would just get done; any annoyance would be kept close to the chest. And anything that required unusual or an imbalance of effort would undoubtedly be made the subject of discussion, development of a workable strategy and consensus.

Given the way we are at home, is it any surprise that we’ve virtually killed off romance? It’s hard to think of making love to a slob. And resentment corrodes caring when a partner refuses to carry his or her load. No wonder why our relationships are in trouble.

Yet we seem to hold it together in the office no matter how much time we spend there.

So, here are some thoughts on a few things I’ve learned at the office that rally romance and that need to come home with us at the end of the day.

• Change is often necessary. It keeps us on our toes — a sexy place to be.

• You have to think before you speak and consider the effect of your words. Blurting out whatever is on your mind doesn’t get you very far.

• Communication is critical. You don’t expect your coworkers, your boss or your staff to be mind readers and then get angry with them for not meeting your (unstated) needs; they expect you to tell them what you need.

• Relationships count. You can bully others into bending to your will, but that won’t make them like you. And it’s important that others like you, because you’re going to be dealing with each other for a long time to come. Being pleasant to others disposes them kindly towards you.

• Reciprocity rules. The way to get your needs and goals met is to help others get their goals and needs met. And everyone benefits from the climate of satisfaction.

• Compliments count. Taking time to notice and compliment performance or some other positive attribute goes a long way to creating an atmosphere of cooperation and motivation to get things done well.

• Collaboration works. The way to reach solutions that hold is to gather the input of others and their perspective on what’s needed.

• Listening is always necessary. You can’t be successful or solve problems unless you listen to what others have to say, learn what their needs are, what solutions they night offer.

• Respect everyone. Everyone is doing a job that needs to get done, and if you fail to treat them with respect, your own life can be made miserable, or at least uncomfortable.

• Process matters. The way you solve problems and implement goals is what creates the fabric of the relationship.

• Skills help. Blowing up at things you don’t like doesn’t help solve problems. The application of thought and skill does.

• It’s not always a picnic. Events don’t always operate at the same high level of intensity, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to.

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