It is no secret that we have become a nation addicted to technology. We carry a screen with us everywhere we go, loving the convenience of information, finances, weather reports, news and entertainment, all available at the touch of a button. Having access to such fast technology has certainly changed the way we work and play; however, we are noticing more and more that our interactions with others are beginning to suffer. When was the last time you had a heart to heart with your loved one or children without one of you, diverting your eyes back to a screen? Your answer may come as a surprise to you if you are really honest with yourself.
In order to bring back the ‘presence’ to our relationships, we need to learn to disconnect to reconnect. To shut off our phones and our tablets and to remember what it is like to really give someone your undivided attention. It feels good to be the focus of someone’s gaze, of their thought processes, of their sharing – and so, we should offer the same kindness to those that mean the most to us.
So here’s what you could do straight away to improve.
Follow these achievable, simple guidelines and draw effective boundaries around the use of technology.
It is for your own good as much as it has a great impact on your relationships.
No screens at the table – We spend such a large amount of our time meal planning, shopping and preparing healthy and delicious meals for our families, but more often than not, the dining table is silent or the ceremony is abandoned for easy meals in front of the television. By eliminating screen time at the table, you are able to encourage daily conversation with your mate and your kids, listening to what is happening in each other’s lives and what their goals for the week are. Ask lots of questions, listen without interrupting and allow everyone at the table an opportunity to feel heard and important – you might be surprised at how much you come to value this time each day.
No work emails after 8pm – It is easy to become enveloped in work. The daily grind, the pressure of targets and around-the-clock communication; it appears more and more professionals are expected to be contactable at all hours of the day. The problem with this is that the boundaries between your work life and your home life become terribly blurred, leaving you thinking about your to-do list instead of engaging in valuable, quality conversations and interactions with the people who have missed you all day. By turning your emails off after 8pm, you can really ‘switch off’ your brain, and enjoy the sanctuary of your home with the people you love. The emails will still be there in the morning, and you’ll be more than prepared to get to them when you arrive at the office.
No phones in bed – Smart phones have undoubtedly become an extension of ourselves, we take them out to lunch, to the bathroom, and even to bed. And while they are a convenient platform to keep up-to-date with news or friends and family, they are detrimental to your health, your eyesight, the quality of your sleep and your relationship once they make their way into your bed at night. Do yourself a favour and leave your screen at the door (a simple alarm clock can take your phones place) and you’ll demonstrate to your partner that you find their company much more entertaining than your phone!
Screen-free days – Encourage your family to indulge in entire screen-free days. Switch off your devices and leave them at home while you go out and immerse yourself in nature – a hike, a camping trip, a bike ride, etc. You’ll have an absolute blast, you’ll be able to soak up some sunshine and get some light exercise, and you’ll be creating memories you’ll keep forever (and no, I’m not talking about the ones that pop up on Facebook!).
While technology has made screen time a daily occurrence for most of us, it is crucial that we keep strict boundaries set up to ensure that our relationships and interactions don’t suffer at the hands of our iPhones. Give these simple tips a try, if only for a month, and you’ll begin to see and feel drastic changes in the quality of your relationships.
I would love to hear how you go and if you have found this information useful, please share with others.
Also, I provide online coaching for those that prefer to learn at their own pace – please contact me directly to learn more.
Have you ever been to a party and met a nice couple and started to chat with them?
Maybe while you were chatting with them you saw how close they were with each other. So much so, that for the whole evening they never left each other’s side?
Even hours after you moved on, you still could see that couple standing there, holding hands and chatting with other guests, still never venturing away on their own.
And then, on the other side of the room perhaps, there is another couple who look completely different. Perahps he is standing alone with his mates and she is somewhere else in the room and chatting with her friends. The whole evening you never see them next to each other.
Which one do you think has the better relationship?
Which one of the two would you rather be?
There is no right or wrong answer here. Just by seeing these different couples, you can never know their story. The first couple might have just had a major blow to their relationship and want to spend as much time together as possible. And then again, they might just be shy and not used to speaking to so many different people and need each other as an anchor.
The second couple might have just had a big crisis and want to enjoy an evening without their partner. Or they could be so relaxed in their relationship that they want to spend time with different people and on their way home they exchange all the news they’ve heard during the evening.
In any case, the challenge though, is to have a common understanding.
You know the gap between expectation and reality is the major cause for any stress. In other words, you need to speak with your partner before going to a party to make sure that you both want to experience a relaxed evening without disrespecting the expectations of your partner.
I personally like a healthy mix of the two extremes discussed here today. Let’s meet some new people together and also give each of us the time and space to explore on our own.
And then – sometime during the night – you might find that you and your partner smile at each other from across the room. Magic!
Conversation on Purpose with Justin Cooper.
Today’s topic: “Does Love Expand?”
Justin: “My question to you is: You are in a loving relationship. 100% you and your partner. And along comes this little bundle of joy. Does your love expand, so that there is more love to go around? Or is the “pie” still the same size and you need to take a portion of the love you have for your partner and allocate it to the new member of the family?”
Jürgen: “Our ability to love is limitless! The love we can give and can experience is infinite. I think, the love is always expanding. BUT: Time doesn’t expand. What we share with our spouse is a lot of time… until the first baby comes along. Suddenly this new person in our lives demands time of us…”
Justin: “So the topic for today’s conversation should be: ‘How do you manage that demand on your time and how do you keep things fresh with your partner?’”
Jürgen: “I remember the day our first son was born so well. Looking into the dark sky over Hamburg, Germany I thought to myself: ‘Life will never be the same’”
To listen to the complete (15 minutes) conversation with Justin, please follow this link…
You can see the writing on the wall already.
Your relationship is going nowhere.
Time is running out
The passion is gone, the talking has been missing for a long time.
The sex and the children is keeping it together – somehow.
It has been running its course for far too long now.
On the other hand – is it really over? Is it beyond repair?
You have been a good team. You are good parents. There is no violence, no hatred.
There is just plain emptiness.
How can you restore this?
You’ve tried so many things already and in the best of cases you see a spark, a small flame; but the next morning or the next week the emptiness is back.
Sometimes you wonder if you left, if you’d even be even missed. Sure, your kids and friends would miss you – your colleagues and customers too. But would your partner miss you? Or would your partner be relieved that it’s over?
What is it that is keeping you together for now?
Convenience, Security, or Habit?
You see, there are three pillars for your relationship and you need to work constantly on all three.
These are Quality Time, Communication and Intimacy (Sex)
If you could somehow increase the amount of Quality Time together you have a chance of turning your empty relationship around.
Sitting together in front of the telly does not do the trick.
You need to get away from home and do something together that gives both of you joy.
It’s like meeting with a friend for a coffee and a chat. You both do something together that brings joy to everyone involved.
Have you asked your partner what they would love to do over the weekend?
Do you know what really is going on in your partner’s head?
Recently a man contacted me after reading one of my newsletters and mentioned that these Active Appointments with his partner always come to an end too quickly and he does not see the benefit of even trying to spend quality time with his wife.
In response, I asked him simply whether he had asked his wife what she would really enjoy doing for their active appointment? It turned out that he hadn’t.
That is one of the dangers in every relationship. We are often so caught up in our own thoughts and values that we simply forget to notice that our partner might have totally different things on their minds.
The challenge is to find a healthy equilibrium between your own wishes and needs and those of your partner.
If you keep working on spending quality time with your partner doing something that you both enjoy, you will more than likely find that communication in your relationship begins to feel less laboured – slowly but surely. Eventually, you can re-create the loving, intimate and respectful relationship you both deserve.
Under my guidance (with either one or both of you), we won’t go seeking out and rehashing all the things that might have gone wrong in the past.
We are not here to air dirty laundry.
We will look into the future and learn how to build a strong foundation for a lasting relationship.
Please reach out if there’s anything I can help you with. Relationships are what I do!
Warning: This blog article covers a very contentious topic and might challenge your thinking. Please bear with me and please keep an open mind when reading.
The other day a client – let’s call her Louise – said to me “Why did he cheat on me? Why did he lie to me?”
Even though I wasn’t sure if this was a rhetorical question, I tried to answer her.
What became apparent was that she felt she had no influence in the matter and felt utterly betrayed by her husband.
And I don’t blame her.
The broken trust, the humiliation, the anger, and the hurt she’s carrying with her is often times too much to endure.
An affair is one of the major reasons for ending a relationship.
Often men and women do seek to gain something from an extra marital affair. Something they are not getting within their marriage – for whatever reason.
I dare to say that, in most of these cases, the affair only happened because something else in the relationship was not working.
In other words, the quality of your actual relationship plays a huge part in the question of whether your partner is going to have an affair or not.
This might be contrary to your personal experience and stories you heard from your friends.
And Louise was not happy either about my revelation to her.
He cheated on her, she did nothing wrong – period.
So, we started to look at the impact and the influence that any change might have on your life.
Just picture a 2×2 matrix where the amount of influence on change you have goes from left to right and the magnitude of impact goes from bottom to top. Like this…
Now you can place different events or areas of your life in this matrix to visualise what Change might do to you and how much say you have in this.
And remember this might be different for each and every one of us.
Let’s start with the Weather. We have absolutely no influence on the weather today. But what is the impact for you, and that might depend on your occupation and other factors. A rainy day might have a big impact, because it is your wedding day and you’ve set up a celebration at the beach. Or the rain has no impact at all, because you work in an office with parking available in the building.
What about Health? I think we can all agree that your health has a huge impact on you and I would even venture that you have a fair amount of influence over your health by eating healthy food and looking after your body through some kind of exercise.
Where would you put your Job? It has a fairly high impact on you. And again, depending on your personal circumstances, the influence you have might vary from none at all to a moderate or even high influence.
It’s getting more personal now. Where does Money sit for you personally? What kind of impact does a change in your finances have on you and how much of an influence do you have?
If all of your money is invested in your super, then your influence is smaller than if it is invested in the property-market. Which again would give you lesser influence compared to money in the stock-market.
And for those where the money they earn does not allow for any savings, the influence is minimal.
You could continue this little visualisation by placing things like where you live, the school your kids attend, and your personal happiness in the chart.
I’m sure you kind of expected the next question: where does your loving Relationship sit on this matrix.
An overwhelming number of people who have contacted me have put the loving relationship where the purple Relationship is in the picture above.
They blame their husband or they blame their wife for all the misery that is happening in their relationship.
- “If only he would show his feelings more…”
- “If only she would touch me more often…”
- “He is never home for me…”
- “If she would not constantly criticise me..”
- “If only I could get through to him and feel heard…”
The truth is, that you have a huge influence on your loving relationship. But how?!?
- By changing your behaviour!
- By changing your boundaries and making them clear!
- By voicing your expectations!
- By meditating!
- By kissing your partner more often…
And the list can go on.
When I was talking and coaching Louise, she initially didn’t want to hear this and was even angry with me. The more we talked about this and analysed her personal situation the more it dawned on her that her behaviour had an impact on her relationship and on her happiness.
If you found this article helpful, please forward it to your friends and maybe you too want to have some coaching around your relationship like Louise. Please contact me here and set up a time for a free phone call.
Divorces are happening before one of your kids turns 2
In the beginning of your relationship, there are a couple of phases that are super critical for the chance of having a long-lasting relationship.
The first phase is when you move in with each other. In this phase, you learn more about yourself and about your partner than in all the months or years of dating before.
No longer can you now ignore the un-tidiness of your partner nor the way they like to organise things. During your time of dating, that might have been a small annoyance – now it is visible in plain sight.
And even more crucial than tidiness or organisational talents is the way your partner handles money.
Because moving in with each other is – even in the 21st century – also an economic decision. A major part of your living costs (rent, groceries, and insurances) are now shared.
The second big change in both of your lives is when you fall pregnant and you both slowly realise that his life will never be the same.
Until then, everything you did in your life was reversible. Moving to a different city? You can move back if it doesn’t work out. Starting a job? You can switch to another if need be. Dating or falling in love with the wrong partner? You could break up and search for a new one.
Becoming a parent is a life-long responsibility and joy. You can’t give it back to where it came from.
For men especially, this change can be very daunting.
They not only need to come to terms with their new role and that there is little creature totally depending on them, men also need to accept that their partner might have changed during the process of becoming a mum.
Maybe the pregnancy was not all fun? Maybe she gained more weight than she ever thought possible and does not like her body? Maybe breast feeding does hurt? Maybe the delivery of the baby took endless hours and she needs weeks to recover?
All this time he watches in bewilderment because he does not know what is going on.
A new born baby has an influence of everything in your normal life.
Less sleep, less sex, less freedom to do what you want.
And if men don’t embrace the role of being a father, they may struggle with the loss of freedom, sex and sleep big time.
For some relationships, that might be enough pressure and change to have you both reaching breaking point already.
It might not be an immediate knowing of something not feeling the same, it might not necessarily happen in the first six months. It’s all brand new and both partners may hope that the changes will calm down and everything will back to normal.
In some cases, that is exactly what happens. The baby starts to sleep more and more hours at a time and that gives you both back the sleep and the chance for more sex. Your freedom is still limited but that is starting to feel okay.
Let’s now look at the next crucial phase in your young relationship: the second child.
You both thought, how can this be different? We managed the first one. Let’s have another one – it can’t have that much of an impact.
We thought the same when our first born was only eight or nine months old, we decided to have a second child. My wife fell pregnant immediately – and then everything was different.
Your second pregnancy might be different, but your sleep and sex life will undoubtedly be affected again during this time.
Then the delivery of the second child might be more complicated than the first one and leave more scars – physically and mentally.
So again you work through the phase with less sleep and hardly any sex.
This time around it is even more complicated because the first-born child demands your time and attention too. And rightly so.
You both now have to juggle the interrupted nights, the new baby, the first born child, the work, the daily chores around the house and at the same time you both want time for yourselves and time and opportunity for fulfilling sex.
And for a lot of couples, this burden is too much.
And after six, nine or twelve months, one or both of you may be at the point of a breakdown. What follows are heated arguments and fights.
Until you realise – this can’t go on like this and you file for divorce. Your youngest child still under two years of age.
What could you do?
This all comes back to communication and awareness.
What I suggest to my clients to do is what I call the 168-hour challenge.
Each week we have 168 hours available. Just make a list or pie chart like the one above where you sum up all the hours in a week you spend working, sleeping, cooking and so on.
As a rule of thumb, your work takes up one third of your day and sleep takes up one third as well. In other words, that leaves you with only 56 hours per week for everything else you need to achieve.
Once both of you have allocated your 168 hours of time, you can now compare the two charts.
Every time I do this with my clients, they have a huge ‘aha’ moment. When you compare both your time-charts, you will immediately see that they are completely different after the children are born.
What becomes most obvious to many people here is that there is no me-time anymore once the babies have arrived.
But you need time for yourselves. You need to have the chance to centre yourself and respect and love yourself.
You can only give what you have yourself.
If the pregnancies and the care for your young babies affected your respect or love for yourself – how are you supposed to love your partner and show respect?
This is the first step – the awareness.
Now that you have the facts and the data in plain sight, you can talk about this with less emotion.
From awareness you then can start to communicate and express how you would like things to change to create the relationship and the parenting style you both want.
Talking about your emotions, wants and aspirations is so much easier when it’s done outside of your day to day life and in a safe environment.
That’s what my coaching provides. The safe space for you to create the loving, intimate and respectful relationship you both deserve.