I have been blessed in so many ways, but none more so than my choice of partner, Nicki. We’re coming up to 30 years of marriage and although I sometimes come kicking and screaming to recognize my mess-ups in the relationship, she simply makes me a better person. This puts us into the top 30% of society who have lasted this long in a single relationship.
In my 25 years of recruiting I’ve also been lucky enough to work with hundreds of leaders, interviewed thousands of candidates and observed all sorts of leadership dynamics. Many have flourished and some have gone sour. But there are some commonalities that I think hold true in relationships whether on a personal or a business level.
Really take the opportunity to learn about each other
Nicki and I took a pre-marital course before we got married. It took place over a number of days and we discussed things like our relationship to money, how we communicate, how we work out our problems, how we mix stuff, how we divide responsibilities etc.
I noticed that at least three of the couples (out of 20 or so) seemed to be on really different wavelengths. In my opinion they looked challenged or doomed in their relationships. I don’t know how they ended up, or if they decided not to get married, but they had the chance to wrestle and spar with some of the issues that arise, and hopefully took the signs to heart.
The more you know about your partner, the better your decision.
Seek Outside Help and Perspectives
Many of the tech executives I’ve worked with have little or no management experience. By nature they have to be a bit stubborn and self-confident since everyone around them says ‘you can’t do that’. I could use stronger language to describe some of their personalities, but suffice it to say an orientation of ‘get it done at all costs’ doesn’t lend itself to open dialogue or conversation.
Nicki and I have struggled through communication challenges over the years. We let stuff slide when the kids were growing up as we had our minds on other issues/challenges. As the kids have moved out we find ourselves in a new environment and have called on a Relationship Coach to help us understand ‘how we want to be’ with each other and what we hope from our relationship.
The coaching has been wonderful and fulfilling and I recommend anyone to use the support to gain insights on how they really interact with others.
Be Honest in What You’re Looking For From Your Partner
30 years of marriage entails lots, and lots, and lots of compromising. I can’t tell you how many times I felt that I’ve been misunderstood, not listened to or not dealt with the way I’d like.
That’s where the conversations come in and the feedback to let her know how her actions/reactions make me feel. Yes, that’s right… how it makes me feel. I can’t change Nicki, I can only let her understand how her actions are affecting me. How I react is up to me. How she reacts is then up to her.
The more someone knows what’s important to you (taking for granted that they want to do the right thing) the more they’ll manage themselves to serve the relationship and ultimately your happiness. Here’s a blog post which is a blueprint for what your people should expect from you and what you expect of them.
Understand the Real Cost of Losing a Valued Partner
I don’t have to tell you how much a divorce costs both emotionally and financially and that’s not to mention the impact on children. Similarly losing a business leader/partner/ally, someone you trusted, has all sorts of impacts outside of the punch in the gut.
The fact is, people with strong relationships live happier and longer lives. If you care about your partner, and want to improve your connection, work on it… and ask for assistance. Partnerships are hard work, but worth every minute.
Trust me on that!