Think about the strongest relationships you have in your life. How did you make them strong?
10 years ago I made the best decision of my life. I got married. Three kids and four moves later, well, she’s still with me! Time certainly has flown by, but at certain times, my wife and I look back and still reminisce on how we got here. The time has gone by so fast that we forget exactly what it was that made us want to get married. Yes….my rugged good looks were a big part of it, but aside from that, I wanted to see what other characteristics made our relationship strong that could be applied to any relationship. So, here are the 5 things I learned from dating my wife, and how it can be applied to all relationships:
1. No Risk, No Reward. I knew of my wife for a few years before I actually asked her out. She was a knock-out and had the attention of other suitors, and I was not sure if I could compete. In my senior year of college and with the pressure of graduation looming, I asked her out, she (of course) accepted.
Lesson learned: Sometimes we over-analyze situations and think the worst, when in reality, it usually is never as bad as we think. Be confident. Fear is what keeps you from your goals and success.
2. Little things= big things. On our first date I found out one of my friends had also taken my (future) wife out a few times. And once he found out I was in the picture as well, he upped his game and wanted to go steady with her. In other words, I got kicked to the curb. It would have been real easy to be discouraged and wallow in my own misery, (OK I did that) but I knew I still liked her, and wasn’t going give up so easily. So I kept in touch with email from time to time. I also worked close by, and would drop notes and leave them on her windshield to just say hi. A couple of months later, she came to her senses their relationship went south, and there I was!
Lesson learned: The small and simple acts of kindness can make a difference. Offering to help a neighbor with some yard work, helping a new neighbor move in, taking over cookies (I like oatmeal chocolate chip), or just wishing a co-worker a happy birthday, may not seem like much, may not get you some great reward (nor should that be a motive), but says a lot about you.
3. Keep it real. My first date with my wife was a snoozer. I thought I had a decent plan-- dinner and some miniature golf. The dinner at a Chinese restaurant wasn’t very good and it turns out she did the mini-golf thing the night before. Not good. Plan B resulted in going back to her place (the bachelor pad wasn’t presentable) and watching the movie Patch Adams (I know, very romantic). In the midst of all this negativity, I decided to forget all the superficial mumbo jumbo and just talk with her. We had a lot in common, and I even told her that I wanted to ask her out for quite some time. She also said the same thing. (Say what?) So I proposed on the spot…just kidding.
Lesson learned: We work so hard to make the perfect first impression, and follow all the right steps, which is fine…but in the end do they have an idea of who you are? If I didn’t open up and share anything that night, the date’s a disaster, an alternate universe comes into play, or my kids will have to find a Delorean to go back in time!
4. Speaking of time...It’s about time! – Part of the great thing about dating is that you tend to spend a lot of time together to find out just how compatible you really are, and find out what makes the other tick. Unfortunately for me we started dating just before Christmas, and I was really trying to find a nice gift (no not a wedding ring) that I thought she would like. I finally decided on a stuffed teddy bear that had a pouch. In the pouch I inserted a box that housed a gold necklace I had purchased. Feeling good right? Wrong. Turns out she really liked white gold, hates “gold” gold. Doh!
Lesson learned: She's high maintenance. To really find out about other people you have to spend time with them and get to know the details (See #2). Strong relationships are built on trust, and how can you do that if you never have spent any time getting to know the real person! Find ways to get to know people, face-to-face is still the best. Social media, is a good supplement to face-to-face contact and it allows us to stay in touch and share mutual interests (take a look at your friends profiles and posts, you can learn a lot).
5. At your service! Obviously, when you’re in love, you often do things you maybe don’t do now or before you met. (That’s what I’ve heard) While we were dating she was my one priority, and would find ways to make her day. Often it would include picking her up at school and fixing dinner for her while she studied. It made a huge difference for our relationship (the classes were another story however).
Lesson learned: When we make relationships a priority, it shows we care. Caring is tied to trust. Our families will always be our main priority, but we can make our friends and others a priority, and care about them. Remember, it doesn't have to be a Herculean effort, it can be a moment, an email, a Facebook post, a telephone call or even dropping by to say hello. With so many distractions in our lives, prioritizing and designating time for others is almost a necessity for me, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
All relationships are different, and require our attention in different ways, of course to have a deep and continual relationship it requires mutual effort and cooperation. I encourage you to think about the strongest relationships you have, and think about what has made them strong? Last year we ran the Attitude of Gratitude post on Blog MV to thank or acknowledge 5-10 individuals every day for the next month. I highly recommend you take the challenge again, make it a priority in your daily schedule and especially during the upcoming holiday season, and see how it can affect your relationships, better yet....how it can affect you! If you send out holiday cards, try to personalize a few, in fact check your list to see if your friends are on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Feel free to share tips of how you maintain and build your relationships below, we can all use the tips!
[caption id="attachment_1137" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Social Media Promotions Manager"][/caption]