If you recall, a few weeks ago I wrote about a CEO who was stepping away from his business. He wanted a plan that included taking more than a two-week vacation. In my last newsletter, we looked at how he would approach his personal plan so he was better equipped to fill his days with things he liked to do. He’s getting closer too; as he finds the things that “light him up.”
Next up, Joe needed to address a surprise gone wrong. A romantic trip he’d planned to Australia, a lifelong dream. But his wife had no say in it. When he presented the journey with aplomb, Vivian was less than overjoyed. The plan was that they leave in one month; and he had no idea she was working in Europe for a two-week customer tour that had taken months to schedule.
How could he be the loving husband he wanted to be, supportive of his wife’s career, and also get his own needs met? He reeeaally wanted to go and in the aftermath of his presentation he almost demanded she change her plans. In which case, she dug her heels in even deeper.
He sits down and explains to Vivian, a powerhouse in her own right and definitely not retiring, that their adventures were about to begin! How could she not love this!? Viv was mad as a cut snake.
“How could you plan a trip without talking to me!?”
“It was a surprise! I thought you’d love it! And you didn’t mention the trip to Europe anyway.”
“How many times have you traveled for business without telling me a month in advance?!”
“But you knew I was retiring, I’ve talked about this trip forever! Why can’t you stand up to your boss?!”
“Because I have a job! If you want to plan a vacation with me, I need to plan for time off.”
“Then plan for it.”
“No, I’ve spent a lot of time planning for my customers. Change the trip.”
Joe had a great idea, and great intentions. But since his wife had a starring role in his vacation he may have wanted to check in with her c-level schedule. He was ready to redefine their coupledom, but he was also shaming her for not immediately getting in step. He was operating like a CEO within the marriage, and Vivian was having none of it. He let his ego lead, and most couples will implode if the ego leads in a discussion as the defining factor.
A request made in the spirit of love and respect,
is way more likely to be accepted.
Poor ego, it gets such a bad rap. It’s an important component for all of us. But ego is about personality and the conscious mind, usually focused on one’s identity. In this particular case, identities were shifting and dissolving so careful stepping-stones were needed. A request made in the spirit of love and respect for the other is way more likely to be accepted.
This supposed joyful event felt really bad. Joe didn’t like that her work obligations were taking precedent, but he knew his work always did. He needed to get used to the change. Viv wanted to go to Australia; she just didn’t want to reschedule all her customers. They were expecting her.
The key became setting some time aside to rebalance their relationship, without anger, without being interrupted, and with the recognition that they were in new territory. Like a team on a treasure hunt, they blocked time the next evening to discuss openly how to proceed.
When they were facing each other and present, they could share their ideas and expectations for the future. He sat and listened as she outlined her pressures, and how she managed her days, to get a sense of how he would now fit in; and vice versa. Viv heard his concerns about his open schedule, and they discussed the opportunity for him to take on more of her home responsibilities during the day, which gave them more time to have fun or relax after work.
They agreed to stay open and to continue to revisit how they were doing. They agreed to think through her retirement planning as well. By 1 a.m. they felt tired and happy.
As for the Land Down Under, it got pushed into the next year and they decided he join her in Europe after her customer tour. This would extend her stay in Europe, but it was never about not taking the trip. Together they decided on a week in Scandinavia to deepen their “new” partnership connection with some R&R.
“Relationships don’t survive automatically. They need to be nurtured with daily affection.” Says Dr. Robin Smith. They are nourished with love, intimacy, respect and acceptance. If you approach your loved ones with that in mind, I dare say you can’t go wrong.