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4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

You’ve seen them. The couple who, in the midst of a busy restaurant, are oblivious to life around them. Staring at each other, gooey-eyed and grossing people out at surrounding tables. It can be endearing. They’re in the ‘getting to know all about you’ phase. Right now, they don’t need anyone else in the world, but it won’t stay that way. Or, at least, it shouldn’t, if they want their relationship to thrive.

Don’t tell them, but they actually need other people for the long term health of their couplehood. They need their friends. Here’s why.

1. You Have Different Points of View

Men and women don’t communicate alike. Or for the same purpose. The early, gooey-eyed phase is a case in point. At the start of a relationship, the man is on a recon mission. He’s gathering info about a woman in order to know how to ‘do life’ with her. Once he has enough info, the mission is done. No further deep and focused talk is required. That phase is over. He is now ready to move on to the next phase: Doing life.

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The woman experiences the gooey-eyed phase entirely differently. What the woman is thinking: “I’ve finally found a man who will talk with me. It must be love!” And, trouble can begin just as fast. The trouble is, he is finished with that intense level and type of communication just when she is starting to think she can count on it.

Ladies, I know you want him to, but he probably doesn’t need to talk through life events the way you do. He’s Mr. Fix It, not Mr. Discuss It. Men, she doesn’t want you to fix it. She just wants you to listen to her and, where appropriate, discuss it with her.

If we are going to celebrate our differences – and accept them – this truth needs to be heeded: You each need people of your same gender to talk to. Ladies, you need girlfriends to unload the bulk of your talk on. Your man, likely, has a threshold much lower than your needs. Gentlemen, you need other men to bond with. And, likely, the bond won’t be formed around the words you share. (But you knew that without me having to say it, didn’t you?)

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2. You Need a Second Opinion

Life isn’t Leave It to Beaver. No one grows up perfectly. Our ideas of how life works and why our spouses do what they do could be based on bad examples. This means we need another perspective on, well, everything. You will not always be able to see how you’ve contributed to a conflict. But a good friend will.

Maturing means learning to see for yourself where you’re off the straight and narrow, but the learning process can be slow. Often, our straight lines look more like Celtic knots when we start in a relationship. We need trusted friends (who are unlikely to be perceived as a threat to our marriage, by the way) who know where our line is crooked. And, they need to be bold enough to let us know when we’re messing it up.

3. You Can’t Vent To Your Spouse About Them

This one is for everybody. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a person who doesn’t have anyone to talk to but you, then you’ve heard it. Venting is healthy, to some degree. Unloading emotions in words instead of action can be a far better choice. For example, “I’ll scoop his heart out with a spoon!”, is better said than done.

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But if you’re the only person your spouse confides in then, eventually, they will vent about you. To you. And you won’t like it. Neither do they I’ll bet you can’t listen to how much you’ve put them through for long without buying into it on some level. Or resenting it deeply. Even if you know they’re only venting.

Personally, I have some awesome girlfriends and one incredibly wise mentor who can hear me vent just about anything without passing judgement on me. I’m grateful to have people who understand that arguments are rarely one sided. If your friends are quick to condemn your spouse when you vent, they’re not being friendly. They’re being destructive.

Your relationship is a part of the structure of your life. You want friends who will help shore it up, not be a part of the demolition crew. (Please don’t take this too far. There is such a thing as an unsafe relationship that needs to end or undergo massive change. That’s not what I’m talking about here.).

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4. Everything Does Come to an End Eventually

No one likes thinking about death (of a person or relationship), especially in the middle of life. But the reality is, the two of you are unlikely to pass away on the same day. Plus, we live in a climate of divorce and a culture that practically promotes it. If your partner has been your only true friend in a long life, how would you feel if they passed away before you? You would have two major things to mourn at once. Obviously, you’d mourn your lost partner. But you’d also be in mourning for intimacy and human connection.

Being known by others is a legitimate need. Not only would a true friend or two help you deal with the pain of loss, they would also be able to share the memories that made your partner worth mourning. Divorce would be even worse. The tearing apart that happens to people who divorce can be incredibly painful. Good friends will help you talk through your struggles. Incredible friends will keep you so busy that you can’t even think about them.

These are all compelling reasons to cultivate deep friendships outside your relationship. But will you do it? You’re busy with work. You’re focused on your kids. You want to spend your limited free time on your marriage. And, yes, making new friendships or improving old ones takes effort. But it’s nothing compared to the effort of going through any kind of crisis with only your spouse in your corner.

He or she is only one person and an imperfect one, at that. Sorting through the wrong lessons both of you learned growing up, having only each other to vent to and facing life’s challenges with only one person to help carry the burden is a recipe for disaster. Doing life is simply too big a burden for a couple to carry on their own. If comfort is what you’re going for, you need friends to carry some of the load.

Fill your life with, not only your spouse, but with good friends who will build your relationship up to a level that your grand kids will tell their kids about.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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