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18 Truths About Long-Term Relationships

18 Truths About Long-Term Relationships

My husband and I celebrated our 21st anniversary the other day by doing nothing. It’s not that we planned to do nothing. It’s not like we enjoyed a lazy day in which we spent the day in bed taking pleasure in each other’s company. It was just another day. After 21 years, our anniversary had morphed into an average day. And that’s okay with me.

Let me explain. It’s not because we have problems, or our marriage is on the rocks, or that we don’t care about anniversaries, because we do. We didn’t think about anniversaries when we got married. We didn’t think about the fact that my husband was in college to be a teacher and that most teachers start their new year mid-August. We didn’t realize that once we had children, we’d be experiencing first days of school and all that jazz around the same time. And it never fails. Almost every year, the first day of school for the kids and my husband falls on our anniversary, give or take one day.

This year was no different. After both kids finished their first days of school, after our son practiced golf for a few hours and our daughter went to Tae Kwon, after multiple phone calls and faxes between me and several doctors’ offices clearing our kids for just about everything at school, and after my husband’s full day full of 178 new students, duties as head of the math department, and other activities as the coach of various sports, we all settled in for the night.

I do admit feeling a little spoiled having the “expensive” carne asada on the grill for dinner. With several never-ending medical bills, a splurge on the good stuff – good eats and possibly a couple bottles of expensive beer to toast and homemade brownies for (me) the kids – made it feel like a first-class celebration. We also managed to share some amazing stories of the last 21 years that the kids are now old enough to hear and understand, bringing a few tears to all our eyes. I’d say our day full of everyday chaos and nothingness was everything I could hope for.

What topped it off as one of the best anniversaries ever was when my husband sneaked around the corner after dinner to surprise me with flowers. I was sure he didn’t get them, which was okay with me, but he did! They didn’t need to be big, flashy or expensive – in fact, I think they were the average grocery store kind you get when you’re in line and think, “Oh crap, I forgot our anniversary!” even though I know he didn’t forget.

Still, these flowers made me feel loved and appreciated and surprisingly wife-ish, this coming from an independent woman. It wasn’t the flowers, but his action that reminded me why our relationship continues to be strong. He’s consistent, and, yet, surprising at the same time. I’d like to say he’s vanilla ice cream – a regular guy who made my heart melt when I first saw him standing there at that pub almost 24 years ago. But when all those first feelings got mixed into real life, my ice cream guy brought and still brings everything he’s got: the hot fudge, sprinkles and cherry on top. And thankfully, we both are a little nuts!

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It’s not easy to make long-term relationships work, but these tips should help make yours last at least 21 years and hopefully many more.

1. You need to know that those crazy-in-love feelings will meet real life someday.

This doesn’t mean they go away; this just means they have to be tamed. Walking around on Cloud Nine is awesome, until you can’t get anything done at work. Or until your significant other does something that really pisses you off. This is the first time we have a “judgement day” or “Is this what I want?” moment.

“Falling in love and having a relationship are two very different things.” ~ Keanu Reeves

2. You won’t always like your partner.

It’s true. There will be moments when you’ll look at your partner’s face and wonder why you ever thought it was attractive. He or she will make you so angry, or act so silly, or be so. . . wrong, you’ll barely be able to deal with tit. And that’s okay, as long as you both know it’s “a moment.”

3. You won’t always feel attracted to your partner.

What? No way, you say in the beginning. However, it’s true. It’s usually because you’re angry. Or maybe you’re shallow. Whatever the reason, we go through phases and our partners don’t always attract us the same way as day one. It becomes an issue when this is long-standing. Try to remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Hint: It’s not always looks. One of the sexiest qualities of my husband is his sense of humor. (Of course, he’s pretty good-looking, too, but he’s damn funny.)

4. Your sex life won’t always be amazing.

In fact, there will be times when you have no sex life. Sometimes it comes naturally and the stars and planets align, the kids fall asleep early, your work schedules mesh or a million other things happen, and, voilà!, sex happens. Other times, you’ll have your hands full of babies, work demands or so much laundry/cooking/cleaning that you’ll be exhausted, or, as in our case, yet another heart surgery (me) that will wipe out this activity for months. That’s life.

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Intimacy, however, doesn’t have to mean sex. Just saying.

5. You’ll wonder if there’s something better out there.

Heck yeah, you will. You’ve probably seen better on social media. That’s because everyone posts the best of the best. Happy families, awesome houses, beautiful new cars, amazing vacations, perfect kids – those are the things we post. Who wants to see pictures of my 12-year-old Expedition that needs new tires? Only when I have all the surf boards on top because I’m posting that the kids are going surfing and that it’s 80 perfect degrees in perfect San Diego. It’s no wonder we think about greener grass out there. Just remember, everyone has weeds in their grass. (Trust me, in California, there’s no greener grass anywhere during this drought!)

6. You’ll hurt each other.

Meaning you’ll say stuff that you wish you could take back. Regularly. It will roll off your tongue in the heat of the moment because you know just how to hurt your partner. You know him well enough to know what stings the most. He knows your every fault, and your family’s faults and your history. Don’t think any of it is off-limits when you argue. Is this okay to do? Absolutely not. We shouldn’t try to hit hard with the zingers, but we do. It takes work to fight fair, but in the long run, it’s worth it.

7. You’re not always right; Your partner is not always wrong.

It’s really not about who’s right and who’s wrong. Don’t spend hours or energy trying to prove it. You’re wasting oxygen and minutes of your life.

8. You’ll ride the edge of trust and so will your partner.

Personally, I think Smartphones are the devil. They are the biggest cause of trust issues these days. Use them wisely. Between social media and texting, we’ve all second-guessed ourselves or our partners at least once. Long-term relationships MUST include trust. While you’re as open as possible with your partner, you will each need to have some privacy. This means trust. Just know that trust has an incredible ebb and flow in relationships.

9. You may hit that rock bottom moment when you think there’s no way this marriage will last.

Sometimes, things happen in life that change the very core of a marriage. My husband and I have two children with devastating health conditions, we’ve been through more than any parent or married couple should have to go through. Ever. I’ve had serious health issues. Some people tell my husband he’s a trooper “for sticking around”. If you’ve ever experienced a death of a parent or, worse, a child, or have gone through a catastrophic event, you know how hard it is to remain together. Only the strong marriages survive. When you hit that moment of truth, it’s not enough to simply say, “We made a vow.” You have to pull out all the punches and remember who you are to each other and who you need to be for each other.

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“Love is no assignment for cowards.” ~ Ovid

10. You need to swallow your pride. A lot.

Just get over yourself and do it. No need to say more.

11. You should be kind. All of the time.

Even if you’re mad, be a kind person. Don’t be an jerk. (Well, sometimes you have to be, but return to kindness fast). Remember that phrase “Kill ’em with kindness”? It works.

12. Understand your partner will change, develop and evolve over time. Be accepting.

Because you’ll change, develop and evolve over time, too. And you’ll expect your partner to accept you. Because life changes around us and experiences change people, you can’t expect people to stay the same. Hopefully, the two of you will evolve together.

“People change and forget to tell each other.” ~ Lillian Hellman

13. Learn to appreciate your partner’s good and bad qualities.

Don’t dwell on your partner’s faults. You don’t want her to nag on your faults all day long, so don’t do it to her. In the beginning, those faults didn’t matter so much. You were able to fall in love, weren’t you? Even if your guy leaves the toilet seat up . . . every single time he goes to the bathroom. Are you really willing to kill the relationship over a toilet seat?

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14. You’ll see each other at your worst.

If you stick around after seeing each other at the bottom most point in your lives, you’re golden. After several surgeries, my poor husband has had to help me in ways I NEVER thought he’d have to do. Totally embarrassing, but he didn’t even blink. He’s a keeper (and apparently so am I).

15. You should be eating dinner together.

Having this time together is almost a thing of the past these days with all our crazy schedules, but this is an incredible opportunity to reconnect with your partner. Talk about your day. Talk about the good and bad things. Use this time to work things out. Enjoy the senses together (sight, smell, taste).

16. You should be playing together.

Activities don’t have to be fancy or planned. Sometimes impromptu is the best. It can be as simple as walking out back to play an imaginary putting contest (as we often do when we can’t hit the course). You can include the kids or go at it alone. Enjoying activities together makes your relationship stronger.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~ Plato

17. You’ll always have someone to laugh at your incredibly stupid jokes.

Even if it’s a courtesy laugh.

18. You’ll grow old together.

You can freak out about gray hair together. You’ll figure out wrinkles look better on him; he’ll figure out anti-wrinkle cream is damn expensive and a necessity for you. You’ll both move a little slower or work out a little harder. Food will become a little healthier and a little more important. Money will become an issue you discuss together. You may or may not have children, but if you do, you’ll be exhausted together, overwhelmed together and utterly in love together. You’ll  start watching weird TV shows together and maybe worry more about the news together. Whatever you do, it will all be done as a unit because you’ll always be thinking as a couple.

While it’s not easy to maintain a long-term relationship, it’s certainly doable. It’s not always as happy as butterflies and unicorns and not always as exciting as March Madness, but the hard work is certainly worth it. Who else would understand my strange obsession with Converse, my 365-day-a- year love for Christmas music, and wacky humor about my defective heart? Only you, baby. Here’s to another 21 years and counting.

Featured photo credit: Ian D. Keating via flickr.com

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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