The Business of Relationships (Make Love, Not War!)

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JOEL: Imagine for a moment that, as a couple, navigating the daily tasks of your life together was a new kind of business model. In this, you wouldn’t have any hated meetings, no strategic planning retreats, no 360 degree feedback sessions, no consultants or bosses……sounding pretty sweet, eh?

Well, yes….but, the ensuing chaos could become unsettling for some. Welcome to your life as a couple or family, where the stress of managing (there, I said it) your shared life could be the perfect laboratory for stress researchers, who seem to have multiplied lately.  (What were they doing before the recession?) The daily, weekly and seasonal tasks of managing (there it is again) a household, boggle the mind. Who will do what, when, and how, test even the most advanced couples’ communication skills. And landing on “who makes the decision” about any one thing, can create the power struggle from hell.

So what about those “honey-do” lists? If one person is the designated “List Maker” and the other, a grateful and non-complaining “List Taker”, life could start looking pretty grand. Our List Taker dutifully attacks the list, in its proper stacking order and accomplishes said tasks in the declared time allotted. They clearly know their role and accept the List Makers supreme wisdom of “all things listy”. No feedback, no 360’s, no challenge to the LM’s authority. Life is good, right?

Wrong.

KATE: Here’s a story about us that might help.  We have learned that we don’t have a right to an expectation of each other unless we have an agreement. That’s right. No agreement, no expectation, no right to get mad, sad or give feedback. We have cats; adorable, loveable, furry, independent pets. They go in and out of the house, they play with each other, they cuddle with us; they are even friendly with our Labrador Retriever, Maggie Mae.  They also poop.  Who, in our family, is in charge of scooping the kitty litter (or taking out the trash, or emptying the dishwasher, or making/cleaning up dinner, or paying the bills... you can add your own here)?

Every day I go downstairs and see the kitty litter box full of lumps. It always needs to be scooped. Every day I’d feel resentful and angry that Joel, who’s office is right there, didn’t pay attention and scoop the litter. Never mind that I was looking right at it and not scooping it myself, since I just happen to have my office next to Joel’s (we work out of our home) AND the kitty litter is right near the laundry.
Finally I got mad. “How come you never scoop the litter?”(In an entitled, critical voice). “I do it every day. Why aren’t you helping even just a little?”

“Since when is it my job”? he retorts.

“Well they are OUR cats! Couldn’t you just be a little more aware (you stupid space cadet – this part only spoken in my mind)?”

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“I never agreed to be the pooper scooper”.
I tried not to laugh so I could stay mad. And realized we have no agreement. I do not have a right to complain unless we have agreed upon something and the agreement is broken. Thus, the next evening, with the intention to clear away the headache of wondering what “job” was going to be done by which of us, we sat down, made a list of all the to dos of our daily lives and decided who does what. It was a meeting of sorts. But since that day, we rarely argue about any of it. If one of us doesn’t follow through, the other gets to make a reminder once. If one of us feels annoyed by the way the other is doing a job, we can bring it up for discussion but we have agreed to respect each other’s style of handling the “stuff”.

The result: Better sex.

Less daily hassles result in more relaxation leading to more deep discussions, connection, laughter and, yes… much better sex.

Try making agreements. See what happens.

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