13 Apr

Have you ever noticed that being in an intimate relationship is a lot like competing in a decathlon?

A winning decathlete can’t just be good at throwing a javelin. She must also excel at the high jump, running the 1600 meters, pole vaulting and a bunch of other seemingly unrelated events.

Likewise, in intimate relationships, you can’t just excel in one relationship role. You can’t just be amazing at sex or a wildly entertaining conversationalist or a superbly organized financial planner. You have to have some proficiency in all of these roles and so many more: chauffeuring kids, being delightful at social functions, remembering date nights, really listening to your partner as they talk, and so on.

And here’s the crazy thing. If you’re reading this newsletter, chances are you care enough to be pretty good at most of these roles. 

But here’s what you might not be so good at: switching back-and-forth between these various roles in the midst of the chaos that is modern life.

How do you do that? Here are a few strategies.


1. Notice your ‘sticky roles.’

We can swerve in and out of some relationship roles with the effortless ease of an expert skier. But then there are roles that are harder to shed the moment they’re no longer useful. These are your ‘sticky roles.’ These are the ones that can get you into trouble.

Take the the Corporate Rockstar role. It’s perfect for propelling you through the workday but often doesn’t want to go away during nights and weekends. 

Or take the Master Communicator. It’s great for building social ties and staying in touch with loved ones. But it might also leave you facedown in your phone during dinnertime. 

Or consider the All-Star Parent role. It’s perfectly designed for family play time but might lead you to forget about having fantastic sex.

Now, take a closer look at your life. What are the ‘sticky roles’ that get in the way of connecting with your partner? 

2. Name your roles.

Warning: this step may sound ridiculous. However, we’ve found that there’s transformative power in having a conversation with your partner where you name some of your most prominent roles.

The task here isn’t just to name them but to do so in way that brings some fun and humor to the situation. 

What might you call a work-outside-the-house role? How about “Team Player“ or “Steve Big Time Jobs” or “Somber Intellectual Man” (this just happens to be one of Nate‘s favorites).

What might you call your overly-accommodating family member role? How about “Doormat” or “Pleaser“ or “Yes Man/Woman.”

Simply naming these roles can help you become more aware of when you get stuck. It also gives your partner away to signal that you might be caught in a role that makes you chuckle instead of cringe. 

3. Create conscious transitions.

Even if you live with the enlightened awareness of Buddha or Jesus, you might still find it near impossible to instantly transition between these various roles. 

Just think about date night. When you rush out of work to join your spouse at a restaurant, the momentum of the workday doesn’t magically disappear the moment you grab your first bread stick. Likewise, after spending hours paying credit card bills and balancing the family checkbooks, you might not effortlessly and instantly turn into a sex god(dess).

But that’s OK. The game here isn’t about making these transitions instant. That’s often not possible. The real game is about creating spaces for transition that allow you to let go of your previous role so you can shift into a new one. 

Here are some examples of these transitional spaces:

  • Take four deep breaths (four counts in, four counts out) after you send the final email of the day
  • Take a 15-minute stroll with your partner before sitting down to dinner on date night
  • Close the door to your work area or home office (if that’s possible) as you transition to family time
  • Remove your phone from your immediate surroundings when connecting with your partner, kids, friends, or loved ones
  • Kick your phones out of the bedroom, permanently
  • After completing a demanding task, enjoy a phone-free, idle, moment outside where you place your full attention on the sounds, sights, and sensations happening in the present moment.

Nate and Kaley Klemp are authors of the new book The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Marriage, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. To download their free PDF guide to Epic Date Night, tap here. This article was reposted and used with permission from the 80/80 Marriage.Also check out their great book “The 80/80 Marriage” and free relationship guides HERE.

This article was reposted and used with permission from The 80/80 Marriage

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