D.'s Manual for a Timeless and Thriving Marriage
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I have a long-time client who endlessly inspires me.
He is in his seventies, and although I’m his Coach, very often, he’s my teacher.
In the time I’ve been working with him, I’ve seen him transform his marriage from good to extraordinary.
While so many couples in his life stage take marriages for granted, slowly but surely settling into a depressing acceptance of what is, D. has done the work to create what I call his “Second marriage with his first spouse.”
After spending decades in the provider role, he has tasked himself with and learned the skills necessary to cultivate a truly connected, authentic, and powerful relationship with his spouse.
His marriage is not suddenly perfect, but his commitment to its vitality, expansion, and joyfulness is remarkable. In his seventies, he is experiencing a marriage most people only dream of at a younger age.
Coaching prioritizes action over talk, distinguishing it from other modalities. This is why I’m always looking for ways to operationalize concepts, moving them from the abstract to the practical.
In service of this goal, I one day asked D. to tell me how he created a successful relationship where many others have failed.
I’ve summed up his responses into what I call D.’s Manual for Making Your Marriage Awesome.
Here it is:
1. Be present, actually, totally present
I started working with D. after he retired professionally. I remember how difficult it was for him to “be” where he was — suddenly at home and with his wife, seemingly constantly. He was physically present, but his mind was often elsewhere.
2. Allow space
Like many of us, he had to develop the skill and practice to adjust to the sudden increase in shared space, regardless of the size of his home. We often assume that this skill will come naturally to us, but it doesn't. He put in the effort to improve this skill set.
3. Listen profoundly and well
Listen to understand rather than win. Like most clients, D. is by nature a high achiever — the dark side of this type of personality is an attachment to winning at all costs. When we listen to win, we don’t truly listen to understand what is being shared. Over time, he has cultivated an entirely new way of listening and, in the process, turned difficult conversations into impactful ones.
4. Become a better person
I’ll steer clear of this one because I thought he was a great human being right from the outset. I believe that achieving higher levels of consciousness allows us to feel better about who we are and how we show up in the world. D. is fulfilling his potential, which looks like becoming a better person.
5. Care actually and for real
So many of us “perform” care. D. was always a profoundly caring person, but he has cultivated his ability to be more vulnerable, which allows him to prioritize creating connections so that his partner sees and feels the depth of his care.
6. Don’t take things personally
This life principle is so essential that it is the first agreement Don Miguel Ruiz shares in his acclaimed work, The Four Agreements. And it’s much easier to practice when we commit to the more profound work of assuming Radical Responsibility.
7. Give encouragement
So often, we think and believe positive things about another, but we don’t say them. D. practices sharing every good thought about his partner and will go the extra mile to create positive thoughts on purpose.
8. Be generous with compliments
9. Cultivate patience
Here, I have learned more from him than he has from me!
10. Be in service instead of people-pleasing
This is, arguably, the most destructive pattern he has abandoned over time. People pleasing is just lying dressed up as kindness. Over time, it creates the kind of resentment that unravels relationships. D. has learned to choose authentic kindness over niceness, bringing him closer to his partner and others he holds dear.
11. Grow your own emotional maturity instead of focusing on your partner’s
Amen! And not just in marriages!
12. Show radical appreciation
Cultivate a behavioral instinct towards appreciation. Care deeply about what your partner is campaigning for. I love this one because it doesn’t imply that you must love and agree with what matters to your partner. You need to appreciate it and show up for them.
For those who are coupled, choose even only one or two of these twelve behaviors to cultivate in the year ahead, and you will see your intimate relationship transformed.