Since February is the month of love, I’d like to share with you a little activity my husband and I have been doing once a week to keep our relationship close and connected for the nearly two decades of our marriage. Oh I know what you may be thinking but it’s something else—it’s meeting for happy hour.
It seems like such a simple thing but until we didn’t get to do it for an entire year, I didn’t realize the power in our little weekly ritual. That was a few years ago when we were living in Arizona and he got a new job in CA and I stayed back with our kids to sell the house and let them finish the school year.
For a lot of people, when they think “happy hour”, they think cocktails and bars but for us, meeting for happy hour (typically on a Thursday) means a break from the outside world when all that matters is the two of us sharing our week and letting someone wait on us for a change. When it’s a good week, we are toasting each other and giving thanks for our extra blessings and when it’s a bad week, we are there to console one another and just listen. We always tried to carve out the time once a week or on a weekend no matter what was going on with work, what mood we were in or how old our kids were. When they were still young, we’d bring them along with us but to more family-friendly establishments.
During the lean years when money was tight due to various reasons, we’d forgo our typical shared appetizer and have soft drinks instead of real drinks. Even now with both of us working full-time, we still just have one drink each and it’s not always a spirit. Or for those who are on special eating plans, you can always order a small house salad like I do while my husband orders a happy hour appetizer that he enjoys.
Studies have consistently shown that relationships need face-to-face connecting to keep them strong and healthy. For those whose spouses travel or are in the military, getting together for some real shared time is even more sacred when they are back home. For more ideas on how two-career couples stay happy, check out this blog post in the Harvard Business Review here. Or for a little glimpse at a time when my husband and I weren’t so comfy cozy at our local pub but instead were dealing with conflict, read my earlier post here.
If you’re like me and meet up with your partner or a friend at happy hour or like to connect another way each week, please share in the comments below and let me know how that activity is keeping your relationship strong.
One of my favorite days of the week is Super Soul Sunday and if you are an Oprah Winfrey fan you know what I am talking about. On Oprah’s network OWN, Sunday is Super Soul Sunday, where she conducts exclusive interviews with some of the top inspirational thinkers, spiritual leaders and authors such as Joel Osteen, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson and Deepok Chopra to name a few.
One of my all-time favorite teachers of the moment is Dr. Brene Brown, researcher and author of the fantastic book Daring Greatly. She has spent the past dozen years studying the concepts of shame and vulnerability as they pertain to connection. She participated in a TED talkback in 2010 on the concept of vulnerability and it has had more than 11 million hits to date. Her talks and research has affected me not only professionally with my connection research but personally as well –so much so I devoted an entire chapter to the topic of shame and vulnerability in my first book, mentioning Brown’s research throughout the entire chapter.
In Oprah’s Lifeclass with Brown last night, she pointed out that to have better connections with others we must allow ourselves to be seen–that is what being vulnerable is about. It is about being “real” and letting down our guard or veil and showing people who we really are instead of pretending that we are perfect and have everything under control all of the time. Of course, you have to be careful with how much you reveal to someone before you really get to know them but there are ways to find that out fairly quickly. Here are three simple things I do to practice being more vulnerable when meeting new people, which I find has led me to having more authentic connections than ever before. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
Smile at someone and say hello even if they seem grumpy and unapproachable. Don’t feel bad if they don’t smile back –feel good that you smiled first
Share something funny that you noticed about your surroundings or a joke you just heard on the radio or on TV last night to someone you barely know even if they don’t laugh at it. Feel good that you have humor in your life.
Share a bit of something personal that is either funny or a lesson learned. Make it general and see how the person responds. If they have something to add to the topic or follow up with their own story to share, then you know that you can go beyond surface level talk with them. However, if they look at you with a blank stare or respond back in a judgmental way—best not to go deeper than surface level talk with them. But feel good that you showed a more personal side of yourself and seek out those who respond back in a similar way.
Back in January 2013 after feeling particularly inspired by a friend who was having great success at making new friends and business contacts, I made it a goal of mine to put myself out there more and start making my own new connections. I had moved back to Southern California in 2011 (after being gone for seven years) and was ready to start seeking out new friendships both personally and professionally.
However, when we open up ourselves to people we also become more vulnerable to those who can hurt us emotionally if we are not careful. Now that I know the warning signs, I am having the time of my life establishing new friendships and business relationships not worrying if I will get hurt and growing the ones that show potential like in an earlier post I wrote –Help New Connections Grow.
Tips to Help Reduce Risk of Getting Hurt When Making New Friends
If you are new to your area or have gone through a life transition and wish to get back out there or just desire to make some new positive connections, here are five tips I follow to minimize the risk for getting hurt when I start a new friendship.
Stick to general topics. As they say, in the beginningstay away from religion, politics and anything that you feel overly opinionated about. Treat a new friendship like being on a date—show your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses because the wrong people can use that against you later on.
Look for patterns. Like Dr. Phil says, when people show you who they are, take notice. If someone is joking about what a hot head they are and how people in general always frustrate them that might not be the person you want to hang around with on a regular basis.
Heed warnings from other people. A few years back, I started hanging around a gal who a few people came up to me on the side and told me she had a track record for having big fights with women she got close to. Unfortunately, I continued my friendship with her and sure enough, I got burned from her exactly as the others had told me she would do!
Beware of the instant best friend. Close friendships take time so be wary of the person who is revealing a lot of personal information and wants you to do the same. They have not earned your trust yet and you don’t know them well enough to know their true intentions.
Be wary of the convenient friend. Just because you see someone on a regular basis through perhaps carpooling, sports or a regular event you both attend doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies. Logistics brought you together but it is similar values and complimentary personality traits that will determine if your “friendship” should go any deeper.
Have you been burned in a relationship by going too fast too soon? What warning signs do you look for? Let me know your thoughts!
I personally love when the calendar page turns to September and it is back to school season.
I think of it as another January – a fresh start for a new year ahead. It is a great opportunity for all of us to take a look at areas in our lives that might need a change up as we enter into a new “school” calendar year.
One area I suggest is your current friendships. Not only your close female friendships but your children’s best friends as well. It is funny how we start friendships with people for different reasons but what might have seemed like a good idea a year ago, may not work for the person you are today. We might like a few aspects of their personality at first and are drawn in but over time when we become closer to them, we may notice that they have mean girl tendencies or like to put us down saying they are “only kidding”. Or perhaps they love to gossip a lot more than just friendly talk of what is going on in someone else’s life—it comes across judgmental and condescending.
I can best describe it as that icky feeling you get in your gut when a friend who you think of one way is showing another side to them that doesn’t fit your vision of how a good friend should be. Yes, no one is perfect and as friends we do disappoint each other from time to time but what I am talking about are all those little things your friend is doing that makes you pause and feel bad—whether they are doing it to you or to someone else. Just as research shows we become better people when we witness others doing good for others, it has the same effect in the opposite way when someone we call a “friend” does things that feel mean, spiteful, rude and uncaring and they do it on a consistent basis.
Keep the Friendships that Make you Feel Good and Minimize the Not-so-Good ones
My advice is to take this new season to look closer at the friendships that leave you with a positive feeling and if you have those that leave you feeling less than that, perhaps this is the time to minimize your interactions with that person. If the relationship is feeling especially toxic to you, it might be best to leave the friendship altogether and I will discuss that in future blog posts. When you do, you leave space for other more positive friendships and that is a good thing. Are there friends you might want to leave behind or others you would like to pursue more? Now might be a good time to consider a change.
I hate it when I argue with my husband and as strong as our relationship is, there are times when we just don’t see eye to eye. This past weekend was one of those times. I had been busy running around days before getting my kids ready for back to school and was happy that most of my to-dos were getting crossed off my action item list.
But all it took was one judgy text from my husband Saturday morning pointing out one of the things I didn’t do (I had told him I was putting it off for a few days) and “happy” was far from the emotion I was feeling after that. I pushed back and texted him letting let know I didn’t like when he did that to me and in a typical male response (sorry guys I am stereotyping here), he tuned me out and just sent generic texts not addressing any of my feelings. As the day went on, the more upset I got.
It is amazing how one off putting remark said at the wrong time can temporarily change the feelings between a normally happy couple. My husband who is usually my soft pillow to fall on after a tough day had now become my adversary because I was feeling dismissed by him all day. By the time he really got how mad I was at him it was like 8 pm and by that time I want to poke him with a fork!
Instead of putting up a wall, build a bridge
The next day we talked about it face to face and he finally understood why it upset me so much. I have done it to him too and since it really affects our relationship, I was determined to solve the problem before it happens again. The late Richard Carlson, psychologist and author of the book, The Don’t Swet Guide for Couples, said that when you choose to hear out your partner in the midst of an argument, you choose to start a bridge with them. He said that if both partners are not allowed to be heard, you will keep coming back to making your point which was what I was doing. I went from giving him the silent treatment to letting him know how angry I was but all through texts and the phone. What we needed was to really sit down face to face and discuss why his comment hurt me the way it did.
What I learned that if it is an important issue to either partner, you simply must deal with it before moving on even if it is to agree to disagree. By seeking to understand each other especially during an argument is an effective way to make a good relationship even better!