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Working Too Hard: Managing Connection vs. Managing Content (part 1 of 3)

You have likely heard yourself say things like:  "It's hard to make time for just the two of us  "We haven't connected much because we have both been so busy."  "How can I connect with her when she is so stressed out?!"

You work hard to manage things so that eventually you can enjoy quality time with your partner and family.  Sometimes the idea of quality time gets attached to even more work like planning a vacation, a party, or figuring out something creative and unique to do together.

There is an easier way.  If you shift from managing the content (the things & activities of your life) so that you can get connection, to managing the connection so that things and activities flow smoothly, life is not only easier, but also more satisfying.

Here are at least three ways in which you can begin to make the shift toward managing connection before content:

1) Engage in regular collaborative dialogues about big decisions.

2)  Change little, but pervasive, habits of daily interaction.

3)  See stressful events and reactions as an opportunity for building intimacy rather than an obstacle to get around or get through quickly so you can get to something else.

Collaborative dialogues about big decisions include topics like working extra jobs or changing jobs, making expensive purchases, moving to another home, attending and planning life events such as weddings and funerals, deciding to have children or not, and custody of children in mixed families, to name a few. Tragically, these big decisions are often made based on unchecked assumptions about what the other partner wants or expects, reactivity, and/or unconscious ideas of what you imagine will bring satisfaction and connection.

These big decisions can become an opportunity for connection.  Collaborative dialogues help you create a life that is truly fulfilling. These dialogues require attentive listening to each other around the answers of some of these questions:

  • How is this decision affecting our ability to be present and loving with each other day by day?

  • What needs are met with this decision and what needs are at cost?  (Look at universal needs from the needs list.)

  • Is there a situation in which we are saying "we have to"?  If yes, can we look more closely at the needs present in that situation and brainstorm new creative ways to meet our needs?

  • Is there anything in our life that we are putting resources into that no longer meets our needs?  (That is, is there something we can let go of to make space for meeting our needs more effectively?)

The first question may be especially difficult to stay with for you and your partner.  It requires non-judgmental reflection on your experience of daily life.  It's easy to imagine criticism or fault and follow the impulse to defend some decision that's not contributing to connection, but is contributing in other ways.  One way to prevent this kind of reactivity is to start your dialogue with expressing appreciation for not only what is working, but also for the good intentions you both hold.

In next week's gem, we will talk about prioritizing connection through changing the habits of daily interaction.

Practice
This week take a baby step toward collaborative dialogues by making a date with your partner to celebrate what needs are being met in the big decisions you have made recently.

Next Gem
Working Too Hard: Content vs. Connection (part 2 of 3)
Previous Gem
Good Intentions & Tragic Strategies


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