A couple of weeks ago, while on the set of a current project, I found myself in a relationship conversation with someone just starting down that road again after a breakup. He mentioned that someday he looks forward to having a family of his own and thus my two pieces of advice for him…
First, because he previously mentioned going through industry related podcasts on his travel time I said that’s great but alternate that that time to suck in information for yourself as well. I am not talking about books on relationships. No, I am talking about books, and other sources, on subjects that can give one a better idea of who you are as a unique person in this world. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about self-awareness mostly from a business perspective:
What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I want people to learn to be at peace with themselves, to understand what they can offer, because everyone’s got something. The key, however, is learning how to find it. Self-awareness can help you do that. Self-awareness is being able to accept your weaknesses while focusing all of your attention on your strengths. The moment you decide to accept your shortcomings and bet entirely on your strengths, things will change. Trust me.
The same concept of self-awareness is the corner stone of all successful relationships. It is understanding who you are and what are the big picture items important to a happy future for yourself. On the subject of relationships this could be anything from religion, to politics, to kids (as in having or not having them — a to go down the road even further, what happens if things don’t go perfectly in this area), to past and present trauma, to addiction, to outlook on health, to travel, to where do you want to live, to how do you balance life and business, to how do you want to grow, and so on…
In other words, get good a understanding who you are and how you want to shape your world rather than being the passive subject being shaped by the environment around you. Bottom line — it is time to be brutally honest, when no one else is in the room, to separate the ‘you’ from the pressures that have defined you without your permission. Then, once you have a better foundational understanding of yourself how do you apply this to relationships?
Hence my second piece of advice to him. Focus on the big things first.
The problem with many relationship ‘startups’ is they come together with a connection on the small things in life. You have chemistry, you seem to get along, you happen to synchronize well on doing things you like together, you somehow get committed to each other and when you get to the subject of bigger things it falls apart — or worse yet, you start to make excuses as to why the bigger things will work themselves out since you have already founded such a great connection. After all, you have all this time invested you might as well hold on knowing all this small stuff will somehow make it through the fact you want to move across the country make it big and your partner never wants to leave the small town they grew up in.
Saying it this way it may sound obvious that this is insanely backwards. Yet, to my surprise the question that came back to me, to which I did not have the greatest answer at the time, is how is one supposed to start with the big things? The answer that was in my brain, but just did not manage to get out well, is that you just do. It’s hard, it’s not fun, and it will both save time and create the happiness you just cannot have any other way.
Coincidentally a week later I was watching Daymond John of Shark Tank being interviewed with Jay Abraham at the Genius Network. When asked about relationship advice Daymond said basically the same thing I did on my second point but more bluntly. He made comment about how this was turnoff approach for many attempts coming his way but the focus was on being happy and not just making a connection. Thus, in the end when the connection was made for him, he already knew he would be happy and is now engaged to his fiancée Heather Taras.
Yes, people change over time and there is no guarantee of happiness forever. As people grow further in life, even if they are in perfect sync at the start of a relationship, it does not mean that they will not grow down different roads or at vastly different paces. However, growing together for as long as possible is better than tackling someone at an intersection trying to hold on as both of you get back up only to resume a journey in completely different directions.
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