As entrepreneurs we are well known for our passion, our drive and work ethic. But no one ever talks about the elephant in the room - that we entrepreneurs are often so focused on achieving our business growth to the detriment of our relationship.
There are only so many hours in the day, our list of things to do never ends. Particularly in the early days of stating up, where all of the legwork in the business is down to you, it can be all consuming. It becomes an obsession. So much so, that we can lose sight of what (and who) we are doing it all for.
There are currently no stats that exist to paint an accurate picture of relationship breakdowns and divorce rates amongst entrepreneurs. Some divorce lawyers speculate it to be around 50%. That is, as an entrepreneur there is a 50:50 chance that your marriage will stand the trials and tribulations associated with business ownership. The downfalls often being due to financial pressures, neglecting your partner, a lack of communication and having different life goals.
In my role as a psychological skills coach I help people to lead a life they love and create high performing teams, whether that’s in the workplace or at home - the ultimate dream team. So to help my fellow entrepreneurs, who truly value their relationship, I’ve put together a list (because we do love our lists) of 20 ways to love your lover, before it’s too late. The great news is most of them won’t cost you a penny and they take up very little precious time. Because it’s the little things that are the big things. It’s not about grand gestures. Twenty might seem a lot. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, there is an element of finding the right key to fit the lock. You will probably already be doing some of them, so you don’t need to do it all. Instead, I invite you, should you be willing, to make a commitment to doing one, two or maybe three little things over the next three months. Think of it as an experiment and just see what you notice.
If like me you are a bit of a brain geek, you may be interested to know that many of these ideas featured in this article can be linked to stimulating oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone in the body and neurotransmitter in the brain. Often called "the love hormone”, it plays a huge role in bonding, trust, intimacy, sex and orgasm. It’s also an antidote to depressive feelings and stress. So let’s get it on…
#1 Know their ‘Love Language’…
Now I thought this one was common knowledge these days, but when I last asked a room full of entrepreneurs only one person put their hands up to say that they had heard of this. The Love Language concept is best known thanks to Gary Chapman, and his bestselling book The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. And it can be a real game changer in any relationship. In a nutshell, we all feel loved in different ways, and we have a tendency to show our love in a way that matches our own love language. Great if you and your partner speak the same love language. But if your way of receiving love is different to your lover’s and you haven’t realised this, and responded accordingly, the chances are the love you are trying to give is getting lost in translation. Overtime, it’s easy to lose that loving feeling. You might experience it as a disconnect, like a glass wall separating the two of you. It’s confusing and frustrating because you do love each other. Take some positive action, either go online with your partner to take the test here. Or swat up on it, take a step back, observe, talk about it or experiment a few times with numbers 2-6 and see which ones seem to get the best responses. What’s your language of love and what is your lover’s?
#2 Say it. With Words of Affirmations, Encouragement, Compliments and Gratitude
Some of us want to hear it. And not just those three little words all the time. ‘I love you’ is nice but overused as a default can start to become vague and empty. Let’s get specific and speak from your heart. What qualities do you most value in them? What are their strengths? What do you admire in them right now? What are you most proud of them for? Tell them as soon as it feels right. We all need encouragement from time to time. We all have dreams and moments of doubt. What words might they need to hear from you right now that encourages them to be the amazing person you see? What are you grateful for? Is it that they make your mornings easier and your days more worthwhile? Is it just knowing that you have them in your corner? Might they love to hear the words “thank you for…” just a little more often? And there are so many different ways we can communicate these messages these days: face-to-face, in a love note left somewhere for them to find, in a loving text or lovely voicemail.
#3 Give it. The Gift of Giving.
Some like to receive love in the form of gifts. It demonstrates that you’ve been paying attention and thinking of them when you’re apart. They love to know that they have been on your mind, and that you have taken the time to think of something they might love. Anticipation and surprise can play an important part in this. You could get something you know they like to treat themselves to - their favourite chocs, fragrance, item of clothing. Or something you know they’ve been wanting a while, but keep putting off because they’ve put other things first. Or something you spot that just feels like their thing. It’s not about the price tag, it’s the thought that counts. What thoughtful gift would your lover like to receive from you?
#4 Just Be. Spend Quality Time Together.
Time is precious. Some feel loved in those moments when you can both be present and spend some quality time together. That’s not sat in front of the TV with your smartphones and laptops out. Take a digital detox and put the distractions away. Give them your undivided attention in the here and now. Take a time-out to talk, laugh, sing, dance, sit, or walk together. Take yourselves away somewhere, for the evening / the day / the weekend or longer. Find something to do together. These moments build positive memories, which can always be relived when you take time to reflect on them together in the future. Maya Angelou said it best when she said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. How do you make your lover feel when spending quality time in your presence?
#5 Do it. With Acts of Service
Some feel loved most when you do something for them. What job do they feel they have to do, that you could do for them? Is there something they always do for you that you could do from time to time in return? You might make them breakfast, some lunch, cook dinner (you can tell food is the way to my heart), or do the food shop, service their car, take the kids out, run them a bath… the possibilities are endless. These acts show your lover that you notice what’s going on in their world, you care for them and want to help. It’s easy for us each to take up certain roles, sometimes without question. It’s also easy to sit back and let them get on with it because they do it better (of course they do, they’ve had so much practice). But life changes, boredom sets in, and sometimes we just need a change. What one act of service could you do for you lover to show you care?
#6 Get Physical. For a Deeper Connection.
Some people need to feel your love and affection through physical intimacy. If their primary love language is physical touch, nothing says “I love you” more than being held or touched. Create an oxytocin overload with big hugs that last for at least 20 seconds, set your alarm a few minutes earlier to enjoy an early morning cuddle. Kiss deeper, kiss longer, know all the places they like to be kissed and hit the spot. If you don’t know, ask. You could give them a massage; back rub, foot rub, full body, head. However they like it. And if giving massages aren’t your forte, you could take a course and learn. Or book the both of you in to get massages together. How can you express your love and intentions through touch?
#7 Just Do It. I’m talking about sex ba-by…
I get it, you’re both either too busy or too tired, got a headache, not in the mood. We’ve all been there. Perhaps the two of you haven’t figured each other’s love languages yet, to help each other get in the mood. Perhaps it is just about making time. If I offered you a chunk of cash, could that help you find the time? In which case is it about time, or priorities? If it is something the two of you would like more of, and are struggling to find the right time JFDI! Schedule it. We all have different sex drives, times in the day / week / month when we are more up for it than others. Track it, work it out between you, or make a commitment to getting it on. Your drives can increase and become more in sync. It’s like anything associated with the brain and the body, it works on a use it or lose it principle. The more you do it, the more you will want it. It ramps up our testosterone levels, delivers more oxytocin with more touching and cuddling, and gives you a hit of the reward chemical dopamine, which can make you want more.
#8 Schedule a regular date night
Date night is not just for Valentine’s days, anniversaries or birthdays. Schedule a regular date night weekly or monthly, get a regular night off from the usual routines. That could be getting dressed up and going out or it could be a night in together with good food and without distractions. If it’s not in the diary it won’t happen, so get it dialled in. What would the perfect date night for you and for your lover look like?
#9 Ask about their day
Simply taking some time to ask them about their day, or even better ask them specifically about something you know they had on that day. Perhaps they had to have a difficult conversation with someone, perhaps they had to do something they were nervous or worried about. Use this as an opportunity to show your interest in their world. Ask them what was genuinely their highlight for the day, what were their lows. Listen with curiosity and with fascination in sharing moments and gaining insights into the way they think. We all think differently, we’ve different priorities, we take in different levels of details - some lots and some not so much. And recognise that we are all different in terms of when we like to share our daily report. Some like it as soon as they get home, others need a bit of headspace first. Make time for at least 10-20 minutes to hear about their day.
#10 Really listen.
You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen with your eyes and your ears. Your eyes are the windows to your soul, they don’t lie. Eyes tell us a lot about the emotions and intentions of their owners. So make eye contact as you listen and notice all of the little things -their movements, their facial expressions, the words they use - they all give away clues and important information, far deeper than it might appear on the surface. How long can you listen to your lover for, without interruption?
#11 Focus on the Positives: Kerb your Criticism 5:1
In a reading I did at my brother’s wedding, ‘The Art (and Science) of a Happy Marriage’, I offered some similar pearls of wisdom (in much fewer words). The feedback I got from couples in the congregation was that out of all of them, this one really stopped them in their tracks! Scientific studies have shown that lovers who live in love for longer focus on five times more positive things than negative things, and they have five positive interactions for every negative one. Positive illusions are helpful, that’s not to say being deluded is the way forward. We just recognise that our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negatives; for dangers and threats. So shift the balance back to reality. Next time you catch yourself getting drawn into the negatives pause for a moment, and think of five things you love and appreciate before you respond. What five things could you list right now?
#12 Stop Looking for Perfection or Trying to Fix Them
Nobody is perfect. No relationship is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. There will be bumps in the road. Love is loving and accepting your lover as they are right now, not an idealised version you imagined them to be. They will not always be at their best. Love is standing together to deal with the challenges we each face. When your lover comes home and shares their problems, fears or concerns, the analytical among us or those of a rescuing persuasion, can fall into the trap of trying to fix them. It comes back to listening, that’s your job. Ask questions only to help them understand the problem better and let them find their own solutions. Don’t tell them what they should do, or what you would do. They are capable. They’re an adult, so don’t belittle them. If they specifically ask for your advice then share how you might approach it, or how you’ve seen others approach it, help them to weigh up options for themselves. Don’t assume the problem is as it appears to be on the surface. Try to experience it as they are experiencing it. For that, you might need to dig into it a bit deeper… “How does that feel?… And what is it about x that makes you feel this way?… And what is it about x…”. Get to the bottom of it. Accept their reality. You don’t need to agree, or do anything, just understand.
#13 Try something new together
Scientific studies have shown that lovers that experience romantic love for longer change things up from time to time, by doing new things together. Novelty get the dopamine systems going. We all like to experience something new, get a taste of the unknown to a degree. Doing it together only associates those rushes of emotions with our partner as opposed to something we only ever experience when we are apart. Now what new stuff you try together depends entirely on you and your lover. What would they enjoy? What would be their idea of fun? What might put a smile on their face, so you can fall in love with that smile all over again? It could be something new in the bedroom, or to make love in a new place. It could be something as simple as learning something new together, or going to a new restaurant together. What little adventure could ignite a spark for you and your lover?
#14 Dare to dream together and ask about their own dreams and goals
We can get caught up in the busyness of business, with our daily routines and distractions. As an entrepreneur you probably know your dreams and goals like the back of your hand. Have you taken some time to dream together? That is, talk about what you both want for the relationship. Sometimes we put this off because we are so focused on our stuff, or because we fear others goals will get in our way, or sometimes for fear for it not coming true. Shoot for the stars. Working together towards it can bring you closer together, even if you don’t quite get what you wished for. And let’s not forget that you’re independent beings. It can be easy to lose our identity in a relationship when working hard towards our common goals. Many partners put off their own dreams for the sake of others. Show your love, attention and support by carving out some space to find out more about theirs and how you can help them get there. So what are your couple goals? What dreams do they hold for themselves?
#15 Know Yourself and Take Care of Yourself
You owe it yourself, your lover and your relationship to know yourself well. To know what you want from life, to know how you tick. Know your strengths and your flaws. Know your patterns - the helpful and unhelpful ones - and own it. Know what you needs are and take care of them. We all have needs. Don’t rely on your lover to fulfil them. Take good care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Keep growing, to help your love grow for each other. We’ve all heard that saying within business ‘if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards’ and the same is true of you and your relationship. We have an innate need for growth, some need it more than others. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. By growing the business at the expense of yourself means you risk losing yourself, your relationship and then ultimately the business too. The best way to love you lover starts with you. How well do you know yourself? And how well do you look after yourself?
#16 Learn How to Argue Constructively
Arguing well is a skill. If you find your arguments leave you further apart instead of closer together at the end of it or in the long run, you’ve got some work to do. That’s not to say we need a good fight to clear the air, get it off our chest, so we can feel better about ourselves and make up for it after. It means having a grown up discussion about something that needs to be resolved. My husband and I had an argument in the car the other day.. It was in front of my brother and his new wife; it isn’t often we argue and it is certainly very rare for us to argue in public. But I was surprised to get some nice feedback. My brother commented that he ‘liked’ our ‘arguing style’. When I asked what he liked about it he said something along the lines of we both said what we wanted to say, and got our points across without being overly emotional (we were both obviously feeling frustrated, angry, guilty) but no-one lost their temper, it didn’t get personal, we were honest about what we were thinking and feeling, we both listened when the other one spoke, there was no silent treatment, and in the end we both owned our parts of the problem. At the end we got to what we wanted and didn’t want to happen in the future. Because every good argument needs a point to it. How well do you learn from your arguments and move on from it?
#17 Delete the Words ‘Always’, ‘Never’, ‘Should’ From Your Vocabulary
Language is powerful. These are just three words that come up in disagreements. They leak out of our mouth unawares and can be incredibly damaging to the person on the receiving end. They are a signal that we have lost perspective and lost touch with reality. We use them when we are thinking in black and white and all or nothing terms, making sweeping generalisations, thinking emotionally, irrationally and holding unrealistic expectations. It’s shaming language. So it needs to stop. Avoid ‘always' and ‘never’ and get specific. And turn your ‘shoulds’ into ‘coulds’ It’s a subtle but effective difference. How do you talk to your love when emotions are high?
#18 Stop Playing the Blame Game
Our default setting in a disagreement can often be to try to win. If there is a winner, the other by default is the loser. We do this by pointing the fingers or pushing blame onto our partner. Here you only risk winning battles but losing the war. It is rare than one person’s actions are completely to blame, unless they truly are destructive and manipulative people who really have it in for you. If that is the case, you need out. Be wary that our brain also defaults to trying to find the initial point that made things go wrong in a sequence of events and in doing so piles all the blame onto the them, absolving ourselves of any part to play. And we get the line “well if you hadn’t…”. It’s pointless. Find the things you can take responsibility for and give them time to reflect. Work it out together. How easy do you own you part to play?
#19 Say Sorry and Forgive Quickly
In our essence of Britishness we find ourselves saying sorry for all manner of things when they aren’t our fault. In other cultures, people tend only to say sorry when they have done something that has harmed or offended another person. To say sorry is the same as saying you are guilty of doing something wrong. As Brits we say sorry to each other when we accidentally bump into them! The exceptions, it seems, is when we actually have something to be sorry for, or it involves someone close to us. As if saying sorry might make them eventually leave us. So find what you can be sorry for and own your part. More often that not, if we take the first step they will take the next. Love does not hold grudges. If you have argued well enough to reach a resolution it’s time to forgive and move on. If you can’t get to a place of acceptance and forgiveness, then it might be time, for the love of the both of you, to go your separate ways. When does sorry seem to be the hardest word for you? And what might you still need to apologise for to help your lover let go of something they still hold on to?
#20 Get Regular Relationship Check-Ups
In our workplaces we have annual reviews. We make regular hair appointments to maintain our manes. Our cars go in for a regular service and M.O.T. We’ve health screening for our major concerns, and we check-in with our dentists and opticians. All to ensure that we are functioning as best we can be, and to catch things early before they become a big problem. Yet for many, the thought of getting a regular ‘performance review’ for our relationship, either with a coach or counsellor, seems taboo. Yet, in many cultures it’s considered normal; many couples seek support before they get hitched. Super-stars like Jay-Z and Beyonce and the Obamas are widely reported to have gone to therapy to strengthen their respective relationships. And studies have shown that couples taking part in a relationship ‘health’ check and planning were significantly happier years down the line, compared to those that didn’t. Reviewing, making plans and taking action can lead to more intimacy, acceptance and love. How are you guys really doing in your relationship?
Love is in the air, it’s everywhere we look around. And in our closest relationships there is much to be enjoyed. In loving your lover each and every day the pay-offs for both of you are immense. Not only can you enjoy a longer and happier life, it strengthens your immune systems, and reduces stress and depression. Most definitely worth the investment.
Now if you’ve read this far I know this really matters to you. I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on this, or if you would like to find out more drop me an email.