Entrepreneurs and Marital Success

Time stamped show notes from The Road Not Taken podcast, where Coach Kelly Clements talks about entrepreneurs and marital success. LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE.

1:20 KELLY’S INTRODUCTION – How Kelly coaches both the entrepreneurs AND spouses, who play a vital role in the business. Harmonizing marriage and business. Attention and focus on intersection of work and family. Specialty is helping BOTH people stepping into their extraordinary because she believes it takes two extraordinary people to create one extraordinary relationship, which involves the spouse in her coaching.

5:00 HOW SPOUSES OF ENTREPRENEURS FEEL: Spouses getting lost in their spouse’s entrepreneur journey. Coaching entrepreneurs and started working with their spouses. Story of how the spouses at a retreat went quiet because they didn’t know how to think about HER life, answer questions about HER life, didn’t feel like it even mattered, where is passion and purpose going to fit in this entrepreneur life?

6:30 COACHES AND RESOURCES ARE EVERYWHERE FOR ENTREPRENEURS, BUT NOT SPOUSES! Entrepreneur coaches everywhere… so many resources for entrepreneurs- masterminds, podcasts, books, blogs, seminars, retreats, so much support and resources for entrepreneurs… they are always learning and growing. Disconnect with spouses, who do not have the same support and resources to learn and grow. Spouse feels intimidated. In Kelly’s experience, the more advanced the spouse got, the better the balance and the intersection of everything that happens between work and home.

10:00 CHANGE AND TRANSITION: HOW USING A COACH CAN HELP. We love change (losing weight, losing weight, earning more money, building a new house) but there is fear wrapped around it. What we fear is the transition, not the change. We fear the small steps. Purpose of having a coach for this transition is to reduce some of the complexity and uncertainty that comes along with the transition to get two extraordinary people.

13:00 HOW SPOUSES OF ENTREPRENEURS FEEL (PART 2) Spouses might think “I know I shouldn’t feel like I have any problems. It doesn’t feel like I should have any reason to complain. I feel like I have to qualify any pain I might be experiencing because I do have a great life! I have a big life that others dream about so who am I to complain?” Fact is, we have a great life, and part of the creation of that great life is maybe having to sacrifice some of our own dreams, desires, ambitions, compacities, to support this life and any time there is a disconnect between what we are doing between our daily lives and what is really around somewhere in our heart and soul, even if you don’t know what that is, of course there is a pain, and a feeling of a void, and the mistake is we assign that feeling of something missing or that void to our partner.

14:00 SPOUSES SUPPORT THEIR ENTREPRENEUR BUT CAN PUT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THEIR HAPPINESS ON THE ENTREPRENEUR. Spouses are more than happy to support their entrepreneur and help them with their business and be in the relationship but in exchange for making the spouse solely responsible for all of their happiness. Which is unfair to put on anyone.

14:30 SPOUSES MIGHT FEEL A VOID. When people feel a void within themselves, its easy to assign it to a relationship. The power comes from realizing that our romantic relationships are the most powerful and transparent mirror that we have in our life. When there is a feeling of a void or disconnect in a relationship, spouses need to get lined back up with their own desires.

15:15 THE COACHING PROCESS. How does Kelly help couples when she coaches? Most clients come from hearing Kelly speak. Generally, one spouse has heard Kelly speak. First there is an exploratory, discovery phone call. All of her coaching packages are quarterly. Kelly speaks weekly with partner 1 and partner 2 individually each week for three weeks. In those individual calls, they are working on their individual desires. Fourth week, one call a month is a couples call on what’s working, what’s not and what’s next. So much of work up front is who they are as individuals first. Monthly calls focus on the couple and what they want to co-create together.

17:45 THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COUPLES COACHING VS. COUPLES COUNSELING (Part 1) Marriage counseling has a lot of focus on wounds of the past and pain points. Coaching is great because it has a great modality to build a bigger future together. Kelly’s focus is to get couples to co-create a bigger future together. A lot of attention on desires and pleasure and what’s working. Its not as painful as counseling, they aren’t picking old wounds. Coaching offers a clean slate. Kelly has seen a lot of amazing marriages come back from some pretty treacherous scenarios, and when she holds that light for them and holds the positive expectancy in front of them that they can co-create whatever they want to out of their marriage, regardless of what they’ve been through, it’s really refreshing to a lot of her clients.

19:00 HOW DO YOU BRING COUPLES TOGETHER WHEN THEY HAVE DIFFERENT DESIRES? Whatever is taking up attention and space in their individual heads is what they focus on during their individual weekly calls. The monthly couples calls relates to where they are at in their relationship, how are we communicating together, where are our expectations aligned, how are we managing our schedules, is our time and resources being governed by other people’s expectations, are we living in a space of obligation and commitments, or are we living in a space of total co-creation and we are doing what we want and we are spending our time and  resources on us instead of obligation.

20:45 WHY PACE IS A BIG FACTOR IN RELATIONSHIPS. Pace is a big thing in relationships. How to make sure their time away from work is as rejuvenating as their time in work.

21:00 ATTENTION ON PLAY AND RECREATION IN RELATIONSHIPS. Our dating relationship and what got us to the alter was play! Total enjoyment and pleasure. Talking about a bigger future of things we would do some day together. All of those conversations were an alignment that got us to the alter. Then we add a house, a business, kids, a dog… and whatever else comes with that lifestyle, our free leisure time and sense of play gets squeezed out the window. Leisure time and play is where love grows. Without it, we get in a rut, there is no time for us as a couple, there is a sense of obligation all of the time.

22:00 PLAY AND RECREATION IS POWERFUL Play and recreation is a really powerful vehicle to sustain that sense of love and connection in our relationships. Kelly has her clients look at the function of their free leisure time to protect their relationship. Play together! Be in action together!  Do more than talk about the house and the kids.

23:00 KELLY’S COACHING PHILOSOPHY: BEGINNING WITH A CLEAN SLATE. Do you ever send couples to therapy counseling first? Kelly hasn’t yet. One of the reasons she thinks clients take the route of coaching over counseling is because of her philosophy of beginning with a clean slate, and hashing through it and what do we want to create out of this. Yes, of course we are going to talk about what lead to it, red flags, ignoring boundaries, all of those things on an individual level, but all of them have come out successfully, are rebuilding, have the phoenix from the ashes story.  Some clients have done therapy counseling parallel to coaching.

26:30 Coaching vs Therapy counseling (Part 2)– Coaching is people moving forward, not always digging up the past. Kelly is a huge advocate for therapy, especially if people think that’s the right path for them. That’s why it’s important to have that distinction between the two, if you feel like therapy is necessary for hashing out the past and opening old wounds, and there are deeper underlining things to explore, therapy is for you. Its important for Kelly to manage the expectations of her clients. If they feel like they want to look back, that’s not where they are going with her coaching.

27:30 KELLY EXPLORES THE ROLE OF SHAME WITH HER CLIENTS Sometimes people resist therapy because they don’t want to look at the past. If there is something there that you don’t want to look at there is a good chance that that’s where your shame is growing because shame thrives in isolation and if you are avoiding something from a place of shame, know that no matter what degree of coaching we do, we are only going to be able to get so far if you don’t address whatever is stirring for you in the background that you don’t want to talk about.

28:10 KELLY EXPLORES WITH CLIENTS IF THEY EDIT THEIR STORY (PART 1)? Do you have exercises that your clients do to process things from the past, especially repeat behaviors and limited beliefs because they have to come from somewhere? Where Kelly focuses the most with that is where do you find yourself editing your story? Are you steering a conversation away from the that one piece of information that you don’t want anyone to know about? Where are you spinning your story so that you don’t have to talk about that one thing? This doesn’t mean you have to let every skeleton out of the closet… but when we spend a lot of energy editing and managing our story or our perspective, that’s an indicator that there is some growth to do in that particular area. Whether its bringing more attention to it, maybe with therapy, or maybe its talking to the person in your life that it affects, but coming clean about it because keeping it in isolation becomes a greater and greater sense or source of shame which is always the thing that’s going to hold us back. When you are editing out of self-preservation and are spending so much energy and time managing that piece of information out, its better to use the energy just being honest with it.

30:45 CLIENTS EDIT THEIR STORY (PART 2) Are there things they’re editing out of my life story that are stopping growth or progress? Kelly gives the example of being a single mom and how she used to have shame around it. She didn’t relate to the story of being a single mom because to her the single moms are women who are struggling, no time for themselves, exhausted and totally depleted and she didn’t relate to that. So, in her mind she had a spin on it. Then she realized that she had shame around the term “single mom” not because she is a single mom but because she felt like, as a mom, sharing custody with her ex, she had shame like  “I’m not going to have my kids this weekend” and “what kind of mom is without her kids on the weekend?” She had this spin around it and for what? It’s great that her kids gets to spend so much time with their dad, they have 50/50 custody, it’s amazing that they have a dad that they get to spend so much time with , that Kelly has time to focus on herself and her business, and because her kids are athletes, she still gets to see them at their games every weekend when they aren’t with her. What that did, it took the burden off of her but it also made her stop overcompensating with her kids. “I’m a really great mom!” When she wasn’t coming from a place of shame, and feeling like she needed to overcompensate, it made her so much more present to them and Kelly realized, “I’m a really great mom!” So many of her coaching clients identified with this when she shared it with them. Women, our identities get wrapped up by being a mom. She realized she was punishing herself in other areas.

34:00 ANY TIME THERE IS JUDGMENT ON YOURSELF OR OTHERS, IT IS SOMEHOW CONNECTED TO SHAME. How did this “single mom shame” ah-ha moment come about? Any time there is judgment on yourself or others it is somehow connected to shame. This is another good indicator to trace it back to that source of shame.

34:30 HOW KELLY USES HER EXPERIENCE AND HER CLIENTS EXPERIENCES IN HER COACHING: After her “discovery” experience – all of her work is about desires, and co-creation, what we want- her flavor of coaching always tends to be very positive and towards the light. “We are going to talk about shame.” She could feel her clients squirming, that wasn’t her brand of coaching they were used to. If this is our set point, if we want to grown this far, we are humans and we have so much duality, we have to look back in the shadows as deep as we want to expand because we expand in relation to each other. We can stay here and we can keep the shadowbox here but we can only get so far in our progress if we aren’t willing to move both of these together, relative together. Look at it, look where you are editing, look where there are judgements, when you are ready to talk about it, we will go there. So, when she gives them that perspective and sets that expectation, they have a new context for how to talk about it.

36:00 MORE ABOUT ARE YOU EDITING YOUR STORY (PART 3) One of the important topics that needs to be figured out is what is we are editing? “Are you editing that?” She tells her personal story, several wives identified with that similar shame.

38:00 MOST SPOUSES KELLY WORKS WITH DON’T KNOW THEIR DESIRES: HOW DO THEY GET STARTED? Sometimes it’s hard to dream big, be ambitious or excited, because they’re in an emotional funk. They know what they should do, but just can’t muster up the enthusiasm. How do you address couples or individuals who are holding back on their desires because their desires sound so modest and small? Kelly meets them where they are at. A lot of times one of the people in the couple is “I don’t even know what I want. I know this isn’t it. What direction do I start facing?” Early on, they are just trying things on. Does this feel right? One of my gifts is I have a really strong intuition in that I can hear where there is potential. There is something I can hear in my clients where I can go deeper. I have a lot of focus on the words they are using. I can tell when I’m getting there because I always say if you can’t talk about your purpose or your desires without a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you’re not there yet. It’s a process of unraveling, it’s a safe space, there are no right or wrong answers, I use a lot of stories, whether from my own personal background or of my clients.

40:30 ME TOO MOVEMENT AND ALPHA WOMEN Kelly is really excited about everything that went down last year with the Me Too movement, feminine rising, dramatic shift with women, is really exciting to me because she has a forward perspective of it in that she sees the pendulum swinging in the way that the men might be trampled. Being able to work with entrepreneurial women and helping them with their relationships. Helping women understand the role of who we are as women, and how powerful it is and not misusing that power. Kelly thinks we have these magic powerful potent swords of creation and if we aren’t careful we use them as destruction instead of wands and when she talks about the power of a women and breathing life into their spouses, and coaching them on this.

44:00 WHO DOES KELLY COACH? Kelly coaches type A women, in groups. One-on-one couples coaching – mainly male entrepreneurs with entrepreneur wife or stay at home mom, working wife, maybe not career focused or purpose driven.

45:00 WHAT ARE THE COMMON LANDMINDS OR CHALLENGES YOU SEE BETWEEN THE ENTREPRENEUR AND THE SPOUSE? The universal one is things that make us successful in business can be really hard to live with at home. Driven, passionate, eye for excellence, committed,  a lot of connections and relationships, creative, chaotic, all of these qualities serve us really well in business and we might get a lot of recognition and appreciation or applause for those qualities in business but then we get home but our passion is now anger, creativity is chaos or mania, our eye for excellence is perfectionism or OCD, our connections and relationships take away from our family… so its working well for us in business but not contributing to a happy, healthy household at home so there tends to be a lot more criticism at home. Focus on compliment to criticism ratio at home.  Many entrepreneur men say the only vote of approval that they want is from their wife. The wife might think “I don’t want to make your head any bigger, the last thing you need is another compliment” Men are striving for their wife’s approval. Kelly starts with the compliment to criticism ratio. What we appreciate appreciates. Start to look for the good qualities in our partner and speaking into what’s working. Transitional habit of changing the dynamics. If there is a complaint worth lodging, great, say it, but also speak to what is working well.

48:00 HELPING THE ENTREPRENEUR SPOUSE – Help them with the feeling like they lost their sense of self.  Maybe feeling disengaged or depleted. Maybe she’s left her career, hasn’t been engaged professionally for some time. Kelly believes amazing qualities came factory installed in you. Look at yourself independent from your kids, from your spouse, his business, her social circle, who are you at your best with your emotions, intellectually, spiritually, your health and fitness, the things that are happening within you that are unique to you, lets get those back online. Take an inventory on everything they spend their time on. What do you love, enjoy, tolerate, dread? Create space for things that you do love and enjoy. If you don’t know what those are, that’s what our work is together. Space for more passion and purpose. Kelly believes our passion lives in us. When people start looking for purpose, they look outward. I believe it’s a spiritual pursuit to start to focus on those because she knows our desires get us to where we are supposed to be. The power of purpose is the third component in her book, The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose.

51:30 PLAY. The word has a mindset stigma or notion that somehow Play is frivolous. Something that children get to do but not grownups. How is pivotal that is to the relationship getting started. After couples have kids, kids are so consuming, the first thing that goes for couples is Play. Play is one of the three components in her book, The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose.

52:30 KELLY MAJORED IN RECREATION IN COLLEGE. Came to Strategic Coach via a headhunter. Kelly learned Strategic Coach is basically a university for entrepreneurs. Their tagline is “Work Less. Make More.” People would come in to understand work-life balance, a foundational concept in their program.

54:00 WORK-LIFE BALANCE – THE IMPORTANCE OF A FREE DAY As entrepreneurs, we get to experience Flow State, where we totally lose track of time, we produce great results with very little effort, we get a high, we get in the zone, we become workaholics… and so when we are at home and we have to be in taskmaster mode, of course we’d rather be at work. So, PLAY puts us in the same brain space as Flow. We lose track of time, we get great results with little effort, we have fun, we learn… that’s why children learn through play. There is no point in our life when our life where our learning capacity through play changes, its always still there. A study: it took 144 repetitions to learn something new in an academic setting vs. four repetitions in a play setting for someone to really learn it. And that continues through adulthood. Play is another way to get into a Flow State and keep the time away from work as enjoyable as our time at work. I read a book by Mathew Kelly and he talks about love growing the space of carefree timelessness. Kelly pays attention to the importance of it. Its how our kids connect to us through play. Its how our spouses connect with us.

58:30 PRAISE. In her relationship, her partner always told her that her appreciation and validation made him feel bullet-proof. She saw him come to life through her praise and recognition. One of the other pieces about praise is that it really is a foundational piece to our intimacy (“into me you see”) when we can speak into the good things and the divine things we can see in our partner; it increases a sense of intimacy of being seen and appreciated. Especially after a long relationship together, it can be easy to point out flaws, we know exactly what buttons to push, and I think we lose attention or the sense of significant of really being able to speak into what we see in our partners. Sometimes if Kelly is running a men’s retreat, they say, “I try to appreciate her and compliment her”, and then women that she works with, they don’t feel worthy, they have to qualify it, sometimes it not the way they want to be appreciated. Find out what your spouse what is the best compliment that they want to receive? What do I really want to be appreciated for? What’s the highest compliment someone can give to me? When we know what our partner really wants to be recognized for, it loops into the intimacy cycle.  The power of purpose is a second component of her book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose.

1:02:00 COUPLES CAN CREATE WHATEVER THEY WANT, WHENEVER THEY WANT. That’s why Kelly loves working with the entrepreneurial demographic because they have the time and resource freedom that their counterparts who are employees probably don’t have. She wants to keep maximizing that freedom for them. Love is such a powerful, powerful elixir and its rocket fuel for our families and our business. That’s one thing she noticed working at Strategic Coach were the clients that would talk about their wives or husbands in a very affirmative way, those clients always had a different level of holistic success vs. the clients who were like “I can’t do this or that because my husband or wife is going to be mad, or won’t let me” had a marital grit. Really understanding that taking care of the marriage and people understand how to take care of each other better. Kelly wants to keep reminding powerful women that they can and should have a really powerful man by them and they can help bring that out regardless of where he is right now with the right mindset and the right tools. Kelly is excited about the whole notion of two extraordinary people, one extraordinary relationship. Somewhere along the way we agreed that there could only be one star and it has come at a cost to the partner of the entrepreneur. You can still be a star in your own right and helping your partner rediscover themselves-that is what I’m really excited about.

1:05:00 HOW TO GET STARTED? What is a good first step for people listening who want to get more onto that journey? There is no magic pill. Bring this home to your partner. Let the conversation come up. There is no right or wrong. Whatever is true for your partner is true for them. Let them be ok with that. Let there be space for that. Where can we do better? What do we want to do? Where do we start? It’s the fun part. You can to dabble until you figure it out. Talk about the compliment to criticism ratio. Talk about what you want to be seen for. It’s a great platform to have these questions.

1:07:45 ITS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO BE EFFECTIVE IN LIFE IF YOU DON’T HAVE GOOD THINGS GOING ON AT HOME and so it’s time for many people to spend more time focusing on that piece. People seem to get the best results in business as well are the ones who have a lot of things working well at home.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE.

How to Support Your Entrepreneur Spouse with the Power of Praise

The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose for entrepreneurial couples.

How to support your entrepreneur spouse with praise
The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose book by Kelly Clements

Entrepreneur couples and the power of praise. What we appreciate, appreciates. How to support your entrepreneur spouse through the power of praise.

For a man, one of the most powerful forces in the world is a woman’s love. A well-loved man can and will move mountains for his love. The only thing stronger than a woman’s love is her rejection. If a woman’s love can make a man, a woman’s rejection will break him.

As with all married couples, what initially attracts us to our spouse can quickly become the very things that frustrate us about him or her. It’s the classic case of our greatest strengths turning into our greatest weaknesses. However, in entrepreneurial couples, this is magnified because entrepreneurs tend to have a more dynamic spectrum of talents and gifts. What makes us successful in business can be a real challenge to manage at home.

In fact, did you know that from a psychological perspective, quite a large number of entrepreneurs are similar to psychopaths? It’s true! Entrepreneurs have just found better ways to channel all that mania.

Psychopathic traits

A 2016 study by forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks of Bond University found that 21 percent of CEOs have the same psychological profiles as psychopaths. However, inThe Wisdom of Psychopaths, Dr. Kevin Dutton describes how the psychopathic traits that we ordinarily associate as negative actually manifest as positive and powerful attributes in some of the greatest historical figures and political leaders of our time. The 21 percent of CEOs who are “successful psychopaths” adopt traits such as fearlessness, confidence, ruthlessness, charisma, and focus, and find ways to productively channel them into business.

These studies illustrate how a character trait can be viewed as a strength or a weakness, depending on its context and how it is expressed—and perceived. You can view the very same qualities in your partner as either powerful strengths or detrimental weaknesses, depending on your perspective and what you cultivate through praise or criticism.

Qualities that most entrepreneurs share

Let’s look at the qualities that most entrepreneurs share: they’re confident, resilient, independent, driven, innovative, and have an eye for excellence. These qualities are strengths needed to build a successful business. However, when pressure gets turned up or there is a loss of control, these very same qualities can show up as arrogance, stubbornness, tyranny, mania, eccentricity, and perfectionism. Understanding the triggers that flip a strength into a weakness can help to us foster a relationship focused on strengths and praise, not weakness and criticism.

Another factor that is not openly shared is that most entrepreneurs constantly doubt that they are truly good enough. They may look poised and confident from the outside, but inside, they are battling feelings of insecurity. The moment our spouse validates those thoughts through criticism, we lose even more hope. Conversely, being affirmedby our spouse can quiet those unruly fear patterns.

Wired for potential

An entrepreneur’s concept of praise is an area in which his strengths can work against him. Entrepreneurs are wired to see possibility. They often see potential others cannot see. Because they can see potential so easily in others, they are quick to offer guidance and suggestions, even if unsolicited. In the absence of praise, these suggestions can seem like criticism. It is essential to see and appreciate the good, not just the potential.

Criticism is fine; we all have times in our relationship when criticism is necessary. However, when we criticize more than compliment, we devalue our relationship with every passing comment. It’s important to recognize our partner’s strengths, because what we appreciate, appreciates. When it gets dark, it’s easy to think the world is against us. It’s easy to think we’re a terrible failure. And as we know, it can get really dark on the journey of any relationship. Add entrepreneurship to the mix, and it can become even darker.

Praise is about elevating you and your spouse to a level where you really believe in each other. It’s not based on hollow compliments—saying nice things just for the sake of saying them—but rather, on the idea of truly believing in someone. It’s truly seeing and being seen. The definition of intimacy is “Into me you see.” Intentionally seeing the best in our partners turns praise into an aphrodisiac.

We Expand to the Space We’re Given

Have you ever noticed that the most unified couples are the ones who consistently show appreciation for each other? If there’s anything they get right, it’s the ability to genuinely praise one another. It’s not because their partners are more perfect than ours; it’s because they choose to see the good. They are not complaining about their spouses or the confines of their marriage for entertainment value. They’re not seeking the pity of others for the “tough road” they have to traverse in their marriage. They’re shining the light, together, on the power of their partnership.

I know a couple is bulletproof when I hear statements like, “I couldn’t do this without my spouse,” “He believed in me before I believed in myself,” and “She’s my biggest inspiration, my biggest fan.” These entrepreneurs set for their spouses, and guess what? The spouses rise to meet those expectations. When others see the most extraordinary traits in us, we feel a level of connection and intimacy unlike any other. We rise to meet those high expectations when they are set through praise, not constant reminders that we are falling short.

No joking matter

Even when we criticize in a joking manner, it cuts deep. It not only hurts our partner, but it also diminishes our own positive feelings for him or her. After leading a webinar on this topic, I received an email from a participant who said, “You’re right; we bash our husbands like it’s a sport. My girlfriends and I are always complaining about how our men fall short. They’re all pretty successful, but we’re ‘joking’ about stupid stuff, and it affects the way I feel that night when I’m sitting next to my husband: irritated about things that don’t really matter.”

Men can feel that condemnation, and when they are chronically criticized, they will respond accordingly. In other words, when we hold low expectations of them and are heavy on the criticism, they shut down and prove us right. Conversely, when they feel that we hold them in high esteem and see their greatness, they will rise to meet those expectations and confirm our estimation of them every single time.

Power to transform

Your attitude and regard for your spouse has the power to transform him or her on a cellular level. If he’s never enough for you and you’re consistently disappointed, his contributions will continue to dwindle. But if you view him as a super hero, he will don his cape. If you see her for all that she already is, and not just her potential, she will step even further into her radiance. Your spouse will fill the space that he or she is given, whether it’s in constant disappointment or unwavering belief.

To have someone see and acknowledge your best qualities ratchets up the level of intimacy in your relationship. It secures the bond. You’re validated because your best qualities are recognized by the most important person in your life.

Become aware of your compliment-to-criticism ratio. Jon Butcher references this ratio in Lifebook, an intense personal-development program based in Chicago. I facilitated this program for four years and learned the importance of minding the compliment-to-criticism ratio. Of course, there’s always going to be times when we have to criticize or bring forth a complaint, but if that’s all you’re doing, your marriage will suffer. Constant criticism erodes a marriage. The way to offset necessary criticism is to inject profuse levels of recognition and praise by creating opportunities to find the good in each other.

Myth: He Doesn’t Need Another “Yes-Person” Around

In Chapter 2, we talked about how men need significance and women need security. In an entrepreneurial household, it’s easy for a man to get his sense of significance from work because that’s where he’s engaging with his employees, customers, and advisors. Because he’s in a position of leadership, it’s likely that very few of these people tell him when he’s falling short.

If, at home, he’s always receiving criticism, then, of course, he will spend more time at work. The home environment needs to be a place of refuge, safety, and significance for the entrepreneur, while providing a sense of security for the spouse. The fact that his spouse is likely to be the only one in a position to point out his weaknesses is yet another reason for her to also be one of his raving fans. It gives her more credence when she had to address his weaknesses.

Expressions of gratitude

More noteworthy is the realization that the entrepreneur may have a source of constant recognition from his business. Affirming staff, raving customers, and widespread publicity all speak to the accomplishments of the business owner. If the spouse does not work, she is likely not exposed to the same level of recognition or appreciation. In this case, it is CRUCIAL for the business owner to be mindful that he, alone, is her source of praise and encouragement. Expressions of gratitude will prove to be a game-changer for the spouse who has been feeling left in the shadows of success.

This is not limited to just compliments and criticisms—it also applies to our responses to success and failure. The degree of our reactions to positive news should exceed the degree of our reactions to negative news. When our spouse screws up, he or she knows it because we’re throwing a fit. They know when they have messed up. Yet when they do well, we tend to take it for granted and don’t celebrate it. The degree of celebration we have over successes should exceed the degree of disappointment we show in “failures.” It’s easy to be frustrated when the losses impact the family, but when things go well, it’s crucial to celebrate the wins with the same vigor. Expressing frustration is easy. We often do it without even thinking about it. Because of this, it is imperative to build the muscle of appreciation to fortify the marriage.

Praise in Action

Begin paying attention to your compliment-to-criticism ratio by trying out these different strategies. Consider sitting down with a pen and sheet of paper and making two lists of all the criticisms and compliments you expressed in the last twenty-four-hours. Write down every single one you can remember, regardless of how significant or inconsequential it may seem. When you’re finished, check to see which column is longer. Examine each line on your list. If the list of criticisms outnumbers the list of compliments, get to work on what you appreciate about your spouse. Work on that list until it exceeds the list of complaints. Seal the deal by sharing your newfound appreciation with your spouse.

Practice the art of the compliment. Giving compliments can generate positive perspective in oneself. Earlier in this chapter, I described how the same qualities can be seen as strengths or weaknesses, depending on our perspective and the context in which we view them. When you verbalize your appreciation rather than focus on complaints, it will cultivate your partner’s traits as strengths and draw out more of his or her good, inspiring qualities. Isn’t THAT the person you’d rather be married to anyway? Choose your view wisely, because it will determine who shows up for you.

Showing appreciation for each other

Showing appreciation for each other in simple ways on a daily basis can contribute to building a powerful and long-lasting relationship. For instance, consider something as easy as leaving notes in a wallet or near the coffeepot. What if we could start the morning with a compliment? Consider how it would feel to face every day with words of encouragement from your spouse. It could be like adding sweet sugar to your bitter coffee. Try this experiment: For one week, begin and end each day with a compliment to your spouse. Observe what changes, including how you and your partner feel about each other and your relationship.

The art of the compliment

The art of the compliment involves intentionality. It’s about enacting and verbalizing your appreciation toward your spouse, rather than just taking his or her good qualities and successes for granted. Speak to your appreciation of what your partner is providing for you. Begin with his or her name, and then acknowledge a quality you normally don’t recognize verbally; it can be a physical characteristic, an achievement, a personal quality, or a mind-set. Then share how it makes a difference in your life. You might say something like, “Renee, your intuition is always spot-on. Every time I honor your intuition, it saves me from so many headaches.”

Remember, acknowledge all the ways your partner contributes to the relationship: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, socially, sexually, and/or financially. We want to become conscious of everything we are receiving and cultivate more of what is going well in our lives.

Constructive Criticism

Praise can also be used as a mirror and a tool of accountability for when our spouse’s strengths have turned into weaknesses. When you need to criticize, frame the statement in a way that is supportive and productive. Remember how a strength (like passion) can become distorted through a high-pressure situation and show up as a weakness (like anger). So when you want to be critical and blame, take a moment to reframe the statement as praise: “I can tell you’re under a lot of pressure. You’re at your best when you’re creative and rested. Right now, this isn’t you. How can we shift you back into your strength?”

Have an open attitude toward what you try, and keep in mind that these are just general recipes. The key concept is that there should be more compliments than criticisms in your relationship.

Find your partner’s power phrase

Find your partner’s power phrase. When my superman, David, talks about losing his business in bankruptcy court, he mentions how it was my affirmations that kept him alive. I sent him emails and texts not only to validate him, but also to remind him of his ability, purpose, and greater vision. My love for David was for who he was, and I believed in him. I saw his genius and nurtured his inherent strengths rather than reacting in panic to the external chaos he was experiencing. I recognized how there were specific and deliberate phrases that resonated with him: “I’m behind you all the way.” “You’ve got this.” “If anyone can do it, you can.” Those platitudes sustained him in his darkest hours.

Discovering your own power phrase, as well as the power phrase of your partner, is crucial—but most people don’t know what words will help encourage them and they don’t know what their spouses need to hear. A person’s power phrase is directly tied to our deepest fears. Verbally speaking out against these silent fears helps remind us of a more empowering truth, and that keeps us out of our caves of insecurity.

What are your fears?

My deepest fear is that I’ll screw up my kids. The power phrase I need to hear is this: “The way you see and nurture your children as individuals is empowering them to create their own extraordinary lives.” I need to hear this from the person I am closest with, because it’s an affirmation of how I can choose to believe in my vision instead of my insecurities and fear.

Fear is a vulnerable space we enter. It is one that is deeply intimate, and one where we must practice our greatest compassion and trust. To find your partner’s power phrase, you must first discover his or her greatest insecurity and understand that this insecurity comes from fear. We can choose to support each other in the areas in which we are most vulnerable by speaking to our appreciation and cultivating steadfast belief, strength, and love.

Renewed perspective

I’ve worked with couples that, at the beginning of our coaching sessions, were not even aware of how much they were struggling. These couples were simply resigned to what their marriage had become and were going through the motions. When we began discussing their issues and these concepts behind praise, I watched as they took a moment to look at each other through a perspective of deep regard. With their relationships reinvigorated on the spot, it was like they were seeing each other on their first day of marriage.

To love someone means to see them– all of them. It means to see them as their brightest, most alive and active self. To see them at their most valuable and insecure self. When you love someone and you can see them at their most basic, human level, then you can appreciate what is more important to them. This is where love grows. This is how the bonds of a relationship strengthen.

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