In my 30 years with Tim, I've nursed him through illness, injury and some pretty bad times. In fact, I'd call myself an expert at supporting my loved ones through their hard times. I'm the wife (and mother and daughter) who was right there when it counted most.
Being there in tough times upheld my wedding vows, in sickness and in health, and cemented my relationship with Tim when times got tough. It was easy for me to swoop in as a hero who can take care of everything and everyone. Sound familiar?
But when it came to celebrating Tim's professional accomplishments, I wasn't the first to congratulate him. I felt jealous of his time in the limelight for very public recognition of his accomplishments in a career I had given up to care for our family. And I also interpreted his success as taking away from mine.
Research shows that celebrating a spouse's positive news is at least as important as being there for them when they are down.
Thankfully, I've rewired those thoughts by learning to appreciate myself and to fully receive the appreciation others offer me, which I'd become expert at deflecting. The result is I feel happier; I feel happier being with my husband; and the two of us are closer than ever. Here's how I did it.
For a Celebratory Relationship, Start With Yourself
What we discovered was learning to receive appreciation is the key to opening the door to celebrating each other's accomplishments. It's impossible to appreciate and celebrate those who won't celebrate themselves.
Tim and I both got mixed messages growing up about people who "tooted their own horn" and had "big heads." We both got a clear sense that success was tied to approval from others or the degrees or awards we collected -- even though our parents always told us they loved us no matter what we did in life.
The #1 Move Celebrating Each Other
To really focus on celebrating each other, we had to give up past hurts. Easy to say, but in long relationships the old stuff is deeply ingrained. We may not realize we are still holding a "grudge" until we actually feel the lightness of fully releasing it. When Tim and I noticed that specific grudges seemed perfectly paired with certain events, we took to naming our grudges as fine wine with notes and flavors that we could pull out of the cellar, swirl and sniff, and choose to leave it at that or pour ourselves a full glass of grudge.
Dismissal, Disinterest, Hostility
Would anyone ever admit to responding to good news to someone they love with dismissal, disinterest or hostility? Seems unimaginable, but I've done it and so have many other people I know. One study found that couples that greeted their partner's good news negatively were more likely to split up than those who celebrated each other's successes.
Why? Lots of reasons that I believe boil down to fear. Fear that a partner's good news may mean change that scares you -- like a move, a change in lifestyle or that your partner is "better" than you. While early in our marriage I was willing to move with little knowledge of what was ahead, I began to dread Tim's career advances because they meant even less time and energy for our home life.
What Excites You Most About This?
Now, when I notice Tim's excitement about his good news, if I don't immediately feel a bubbly excitement inside, I ask what might be scaring me. Then I take a deep breath and show my interest by becoming really curious, asking questions about what excites him -- not what this means for me or us -- and moving my body.
By shifting away from the fear generated in me to the possibilities generated by him, I often discover that whatever scared me is not such a big deal. And if it still feels like a big deal after I've dissipated the first shot of instinctual fear and adrenaline by breathing, moving and generating enthusiasm, I open to the possibilities of Tim's good news.
Tim Peek is a certified executive coach who advises leaders and their teams on using disruption, consciousness, strategy and even love to create their desired future. www.peekdisruption.com and www.conscious.is/who-we-are
Meg Dennison is a certified conscious leadership coach who has reinvented herself many times. She coaches busy women midpoint in their life or career to consciously create their next step based on genius and life goals. www.megdennison.com
Together, Meg and Tim write about how they turned around what had become a stale and uninspiring 28-year marriage to return to the passion and purpose to their lives. Motivated executives come to Meg and Tim for help reinvigorating their careers, companies and intimate relationships.