Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to this podcast, wherever you may be today. Yesterday, Roxanne – my wife – and I, celebrated our 45th Wedding Anniversary. First of all, I thought people who celebrated a milestone anniversary like a 40th or 50th anniversary, were old, and now that we are here, we feel so young for being married 45 years.
Steve Shallenberger: As I was thinking about an upcoming podcast and subjects that I might speak on or share, I had just recorded a podcast that I didn’t feel great about. Our Operations Manager suggested that I’d do one on marriage since we had just celebrated our 45th Anniversary and share, maybe, some of the lessons learned. So, here we are doing this podcast. I feel like the older I get, the less I know, but as I look back, I am so grateful for the advice that I asked for, sometimes didn’t ask for, from couples and individuals that had figured out how to make their marriage work.
Steve Shallenberger: As a little background on this: Both sets of my grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversaries, my wife’s parents did; my own parents were not as fortunate. Both great people that I love dearly, they were divorced when I was 14. Both of my parents were divorced twice. Dad was married three times and Mom twice. I was blessed with some amazing, not only parents but mentors. Of these seven mentors, every one ended up being married for over 50 years each. I learned a great deal from this wide variety of experiences, on both sides of things. Each of our six children are married. One has had a retreaded marriage, but doing really extraordinary, and made the best of that circumstance, both of them have, and they have a great family.
Steve Shallenberger: Today, I would like to share 6 essential things you can do to have a successful marriage, a successful partnership. Number one is to have a Couple’s Vision and Set Annual Goals. Create a couple’s vision and as you set these goals together, the vision is the direction that you choose to journey together, this is what we expect, this is what we see. And this is something that you create, you carry the weather inside and it’s not based on what’s going on outside, so it sets the direction, the goals are what you’re going to do each year together to realize that vision. It helps maintain and keep a relationship fresh and vibrant. It’s interesting because as you have your own personal vision, in contrast to a couple’s vision or a family’s vision, it really helps you describe what kind of spouse or partner or parent you desire to be.
Steve Shallenberger: So, for example, my personal vision contrasts with the couple one, but they all point to the direction and my personal one is what I’m going to do. The couple’s one is what WE are going to do. Mine is to help Roxanne feel like a 10, so that’s a big deal for me. As children come along, you may create a family vision and these other five things that we’re going to talk about today, can all be part of your vision.
Steve Shallenberger: Here is an example of maybe – I just jotted down some things – what it might look like: We show our love by our actions of fidelity, respect, and admiration for one another. We can solve all things together. We only speak positively about one another and never speak negatively of one another in each other’s absence. We can trust one another and are worthy of that trust. We keep the flame of our marriage bright by regular dates, healthy communication, helping each other grow. We pray, go to church together, and read the scriptures together. We do the same with our children. We are patient, kind and forgiving to one another. We create regular couple and family memories. We create our future by setting meaningful goals each year, and we set up solid financial management and we have fun together.
Steve Shallenberger: Now, think if that is your couple’s vision or something like it. I mean, you are going to design whatever is yours, it will be completely unique. Now, as you regularly discuss it, print it out, put it on the wall, talk about it. It helps you make decisions and take control of your future to the best that you can, at least on the things that you can control.
Steve Shallenberger: Number two is to Be an Effective Communicator. This is both a Mindset and a Skillset. In other words, the mindset is, “I want and need to listen. I care.” Good communication builds trust, it shows respect, it helps us to better understand one another, and how to solve problems together. And no yelling at each other. Maybe, from my wonderful blessed parents, for whatever reason, this was present, and it was so upsetting, so destructive. So, just be patient and forgiving. No one is perfect. If you’re upset, go out and walk until you feel calmed down. Count to 100 or whatever it takes, but things will pass and then you’ll get to a better place and its easier to solve the issues. Look for the good in your spouse, in your partner. Have a gratitude sheet. List all of the things that you admire in your spouse and partner.
Steve Shallenberger: Remember that there are two sides of a communication coin and this is a good way to mentally think about it. The one side, and this is the skill part, and that is, when your partner shares something with them, thank them, acknowledge that, take a breath regardless of how complicated it is or how emotional it might be, just say, “Thank you, for taking the time to share that” and then be sure you’ve captured and can share back with them whatever they’ve shared with you – the content, the emotion, what’s in their heart, and just say, “Let me be sure I’ve got it!” Now, by doing this, this skill, it is a game-changer, totally, because now you listen until they feel like they’ve been able to express, there’s no interrupting, there’s no sharing your thoughts. Side one is just being sure you got it.
Steve Shallenberger: And then, you can go to finding effective solutions from there. That’s side two. You can either initiate this yourself or build upon on what was just shared on side one, but side two is something like this, “I’ve been thinking about something and would love to get your thoughts on it. What are your thoughts?” And then, you go to work and really genuinely listen and problem-solve together. See what a shift that is from blaming or just sharing an emotion without getting to a productive place. So that side one-side two of the communication coin is wonderful!
Steve Shallenberger: And then, you have a tool, the 6-step process, to work through problems. You can get a free copy of the six steps, just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. What an amazing tool! That is a worksheet that comes from our second book, “The Transformation Challenge: The Six- Steps of Planning and Execution.” Wonderful process!
Steve Shallenberger: So, that’s Number two. Number one is to create your own couple’s and personal vision. Number two, then, is to be an effective communicator. Number three is to Have Couple and Family Traditions. For example, say – this is a great tradition – “Love you” every night before you go to sleep or when you leave each other or in the conversation on the phone. Have, as part of your family traditions, regular breakfast and dinner together where you can talk and visit. Worship together and share your faith with one another. Play games together. Set goals together. Brainstorm as a couple and as a family on things you might do. Annual photos and photo books – our daughter Anne is a master at this, she does a photo book of their marriage and family every year. They’re priceless. Have family reunions. This is,I talk about memories and time bonds together. And then, Sundays, just one thought for your recommendations, as you’re setting your traditions. In our family, as our children were growing up, they could not play with neighbors on Sundays or go out with friends on that day. This was a special day for our family, and we played together, we talked together, we watched uplifting movies together on that day.
Steve Shallenberger: Another tradition we had was job charts. Roxanne was a master at helping set up responsibilities and rewards and this is where the children did their part. All of these things help to strengthen your relationship as a couple. You are yoked together. And do pre-week planning together, each week, and sync up your calendars, especially around what matters most. Find common interests. Exercise together where it fits, or play cards together, read together, watch movies, have fun and laugh. Share the duties. Change diapers – that’s for me to change the diapers. Help with the dishes. I like this little quote, one of Roxanne’s favorites, “I love hugs and I love kisses, but what I love most is help with the dishes.” So there are things that we can do that really make a difference. That’s number three.
Steve Shallenberger: Number four is, Encourage your wife, your husband, your spouse, and partner, to grow. Help them spread their wings. Have their own friends develop their interest, recognize the good in them. It is nice when what they’re doing aligns with what you’re doing, but that is not always required. We have different interests and feelings and emotions. Roxanne, for example, took trips with her brothers and sisters without me, many times because I had a conflict with work, but they went to China, they went to Russia, they went to Thailand and Cambodia. This is over the years. She graduated with her Bachelor Degree while carrying our third child, Stephen. She became an EMT, we ran a marathon together. Why? Because she came home one day and said, “I want to run a marathon.” Even though I swore I’d never do something like that to my body, I said, “Hey, okay, I’ll do it with you.” Wow, did we have a great time! And she has supported me in starting businesses and wow, so amazing! So, encourage one another, support one another!
Steve Shallenberger: Number five of the six is to Be faithful. Again, these are just things that I’m recommending. You’re going to have maybe your own list, but over all these years, 45 years of being married, and I know there’s a lot of people that have been married longer, I was sitting next to a couple yesterday, on the plane, they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. All of these fit. So, have rules to protect you. A really wonderful friend of mine, when I was just getting married, recommended this. He said, “You are going to travel a lot, probably, during your career. And maybe sometime you’ll get in late in a hotel and be in the restaurant and you’ll see a woman that looks down or lonely, sitting at a table by herself.” He said, “Never go over and help.” In other words, don’t put yourself at risk. My thought was that was great advice, I’ve tried to keep it. Another is, great advice, “Never be alone with a member of the opposite sex”, where you could be accused of something or just get in an awkward situation. Leave the door open when you’re with another person like that. And then, certainly, don’t flirt outside of your marriage. These are just a few things that can destroy a marriage or relationship, faster than just about anything else. Infidelity is poison, so stay away from it.
Steve Shallenberger: So, there’s five so far, right? The first one is to have your own couple’s and personal vision. Number two is to be an effective communicator, number three is to have traditions that are powerful and build. Number four is to encourage your partner to grow, support them in their interest. Number five is to be faithful. And number six is Never give up! Not on your marriage, not on each other. One of our employees, Eldeane Sheffer – who was along with Janet Jameson among our all-time great sales reps – was married to a great guy by the name of Bert. I remember talking with Eldeane one time. She said, “We’ve been married for 25 years and most of them have been happy.” I really laughed at that. She ended up being married for over 60 years before she passed away. I found her comments, actually, to be true for us, anyhow. We’ve had a lot of really great years, but we’ve had some hard years. So, for example, year 2, year 5, year, 7, year 11, year 25. Things happen in life and you just can’t give up, you’ve got to stay right in there. And for us, at any rate, I can tell you that after that time sometime, we started to experience the very best of the best, and really, now, for the last couple of decades. So it’s worth hanging in there and you can weather the challenges that come up. Sometimes, it can be tough but just make this one of your hallmarks because you’re not going to give up on your marriage or each other. You’re going to hang in there. So, be determined that you will be accountable, that you will take responsibility for your actions so, no blaming or criticizing. If you happen to blow up or do something dumb, which I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been impatient for example, well, I apologized and did better. I told Roxanne that I was sorry and then I kept trying. So, keep trying and one day things get a whole lot easier.
Steve Shallenberger: So, the conclusion here is, may these six essentials be of help to you. You are probably doing most of them right now, and if so, I expect you are working through things to have a great marriage, a great partnership. Marriage is definitely a ride. It is amazing and fulfilling! What a journey! With time it becomes like the greatest jewel, the greatest treasure on earth. And it is so nice that you can travel with someone you care for.
Steve Shallenberger: Now, just a couple of reflections: To the younger generation, make finding a great partner and getting married a top priority in life. Don’t wait until you’re older, unless you just have to, you just couldn’t find someone. And don’t wait until you can afford it, which could never happen. Maybe you can never afford it, or don’t wait, really, until you graduate, perhaps. Done correctly, courtship and marriage is so much better than being alone. Take on life together! There is serious research that supports marriage and working together with one another, is better than being alone. Yeah, is there a risk that things won’t work out? Well, of course! Can you do a do-over, if they don’t? Well, of course! But it is worth the risk. I know it’s putting yourself out there, but that’s the way it is. We do this all throughout life and it is how we grow and learn.
Steve Shallenberger: So, do these 6 essentials and they will help improve your odds and your happiness. Now, as I wrap up this podcast today, I wish to pay a special tribute to my wife, Roxanne, of 45 years. Oh, I appreciate her laughter and patience, her will power, kindness, faithfulness, patience – I know I’ve already said that once but it is worth repeating – her encouragement, her drive, her elegance, her intelligence, her athleticism, her friendship, her companionship, her emotions. We’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve often said, “We could cry at the ribbon cutting of a grocery store.” Well, we’ve had fun in that way, and I’m glad that’s one of the things that we’re alike. And her commitment to everything that is good. One of the very most important decisions of my life was to marry Roxanne and I will forever be grateful for her.
Steve Shallenberger: I wish to share a song and a poem that reflect my feelings for her. They come from different sources. The first, I’m sure that you’ve heard, I’m including the lyrics here, in the transcription of this podcast, but I grabbed one of these, off of a soundtrack here, and it’s by Bette Midler, “The wind beneath my wings” that totally describes Roxanne. I hope that you can hear it okay, and I hope Bette doesn’t mind me playing it. If she objects to its inclusion, we will happily remove it from the podcast. But, it’s dedicated to her, and thank you, Bette, for this masterpiece!
Ohhhh, oh, oh, oh, ohhh.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
to never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strain.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
for you are the wind beneath my wings.
It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I’ve got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course, I know it.
I would be nothing without you.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,
for you are the wind beneath my wings.
Did I ever tell you you’re my hero?
You’re everything, everything I wish I could be.
Oh, and I, I could fly higher than an eagle,
for you are the wind beneath my wings,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.
Oh, the wind beneath my wings.
You, you, you, you are the wind beneath my wings.
Fly, fly, fly away. You let me fly so high.
Oh, you, you, you, the wind beneath my wings.
Oh, you, you, you, the wind beneath my wings.
Fly, fly, fly high against the sky,
so high I almost touch the sky.
Thank you, thank you,
thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you, Bette, and thank you, Roxanne! The second one I wish to share and dedicate to Roxanne, is “How Do I Love Thee?” It’s Sonnet 43, from Elizabeth Barrett Browning – 1806-1861.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height that
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being an ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my own griefs, and with my own childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Steve Shallenberger: So, to all of you out there contemplating marriage, go for it! For those of you who are married cherish it while you can. It goes faster than you can imagine. Seize the day, and wherever you are in the process, whether it is, in terms of an anniversary, anniversary #1, #5, #10, #25, #50 or more, Happy Anniversary and Congratulations!
This is Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!