“Do you realize that every time you come pick me up to go somewhere, you’re late?”
My wife had to say that several times before it started to hit home. Before I finally realized I had been taking her for granted. Before I saw I had become that guy.
The guy who would stay on the phone as long as it took for the customer, no matter who or what was waiting on him. The guy who would get so lost in dealings at work that he’d temporarily forget he had a home and family. The guy who used the pressures of work as the easy justification for everything.
My obsession with work meant I wasn’t thinking about my wife. And it would get to the end of the day and I’d be late for us going out to dinner. I finally realized how disrespectful I was being towards her, and it hurt. I felt ashamed.
There was a time in our relationship when I thought things weren’t going as well as they could have and I was looking at her and asking why she couldn’t be better.
Then I remember picking up a book that said if you’re not getting what you want, you have to look within. That’s when it started to sink in. “If I’m treating her like she’s bottom of the totem pole,” I thought, “how can I expect her to give back to me?”
So I started looking at myself in the relationship. I started asking if I was really making her a priority in my everyday life? And I didn’t like the answer I was getting. The truth is I wasn’t being anywhere near as creative with my marriage as I was with the business and being better at relationships with people at work. I had taken my focus off the thing that was most important to me.
You know my wife used to say, “You’re not really listening to me,” and I would brush it off. But she was right. I learned I had to start practicing truly listening to my family. Listening to engage with them, to be completely present with them. Listening just in an effort to experience them and their world.
One Saturday I decided to really do it with my wife, to be completely present with her. Seeing the expression on her face that day – the validation, the aliveness, the joy – it really hit me. It all came just from my paying attention. And it made me ask myself, “Where have I been putting my attention?”
I had a lot of ground to make up. I wasn’t a bad guy – I didn’t leave my family out there on their own, I was there for them – but I hadn’t given them the creative energy that’s so important. The thinking and planning time.
For a business to survive you have to spend time thinking and planning for it – it’s no different with your marriage and your family.
When you’re captain of your own ship it’s so easy to put on your business blinders. It’s so easy to get caught up in the never-ending demands and concerns of running a business. But something that should be non-negotiable is the time you take away from the business to think about your family and to be with them. And not just be with them in physical presence alone. When you walk through the door every night, they need your mind, your focus, and your energy to be with them. So don’t leave it back at the office.
Since I became aware and took off the blinders, it’s gotten a lot better. And years later, I’m still working on it. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing you ever stop working on.