When Jeff was describing to me the failures caused by car neglect, I was reminded of many of the stories of strained relationships that I hear frequently in my office. These accounts involved such failures as unmet needs, passive-aggressive communication, resentment, and hurt feelings. And it occurred to me that a little bit of daily proactive care can prevent many of the issues I hear about and am ultimately called upon to help fix. By the time couples enter my office, their relationships have reached a critical point. They are needing significant repair, and it will take quite a bit of time, commitment, and faith to get back in shape. Unfortunately, by this time the couples' faith has waned and one or both already has one foot out the door. They are ready to scrap their old, run-down relationship and trade it in for a newer model which doesn't require as much maintenance. Maybe they have already test driven a new relationship without the consent or knowledge of their partner.
To prevent this catastrophic failure, I have taken the approach of "Keeping it Critical." In other words, every day the relationship is critical. Just like Jeff, I wake up thinking about the needs of my relationship. What does my partner need? What will make her smile? How can we be a better team today? How can I listen to and communicate with her more effectively? How can I let her know that I make decisions with her in mind? How can I manage my stress in the face of potential conflict? As I told one client, whose wife was named Janet, "You have a '74 Janet (she was born in '74)...a classic! She is worth protecting and maintaining because you want that relationship to last the rest of your life."