Attend to Them Before They Attend to You

Just a few moments ago while watching a movie with my son I heard our ceiling fan make a subtle rattle. I stopped the fan, inspected it and found that a few of the blades were loose. It took just a moment to grab a screwdriver and tighten up each of the bolts. Turned it back on and the rattle was gone. I said to my son, "Here's a little life lesson for ya, pal, when it comes to mechanics and noises, attend to them before they attend to you." "What do you mean?" he asked. "Well, this simple fix of tightening the blade bolts prevented one of the blades from loosening, flying off and causing damage to one of us or our belongings. That would've been the fan 'attending' to us. Further, this simple fix prevented the time and energy that would've taken to attend to the aftermath, clean up and repairs. Same is true with cars. Take care of those noises early or they'll 'take care' of a lot of your time and money." I then added, "Oh, and by the way, this is great relationship advice, too."

Listening to, and fixing, relationship noise. Too often, people come to me at the point of relationship crisis—someone's threatened divorce, there's been an affair, they have lots of conflict or they've "fallen out of love." Just the other day, a husband said to me, "How could she have all of a sudden stopped loving me?" I expressed my sadness for what he's going through and then told him, "Dude, this wasn't 'all of a sudden.' The noises were there and have been for a long time. You weren't listening and when you did hear the noises you tuned them out and ignored them as 'nagging,' her 'making a big deal out of nothing,' and 'b----ing.' You didn't attend to your relationship and now it's broke."

This was hard for him to hear, but if there was going to be the slightest chance of bringing his relationship back from the brink he had to listen now and he had to attend super carefully. We reviewed the last few years of their relationship. I asked him what her most frequent complaints or "nagging" had been about. It turns out that for the past several years she's complained about his not listening to her, not making time for her and the kids, always "too busy," his temper and on and on. It turns out that this "all of a sudden" had been building bit by bit by bit for years. If this gentleman doesn't get on the ball ASAP this problem will be "attending to him" for many years in all the joys of separation, divorce and all the financial and emotional expenses associated with it for him and his children.

So attend to the little "noises" in the moment. When my wife says in frustration, "I already told you that" I've learned that in what I call Relationship Mechanics™ terminology she is saying, "You're not attending to the things I say to you. You need to tune in." And then I tighten up my listening skills over the next several days and practice hearing what she says and responding in attentive ways. Then "Voila!" the "noise" is gone.

Guys, don't wait til you're wife says, "I'm done." That's relationship death. When you hear that I promise you it didn't come "all of a sudden." It's been building for years. Listen to her complaints, big and small, not as "nagging" but as concerns that matter to the woman you vowed (you gave your word—man up to your word!) to love and protect. That doesn't mean you will agree or even have to comply, but doesn't that at least mean that you should respectfully tune-in to and address her concerns as much and as often as possible? These relationship mechanical noises will show you right where the problem is, just like with fixing a car or a ceiling fan. Fortunately, the fix is often just a simple tweak here and a tightening up there. And as long as we attend to these noises and fix problems as they happen then a little bit goes a long way.