Have you noticed how good relationship skills tend to apply across the board? Spouses who communicate well in their marriage probably also relate well to other people. As for those whose interactions with their partners are troubled, they may be experiencing similar difficulties when interacting with family members, friends, coworkers, and others.
For example, spouses who don’t yet know another way to deal with concerns may silently stew and let resentment build, instead of respectfully discussing issues positively, may behave similarly with coworkers. Failure to relate constructively results in a loss of trust and cooperation between the two, whether they’re spouses or colleagues.
Happily, the opposite of such a scenario occurred in a recent work relationship of mine, which involved making an audiobook edition of my book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love. While collaborating with its narrator, I was struck by many similarities between a good author-narrator relationship and a happy marriage.
I don’t mean to imply that a successful work interaction includes all the qualities of a thriving, lasting marriage because the latter requires some additional traits, which I’ll describe below. But first, we’ll focus on some similarities.
Choosing My Narrator
After listening to a few people narrate the same short part of my book, I chose Almond Eastland. I liked her soothing voice, warm tone, and inflections. Unlike the others, she emphasized the right words and paused just where I would have and for just how long. Love at first sound? Something like that. I knew right away; she was “the one.”
Research shows that most marriages based on love at first sight do not succeed over time. The author-narrator relationship, however, is expected to be a short-term one. It may be intense at times, but it’s not intended to last more than a couple of months.
Ups and Downs Happen
Marriages have ups and downs and so do other kinds of partnerships. The first challenge of Almond and me was getting past my naivety. Almond had already narrated several audiobooks. I’d never even listened to one, and now I was making one. I’d thought “audiobook” was another name for a CD!
Good spouses and good narrators are team players. Almond filled gaps in my knowledge. She explained that I, as the author, would need to arrange for a cover design, created according to specific requirements for an audiobook. She said she’d like the cover to include her name as narrator, but that it wasn’t necessary. Nice, I thought; Almond says clearly what she wants, yet she’s flexible.
Asking for What We Want Supports Good Relationships
In my therapy practice, I notice that many problems couples experience could have been prevented via respectful self-assertion. When couples can ask each other kindly for what they want, while accepting that sometimes, but not always, their wish will be granted, that’s terrific. When they fail to express their true feelings, wants, and needs to their partner, because they fear to be vulnerable, they build grudges over time.
I felt vulnerable as an audiobook producer. What did I know about making an audiobook cover? After looking at some CDs to get ideas for what to include on the front and back cover, I learned that an audiobook needs only a front cover, which is just an image because you download it to a smartphone or other device.
Another parallel to marriage: We don’t know everything. Many of us are naïve about what we’re getting into at first. I knew I needed to learn each phase of making an audiobook. The cover example is one of several signs of my inexperience. In marriage, too, we’re likely to make some mistakes because we lack knowledge. But if we’re open to learning how to achieve a goal, whether it’s an eye-catching cover or a fulfilling marriage (or both!), it’s never too late to learn, because help is out there.
Good Partners Fill in Gaps
Almond sensed my frustration during my difficult search for a cover designer. She reached out to her Facebook narrators group for recommendations and passed them along to me. I hired one who designed the cover.
The traits that Almond’s shown during our work together may explain why her marriage of 25 years still thrives. So let’s look at some of these qualities, which are assets in a relationship partner and ourselves. Almond demonstrates healthy self-assertion, flexibility and patience. Below are a few more of her traits that are also desirable in a spouse.
Helpful and Resourceful
Responding to my floundering attempts to arrange for a cover, Almond did some digging. She found the excellent designer I hired. She also enlisted her husband to help me navigate the site that finalizes production and distribution of audiobooks.
Empathic and Kind
Feeling apologetic for being ignorant about audiobooks, I told Almond, “It’s a steep learning curve for me.”
“It was that way for me too at first,” she responded.
A Team Player
Almond and I stayed in frequent contact. We celebrated small victories. The finalized, elegant cover felt like a hurdle conquered. I emailed it to her and wrote: “Yay! It’s done!”
“Yay!” Almond responded.
Once the narrator completes recording the book, the author listens to it and notes what to fix. I’m detail-oriented, alas, a perfectionist. Although Almond works full time as a professional in another field, she made the corrections promptly so we’d be able to stay on schedule for the audiobook’s release date.
Each of us did what we do well. I did the writing, and Almond did the narration. Team play also supports a good marriage. A wife might do the cooking because that’s her strength. Her husband is glad to do the clean-up after dinner because he’s more comfortable with that than with planning and preparing meals. Or vice versa.
Responsive to Feedback, Patient
I was impressed by Almond’s narration. Many authors might let it go at that. As Almond noted, I’d asked for quite a few corrections, and she made them.
Both of us regularly expressed appreciation to each other for adhering to our high standards while doing our parts to make the audiobook. In a good marriage, partners don’t take each other for granted; they remember to notice what they like and express appreciation to each other for what pleases them.
Almond makes clear agreements and keeps them. She told me when her recording would be completed and finished it ahead of time. When we scheduled phone appointments, Almond kept them. If she wasn’t sure if she’d be available for one, she said she’d let me know, and did. Making clear agreements, and keeping (or renegotiating) them, are essential requirements for creating a trusting, intimate, lasting marriage.
What Traits Do You Value in a Partner and Yourself?
Radio talk show host Dennis Prager was recently asked, “What’s the most important thing you can do to be a good marriage partner?” He said, “Be easy to live with.”
That makes sense, though being easy to live with can mean different things to different people. Some people find someone who doesn’t express his or her wants, needs, and feelings easy to live with, but that trait can lead to emotional estrangement. Others may find it easy to live with someone who’s a good cook but turns out to be untrustworthy.
The traits that were shown by my book’s narrator, and I hope by myself (perfectionism excepted!), are the kind most of us would probably agree to exist in an easy-to-live-with marriage partner.
Which traits do you value in your spouse? If you’re single and marriage-minded, which of them would you want in a future mate?
A successful author-narrator, or another kind of, work relationship, does not need some of the qualities required for a fulfilling marriage. Examples of such attributes that help keep a marriage happy over time: enough shared values and interests, chemistry, intellectual compatibility, and similar lifestyle preferences.
Almond and I never met in person. We connected to achieve a short-term, specific goal. It doesn’t matter that she and I have different religions, are in different generations, and we’ve never met in person. She lives in Oklahoma, and I’m in California. I have no idea how she spends her free time. But I loved having her as my partner in creating an audiobook we’re both proud of and appreciate the person behind the voice.
It’s easy to take our spouse’s terrific traits for granted, but we reap countless rewards by noticing and commenting on them when displayed. No one’s perfect; we can all grow and improve by putting energy into the process. If we think “progress, not perfection,” we can further develop in ourselves some traits we admire in others. And by expressing appreciation for our partner’s good qualities, we’re helping them to continue to show them more often.