As a couples therapist in Los Angeles, I see a lot of people who work in the entertainment industry. From the outside, they’re considered “power couples” – both partners have successful and glamorous-sounding careers – but often they face the same challenges that any busy, modern couple typically does (kids, sex, time, windows opened or closed at bedtime).
Yet here’s the thing: Some of the skills that make them successful at work also tend to make them really good at turning things around at home. Here are four skills high-powered duos naturally master that will make any couple feel empowered.
1. They get curious. In Hollywood, things tend to move fast – so fast that if you react impulsively, you might make a big (and very expensive) mistake. So what do high-powered folks do in these situations? They get curious. Instead of making snap judgments, getting defensive, or blaming others when something goes wrong, they ask themselves two questions:
First, what might my role be in this situation, and how can I adjust that?
Second, even if somebody did something I don’t agree with, how can we work together to solve it, since we all want a positive outcome?
At home, where things tend to move at a similarly fast and furious pace, that same curiosity comes in handy. Your partner says or does something that you don’t like? What might your role be in that interaction? More important, start to wonder: why might they have done or said that? Getting curious diffuses the blame game and helps couples to see that they’re a team with some brainstorming and problem-solving to do, something they do so well with their co-workers.
2. They know how to bring out the best in each other. Power couples tend to know how to bring out the best in their teams at work – whether that’s a movie crew, a group of studio executives, or TV writing staff. They’re incredibly skilled, in fact, at seeing what makes each person rise to his her full potential, so that everyone can shine. Some people work best in groups; others in a quiet space. Some do better with structure; others less so. Some like humor when they’re stressed; others like a coffee break or a breath of fresh air.
The same thing works in relationships: What makes him feel motivated, effective, and appreciated might be different from what makes her feel that way. Find out what makes your partner thrive and give that to each other regularly. You may appreciate his removing his stubble from the sink after he shaves, but not care if he answers a text or two during dinner; he may not care at all if your products clog up the bathroom counter, but might really appreciate it if you’d put your book down when you had some time to connect at night. You want your partner to want to be genuinely present with you? Maybe he needs to take a run first, or she needs to have everything arranged for the day ahead. Just like with co-workers, you’ll bring out the best in your partner when you can consciously create the conditions to make that happen.
3. They improve what they can change, and accept what they can’t (in themselves and each other). Movie and television shows may be all about fantasy, but the people creating them do a smart balancing act: they aim high, but not so high that they’re perpetually disappointed. In other words, they have realistic expectations of what they can accomplish. Successful couples do the same: They set important goals – individually and in the relationship – but they also gracefully accept their own and their partners’ limitations, and instead focus on their respective and joint strengths. Nobody, and no relationship, is exactly as our ideal script might have it. By rewriting the script, and becoming more flexible, we often find our way to the real-life happy ending.
4. They know what the office and bedroom are for. There’s a reason that a lot of the “work” in Hollywood looks like “fun.” If you walk into the writers’ room on a typical television series, you’ll find basketball hoops, comfort food, jokes written on the white board, and lots of socializing going on between intense periods of writing. On a film set, time is money when you have four hours at a certain location to get the shot just right, but once that shot is done, it’s time to let loose before moving on to the next scene. Those at the top of their professional game understand the importance of relaxation and downtime, of knowing when to shut off work in order to recharge. At home, something similar happens when you make it a priority to shut off and keep work where it belongs – in the workspace, and out of the bedroom.
I don’t think I have to spell out what that something is.