I almost titled this article “Single? Here are five things you can do now to make marriage better,” but let’s be honest, it’s not all about marriage.
So often, we promote skill sets as if life is a college program. Take these classes, learn these things, and this is how you will use them. We act like marriage, career, and school are all degrees for different women. If you want to get married, you do x, y, z, but if you’re going to be career-minded, you need to do j, k, l.
Here’s the catch, though: that’s not how this works.
The only thing that separates a great wife from a great woman is the fact that she’s married. Nothing else is different! A great woman can be a great wife, a great mom, a great CEO, all of the above or none of the above.
No matter where you find yourself, or how you label yourself, there are some basic skills we all need, and you can master them regardless of life status.
1. Conflict Resolution
It doesn’t matter if you’re the manager of a restaurant, a student stressed out by exams, or a new bride dealing with her husband’s pile of dirty socks, conflict resolution is an important but rare skill.
Do you know how to handle conflict well? Do you know how to resolve it and discuss without losing your temper or resorting to mean tactics like belittling or name-calling?
Conflict is inevitable, but not many of us like it. We either tiptoe through eggshells to avoid it, or we dance in circles to keep the peace.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceable means.”
Developing strong conflict resolution skills enables you to create an atmosphere of safety, openness, and peace instead of stress, drama, and frustration.
2. Time Management
We hear a lot about work-life balance and prioritizing. How is a woman supposed to balance being a wife, mom, employee/employer, student, or some combination of these? When the tasks outnumber the hours, what are we supposed to do?
There are countless theories on how to split your time and energies among different projects. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, encourages timed intervals of work separated by short breaks. Others tell you to treat your day like a series of 10-15 minute blocks and tackle it one or two “blocks” at a time. You can find calendars, apps, and bullet journals for all different styles. The number of options can be overwhelming.
But many of those techniques, apps, and journals don’t take into account your own personality—your own learning style, the way you focus, or what makes you feel accomplished.
Not every trick and tip is going to work for you. The most important thing isn’t to master a technique from experts, but to master the technique that works for you.
Perhaps so much of our struggle to find “balance” is because we’re standing on someone else’s bar.
Do you know how to relax? I don’t mean the yearly beach trip with the girls. Do you know how to destress?
Stress is toxic—that’s all there is to it. Excessive stress can lead to a host of physical, mental, and emotional health issues. It can leave you feeling anxious, moody, and tired. Yet, so many of us keep living under mountains of stress as the status quo.
There are times when stress is unavoidable. Do you know how to get it off your back? Picture stress like a heavy jacket. You wouldn’t just walk around the house with it. You wouldn’t go to sleep with it. You need to learn how to take it off.
Yearly vacations or single/marriage retreats are great but don’t settle for a once-a-year destressing. Learn what helps you relax. What truly helps you shed that coat of stress and breathe?
Now, work that into your schedule. Get in the habit of making time for your own rejuvenation.
4. Financial Freedom
Financial freedom is an important milestone. Note: I didn’t say “being debt free” because while that is also a great and important milestone, for many people today, it’s not immediately attainable. College graduates may have tens of thousands in student loans. Couples may have thousands in car payments, mortgage, and medical bills.
The goal of being debt free can leave some people discouraged because “debt free” looks really far away when you’re staring at $60,000 in student loans and an unexpected hospital bill.
Instead, set your aim for financial freedom. What does that mean?
That means you are in control of your money, not the other way around. If you’re not a wise spender, develop strategies to help you become one. If you penny pinch so tight you can’t breathe, reassess your budget to allow you even five dollars of “extra” money every month. Why? Because even that little bit of breathing room can help set you free from your finances, and that’s what financial freedom is.
Yes, you may still have loans to pay off, but having a payment strategy that gives you even the smallest room to breathe can be so freeing.
Financial freedom is the ability to live life without feeling burdened by finances. It’s more a mental thing than it is a financial thing.
5. Building Friendships
It’s so easy for us to build friendships as children, isn’t it? Kids walk onto a playground, see other kids, and, no questions asked, march right up, introduce themselves and start playing together.
Then, something happens. Cliques start forming, and it’s all downhill from there. As we get older, our circles get smaller and smaller. The community we experience in college is replaced by the revolving door of an entry-level job. Children keep you inside, desperate for adult conversation. The climb up the corporate ladder leads to long nights and happy hour business meetings. Everything changes, and we lose the art of true friendships.
Do you know how to create friendships? Your style of building friendships is going to be unique to you.
Are you an introvert? You’re going to develop friendships differently than the extrovert down the street, but yours will tend to be deeper. Are you an extrovert? You might connect with people easily, but struggle to be real with them.
Knowing and practicing how you build friendships is a vital skill to have. It empowers you to create a community no matter where life takes you.
You don’t have to be a wife, mom, or college grad to implement these practices. They can grow independent of status or label.
The key to developing these life skills is to make room for yourself in them. Your approach is going to be different than someone else’s, and that’s OK—it should be different because you are different. So much of our stress as women comes from trying to be like other “successful” women. Instead of trying to fit inside some culturally-defined box, what if you were willing to break out and do something really daring—just be the greatest version of you.
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