“Are you listening?”
With a sharp reply of “Yes!” I knew I was in for a battle.
At the moment our conversation wasn’t going anywhere fast. All I wanted to accomplish was to make a connection with Jack and improve our relationship as step-dad and step-son.
Externally I was struggling with the little progress Jack and I had made over the past few years. And the notion that maybe it is just what it is, crept into my mind. I’m not his real dad so the relationship I’m looking for may not be possible.
Internally I was struggling with not being a good enough dad or step-dad. How can I bring this family together and call us a family when we can’t even get along on the most basic level?
As our conversations and the level of stubbornness started to increase (both sides), I became frustrated and began to air my frustrations to Anna. I was at a lost. With Lincoln and Mason, we have a natural link to each other which helps our relationship. Even with Aiden (step-son), there is something that allows our relationship to grow positively. Unfortunately, Jack and I were like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics of the 80s, always battling each other to be #1.
At the peak of my frustration, I started to reflect on the conversations Jack and I were having. As I reflected, I started to notice something. Our conversations were missing a key ingredient…TRUST.
Of all the things to overlook!
I was quite disappointed in myself as TRUST is the foundation of all relationships and powered through our competence and character. And I was missing the boat with Jack on both levels. I had no credibility with him.
Now that I knew what was missing in our relationship, I set out to make changes.
I asked myself…How am I going to lay a foundation of trust between Jack and me?
Since we seem to butt heads when talking with each other, I set out to improve our conversations, specifically my capability to communicate (competence) with Jack in a positive manner that would build trust.
To assist myself I came up with the following Trust Tips:
1. Be honest
2. Tell the truth
3. Use simple language
4. Demonstrate integrity
5. Don’t manipulate
6. Use positive words (upregulate)
7. Listen and gain perspective
8. Include instead of exclude
9. Be patient
10. Acknowledge and validate emotions
Even though I figured out where I was going wrong with Jack and put an action plan together to build a better relationship, we still had our hiccups. One thing I have come to understand is that there are no perfect relationships. We all have our unique personalities, experiences, and way of doing things in life. We are not always going to get along and see eye-to-eye. What matters is to continue to express my love for Jack and the rest of my boys and show-up every day.
To date, Jack and I are still working on our relationship. Amazingly we are more alike then I realized. I am genuinely grateful to have him in my life. It brings joy to my heart when he asks me to build Legos or play catch with him.
He has transformed me into a more patient dad.
Raising kids is a marathon, it takes time, patience, and dedication to create a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Lesson Learned: Trust is not built overnight, it takes time and a willingness to believe in yourself and the other person. It is far easier and faster to destroy trust then it is to build trust.
Action: Ask yourself: What is missing from your key relationships? Or What is holding you back from creating strong and trustful relationships? Challenge: Ask the other person what is missing or holding the relationship back.
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Donnie Boroff, M.A., CPC, ELI-MP, C-IQ is a father of four boys and husband with a passion for dads. A Dad Coach and founder of Everdad. With a Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology along with being a Certified Professional Coach, Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner, and Certified in Conversational Intelligence, he assists dads in exploring and discovering how they are showing up in their children’s lives.