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Keeping Healthy & Happy Relationships at Home: The Coffee Break [E055]

Join us to explore an approach to having happy relationships at home with this stress management strategy. It can help set you up for success in your life. Dr. Bryan Joseph interviews Dr. Stephen Fransen with his ‘coffee break’ strategy to reveal how he balances his work/personal life and still keeps the spark alive!

Table Of Content

Introduction to Relationships at Home

Introduction to Relationships at Home
Photographer: Andrik Langfield | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Welcome back to the Wellness Connection show. As always, I’m your host, Dr. Bryan Joseph. And as we’re starting the new year, because this episode is going to be the first episode of the new year here, it is a pleasure to be able to help more people really understand the fundamentals of how to get well and stay well for many years to come. And you’ve heard us talk about, for years, the importance of managing stress properly and managing stress from the dimension of physically managing it, chemically managing it and emotionally managing it.

Several months ago I had the pleasure of coming in contact with today’s guest to hear him speak on this subject matter. I thought it had so much value for me in my own life that I thought if I can get them on here to share some of this content with you, you would also find some really, really good value. So I’d like to welcome, Dr. Stephen Franson.

Stephen Franson: Dr. Bryan, it’s my pleasure. Privileged to be able to speak to your people. Thanks for asking me.

Dr. Bryan: So just to give a little background on Dr. Stephen. You practiced as a chiropractor for how many years?

Stephen Franson: I think it was 24 years. I’m still practicing. I’m just getting better at it every day. I just don’t have a practice anymore.

Dr. Bryan: Well, the journey that Dr. Franson’s been on has been really cool. He helped a tremendous amount of patients, first of all, in his own healthcare setting. And now he has evolved to helping a tremendous number of doctors to really understand how they can help more people.

The stresses that go along with relationships at home

Dr. Bryan: The topic comes up so often is how do you actually mesh your work life with your home life? The spark still remains – when there needs to be a spark – and you can still be productive in terms of business. How has that worked for you and your wife.

Stephen Franson: Absolutely, Dr. Bryan. Thank you for asking me to talk about this. I love this subject because like you said, there’s all kinds of stress in life, So you talked about the thoughts, toxins, traumas – the three T’s – that we like to teach our patients, which are the causes of subluxation. On the subject of stress there are a few stressors that burn a little deeper than others. One of these is relationship stress and the emotional stress that comes with relationships at home going sideways. This is such an important foundational element to having truly what we call the remarkable life. I have deep experience here on the subject matter, both doing it right and doing it wrong.

I’ve been married to the same awesome, amazing, remarkable woman, my wife, Camilla. We’ve been together for 26 years now and to be honest with you, I can speak from deep experience on running businesses together as a couple and I have zero experiences of running businesses without her. I’ve had six or seven businesses in the last 26 years and she’s been alongside all the way which has been amazing.

Dr. Bryan: And she’s still beside you.

Coffee break? Stay tuned

Stephen Franson: And she’s still beside me. She’s still smiling most of the time. So we’re doing something right. The essence of what we’re going to talk about here today is the coffee break. The coffee break solves the problem that we faced and hopefully it’s going to solve your problems if you face the same challenge, at least on some level on the continuum somewhere.

You guys might not have experienced it to the extreme levels that we did as entrepreneurs, but somewhere I find that all couples run into the same stress of this work-life balance consciousness and the challenges that come from being busy people; a busy couple; busy entrepreneurs; busy business owners; or even working inside of a business; kids; without kids; all couples face it. The challenge between drawing the line between work and home and integrating those two to create a remarkable life.

Dr. Bryan: You’ve been an entrepreneur and you’ve owned a lot of businesses, but of equal importance is that so many people may not be an owner, but they’re an employee. They still carry that same amount of stress coming back to the dinner table every night. That negatively impacts the emotions they experience and the conversations that are happening around a meal that should be full of love and friendships, and happy feelings.

How To Start “The Conversation” and Develop Momentum

How To Start
Photographer: Etienne Boulanger | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: How did you start to transition? Where did you identify that you needed to go a different direction with your wife to be able to separate those energy fields? How did you actually start to see that as a good thing, then developed the momentum from there?

Stephen Franson: I think the need snuck up on us, because we met while we were in grad. school, at the very beginning and we went through school together. So four years of grad. school and all the stresses of that. We never knew anything different than working together as students and going through Boards, and then Internship, and Associateship, and then launching a practice. The next thing you know, we’re in the throes of a very busy practice as husband and wife.

What we found was that we were okay with it. We got away with it for the first few years when we were young and dumb and just ready to run. We were always together. Career or at home, we were just as excited to be talking about the business and the work, and the growing practice. Very often as practitioners you’re not really together, so you’re always catching up.

Collision of two dysfunctional systems

Stephen Franson: So next thing, the work conversations would just spill into every conversation. There was no separation of church and state or no concept of integrating the two. It was just simply work all the time. We love to work. We’re fully passionate and on purpose, like you guys, like the two couples that run your awesome practice. We share the vision. We share the passion. We share the mission. All of the excuse boxes were ticked and we would just find ourselves always in the work conversation.

We got away with this for a while and then children got into the equation. This is when the system gets stressed. I’m spending more time at work. She as a chiropractor decided, what can I unplug? We had this awesome robust associate doctor program going on, so we were allowed to let her just take the time out of the practice.

She was called to raise our kids at home. She unplugged for a while. I keep my head down at the practice, keep running and gunning, and we see each other when I get home. So of course, the direction that this goes in: She’s focused totally on the children. I’m focused totally on the practice. I’d come home and we’d have the collision of two dysfunctional systems, I want to talk about work and get her caught up and she wants to get me caught up. Next thing you know, it’s fallen apart.

Dates got turned into meetings

Dr. Bryan: I’ve been on many dates myself that were, technically on paper scheduled as a date, but within 15 seconds the entire conversation was, “did you hear what so and so said or can you believe we’re dealing with this?” and so on. I completely understand what you’re saying and I believe that everybody that hears this is going to feel the same way.

Stephen Franson: Absolutely. As you said, it started to spill into date nights. This is tragic for a couple because date nights are critically important, especially when kids start showing up. Date nights have a very specific initiative depending on which person you ask in the relationships. One person would probably say connection. maybe we’d both say connection.

Stephen Franson: At the end of the day, the connection started to unravel. Our date nights turned into a meeting. I don’t know about you, but I want to get lucky on date night. The meeting does not set the mood for setting up for a successful date night. So what we recognized is that there was a stress here and it was an issue. There was breakdown. And this is a couple that’s very much in love and we really want to have a successful, remarkable marriage.

The Coffee Break Strategy

Stephen Franson: We said, let’s examine what goes well with our business. Let’s bring a best practice out of the business into our relationship. One of the things we recognized is that we were very good at having meetings at the practice. It made sense.

What we decided to do instead was turn our date night into a meeting. “Let’s create our own meeting.” And we called it the Coffee Break, The Coffee Break is not a date night. These are very different things. The Coffee Break is just that, it’s a meeting about your life, your relationships, your love life and your love relationship, your children, your finances, your vacations, house projects, the to-do list, et cetera. We carve out the space and time to have that meeting every single week as a couple.

Dr. Bryan: It’s so easy to have all these things blend together. Think about it, with all of us in relationships: when you’re younger you have these dreams and aspirations of what you want your life to be like and what you want your relationships at home to be like. Then that dreaming stops because we blend all the stress that we pick up through other aspects of life into those dreams. I credit you for what you’ve done and what you’ve created, because you’ve separated and created this space to allow those dreams to still be alive. You recognize that there are still things that need to be discussed or feelings that need to be shared.

Noticeable Changes In The Relationships At Home When Doing Coffee Break

Noticeable Changes In The Relationship When Doing Coffee Break
Photographer: Priscilla Du Preez | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Since you’ve now been operating with this Coffee Break for a little while in your life and you’ve been teaching it to other people, what have you noticed in your own personal relationships at home as the benefit to this? What would you say to somebody that says: “hey, man, I’m coming home from work after working a full day, and I’m exhausted and I just want to hit the couch.” When my wife asks me how my day was, I just want to give the candid answer that my day was, you don’t want to hear about it. And then I just start going into a rampage of stress.

Stephen Franson: It’s the right question, Bryan, because ultimately there’s a direct benefit to the time that you invest in doing a scheduled meeting every week. it’s the experience of being in that meeting. Speaking to the men right now, I’ll tell you that our job is to show up prepared and ready to listen. We literally carve out two to three hours. We get a babysitter – a regular babysitter so she’s always available.

We like to do it at the same time every week. For us, Sundays is when we’re almost always in town. We do give ourselves some flexibility and forgiveness around that because we travel a lot. Very often we’ll have our Coffee Break in an airport at a Starbucks. There is a reverence for that time just like there is with date night. It’s a separate and distinct thing.

Having each other’s attention

Stephen Franson: We carve out that time and our job is to show up prepared. We have our things that we want to talk about. We have a whole journal that we’ve created around it. We have our notes around the things that we want to talk about. The checklist is ready; the calendar is out. We’re ready for a discussion. This the direct benefit of that time, because Camilla knows that she’s got my undivided attention, I’m going to be there and available to her. She’s got me for over two hours where we’re going to be focused only on having the Coffee Break meeting.

So that’s a direct benefit, just having those regular communications. The indirect benefit of that is actually the more powerful part of it, which is how it protects. It protects the other 165 hours the week. How often can it end up being pillow talk where the next thing you know you’re laying there head to head and you’re talking about what you shouldn’t be talking about? You’re having a meeting before you go to bed and we know where that goes. So ultimately it just protects the rest of the time that you have together because you’re not trying to have a meeting every time you have each other’s attention.

Ways To Execute Coffee Break

Ways To Execute Coffee Break Relationships At Home
Photographer: Christin Hume | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: So what happens in that scenario though? When you’ve made the separation of a Coffee Break and pillow time, and family time, and different things that you’re doing; when you do have the urge to want to come home and puke on your spouse or significant other and you just want vent. Is it wait to go on the agenda, or what do you find to be the way that you actually execute that?

Stephen Franson: Of course, we don’t want this to be rigid, But at the end of the day, it’s more of a: ‘Hey, while you’re sitting there quietly relaxing, winding down, can I interrupt you with a series of questions about some bills we need to pay, some travel arrangements that we need to make, some contractor issues that we’re having at the house during the renovation or the kid’s issues that have gone sideways, the schoolwork….Something that you really don’t want to be talking about right then and there. You have to just be able to engage as a loving partner: “Is this something that you really need to talk about right now and I get that and there’s an urgency to it” or, can I just give them a minute and listen to them right now and just gracefully say, “Hey, is this something that we could move to coffee break this weekend? I’m just not in a state to do this right now.” It’s a respectful way to validate the other person that there’s something that’s important that needs to be discussed for your relationship.

Get into the rhythm with the coffee break strategy

Stephen Franson: You just ask, “Is this something that we can move to Coffee Break on Sunday?” The response 90% of the time is going to be, “You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s on the tip of my mind right now so you got it. I’ll bring it up on Sunday.”And you just get into this rhythm as a couple where it’s just like you would work.

Dr. Bryan, if one of your staff members comes up, or your office manager comes up, or your partner, Dr. Jay comes up and says, “I got to talk to you about this right now.” You’re going in to see a patient right now and you’re thinking, Buddy, I’m in this healing, loving, giving state right now. I’m so present with this patient and you want to talk to me about some team member who’s sideways about something?” It’s right action, wrong time.

You’d say, “Can we just bring that into our meeting later on this afternoon?” Dr Jason would say, “Totally. Sorry. Forgot, just wasn’t thinking. It was just on the tip of mind.” And at work that’s totally acceptable and it’s a great best practice. So why not bring that home?

Dr. Bryan: I think so many people can relate to the idea that right intention, wrong time. And if everyone’s listening, you said the word “listen” probably 10 times in this window of these last several minutes. I think that’s a huge key component to how you reduce stress in relationships at home. Are you really listening when you’re listening? That’s a skillset that every one of us can develop.

The magic is creating a space

Dr. Bryan: I think one of the magic ways of reducing stress is have you created the space to handle those things? As you have done with the Coffee Break. And then, are you truly showing up prepared, as you pointed out. And number three, are you really listening to whoever’s in your space, or are they listening to you because a lot of those things will dissolve these emotional stressors that we create.

Stephen Franson: You’re absolutely right. We all walk with a limp, Bryan. I’m certainly not the poster child for a patient listener, but it’s a skillset that I’ve been working hard on because I recognize that it certainly helps almost every situation. Because if you’re dealing with another human being, especially somebody that you love, if you just listen, it’s almost the most efficient way to get to a solution, as opposed to just waiting for them to stop talking or starting to defend your own position. We’ve all tried that and a losing strategy.

One of the skillsets that I’ve just really worked really hard on is just learning how to listen and you can find the question behind the question or the problem behind the issue and you can get to that faster. As all of us men learn the hard way in our relationships at home. Sometimes it’s just not about solving it, sometimes it’s just about listening.

Coffee Break Strategy With Your Children For Better Relationships at Home

Coffee Break Strategy With Your Children Relationships At Home
Photographer: Ann Danilina | Source: Unsplash

Dr. Bryan: Just in our final few minutes here, have you incorporated any bit of this strategy with your children in regard to separating time? Maybe it’s not called a Coffee Break, but maybe it’s a Kool-Aid break. I don’t know. Have you made any effort to do that?

Stephen Franson: Absolutely. And make no question about it. It is a Coffee Break. My daughter wants a Coffee Break. My daughter’s like, “Daddy, when is my coffee break?” So, if anybody here has a 12 or 13-year-old, or anyone around that age knows exactly what I mean by that. And my son wants mystery rides. So it’s just packaged differently. At the end of the day guys, it’s just time. Carving out the time. There’s no other way to honor another human being and let them know how important they are in your world than carve out that time and let them just know that you’re going to be with them one-on-one. So whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what you do, especially with the kids, just carve out the time.

Dr. Bryan: I’m sitting here on the opposite end of this microphone with goosebumps right now because undoubtedly at this stage in my life, quality time with someone that you love will take the highest value of anything else to me. And I’m sure many people would resonate with that same thought. It’s how often are we actually allowing ourself to carve out private time, quality time with the ones that we love and vice versa.

Closing Thoughts To Relationships at Home

Dr. Bryan: I think you just blessed a lot of people. I’m really hopeful that at least one or two of them will actually take an action to say, that it may be uncomfortable. It may be awkward. I might have to have a conversation with my spouse or my kids to say I want to separate some time in my week to give to you and for you to give to me so that we can make the space to have these conversations about our relationships at home.

But I promise you and I’m in agreement, my wife and I took your advice. We’ve been running with it and it’s actually made a world of a difference that we’re not blending everything together in the same way.

Stephen Franson: It’s my pleasure. It’s a privilege to share it. I think it’s a simple and elegant solution to a really complex problem that affects a lot of people negatively. And part of the legacy we leave is just teaching people that making that time and carving out time is the easiest and free way to say, I love you. And who better to do that with than your spouse and your kids?

Dr. Bryan: Well, everybody listening to this episode, I hope you put this on your new year’s resolutions this year. Thank you, Dr. Franson.

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