The Ties That Bind


Lisa Messenger shares the real currency in our career-focused lives—true human connection.

If I’m ever asked in an interview to put the different parts of my life in order of importance, I say health is number one, then my relationships and then my business. This always seems to surprise people, as they assume that being a successful woman, business would come first. But that isn’t the case anymore. If I’m not fit and healthy, then I can’t maintain good relationships, be a good boss or lead an inspiring community.

And although creating cool stuff, having an impact on my community and fuelling a movement is amazing, when I look back on the really memorable moments of my life (with beautiful people in the world—friends, family, our readers), it’s the times when I’ve had true human connection, like a birthday celebration for my mum, babysitting the boys (Jett and Banjo) for my amazing friends Donna and Scott or just today, when a beautiful magazine reader looked me in the eye and said that they had launched a business after being inspired by myself and the team (incredible!).

In relationships, there are many, like the walk on the beach when you clamber over rocks with your dog looking for a new adventure, and when you laugh your butt off with your partner when you make a ridiculous joke that no-one else but you two will find funny. Business is just one part of the game. The real currency is true, human connection, which incidentally is why I created The Collective—to mesh the two of these.\

I can broker multimillion-dollar deals. I thrive on the massive adrenaline rushes, the fist pumping and the power surges. But when I’m in that mode, I’m acting from a very masculine energy. For me personally, and I can only speak for myself, I don’t want to bring that forcefulness home with me.

When I’m with my family or in a relationship with a partner I love, I’m happy to not always be “Lisa Messenger the businesswoman” (although that doesn’t rule out robust, philosophical, world-changing business conversations). I can now take off my armour, snuggle in someone’s arms and let them look after me, protect me and nurture me.

Of course, your masculine and feminine roles flip sometimes between caretaker and receiver. As author and relationship coach Rori Raye says, the man doesn’t have to emanate masculine energy all the time, nor does the woman have to seep feminine energy. But it’s not beneficial for you to both be in one category at the same time.

For example, once during a crazy storm, water flooded my downstairs hallway. I was running around in a frenzy building dams out of towels and trying to salvage furniture, while my partner was lying on the bed upstairs laughing and being no help at all. But if we’d both panicked it would have been chaos, and his lack of concern was infectious. I ended up laughing too as I scrambled around like Noah trying to save him and my dog Benny from the rising waters.

Another book I found very useful, and maybe you will too, is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (it’s sold more than nine million copies—that’s a lot of couples who struggle to communicate). The premise is pretty simple but was a huge “wow” moment for me. In short, Gary argues there are five ways that people show love—words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.

It’s important to respect your partner’s preferred means of showing the “L-word”. For instance, you might think he’s neglectful because he doesn’t hold your hand walking along the road, but maybe that’s just not his thing. Instead, he showers you in “acts of service”—to him fixing your car in the rain is just as romantic.

I’m not really into gifts but for me, physical touch, words of affirmation and quality time are hugely important. This doesn’t mean you have to find someone with a matching “language”, but just be aware the L-word is expressed in different forms, and the way you express love may not be the same way your partner does. Sometimes you both have to adapt.

I also revisit William F. Harley Jr.’s book His Needs, Her Needs a lot (don’t be put off by the tagline “Build an Affair-Proof Marriage” as I resonated with this book even when I was single). The author’s theory is that love is a “learned association”—if someone is present enough when you’re feeling particularly good, the person’s presence in general might be enough to trigger that good feeling (which becomes love).

The skill is identifying, listening and observing what makes your partner truly happy, and then helping to replicate this. Simple really! Except many of us are too consumed in ourselves, and somehow miss the needs of our partners.

The reason I’m sharing these books (no, I’m not getting a cut of their royalties!) is that I openly admit that I don’t personally have all the answers. I’m simply a very willing student, a guinea pig and ongoing experiment. I’m neither a dating guru nor a psychologist. I know my journey is exactly that—my own—but the key takeaway here is that I wasn’t too broken to be fixed nor too old (that sounds hideous doesn’t it?) to learn.

Writing about love made me remember that it’s an ongoing journey and it’s important not to become complacent, to keep checking your agenda, your behaviour, your reactions. If you start a new fitness regime and hit your ideal weight or fastest time, you wouldn’t expect to be able to stop exercising and still maintain those fitness levels. The same applies to nurturing relationships. You have to keep working at them and exploring them, keeping your heart open, light, bright, soft and sensual.

If you take anything from this piece let it be this: love might not look like you imagine, it might not look like a movie or fit the template you think is acceptable. It might not be the fairytale you envisioned when you had your first kiss in a woolshed (or wherever you had your first lip lock), but I truly, truly believe there is someone out there for everyone.

I love the advice that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff, was given by her mother. “Take a chance. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. And don’t fall in love with Plan A.” I’m pretty sure she was talking about business, but I think it’s a perfect attitude to love as well.


This is an edited extract from Lisa Messenger’s Life & Love (The Messenger Group).


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