Love for 2018

Today I was inspired to share a quote from Maya Angelou:

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.”

This is what I want for the rest of 2018. I want a year that’s filled with hope, where we all encourage and love each other, and aren’t driven by fear of the world ending or massive destruction. Of course, as long as we’re all still human the best we can do is strive for that goal, since none of us can be loving all the time. We’ve certainly hit our fair share of walls in 2017, so it’s my hope that 2018 can be the year that we bring down or challenge many of those walls.

So what can we do to make the rest of 2018 great?

First, it starts with an attitude adjustment for many of us. Our attitudes determine the thoughts we think, words we say and can even influence the actions we take. Our attitude is one of the most important things to work on, yet it’s often the hardest because we’ve had these beliefs drilled into us since we were kids, and now they’re part of who we are. But if we truly want to live in a better world, we have to learn to release prejudices, hatred, anger and even apathy.

Second, we have to start showing people we care and they matter. If we all acted a little more responsibly for ourselves, those who rely on us (like kids, partners and parents), and towards the world as a whole, there would be less tragedy and fewer situations which tear at our social fabric. If we were even 10% more responsible with our actions than we are now, not only would our neighborhoods be happy places to live, we’d all enjoy life more.

Finally, we have to choose to live with love and hope. Love doesn’t overlook the bad stuff, it helps find solutions to fix the bad stuff, or figures out the role bad stuff plays in life. Love gives all of us second and third chances, and helps us make good decisions about how we treat others and the world around us. Hope helps us stand again when the bad stuff gets overwhelming and makes us willing to work through the changes, even when they seem to take forever.

I hope that you’ll join me as we discover what it means to live with love and hope, and how many more victories can be achieved in each of our lives when we choose to love that way.


Love is Considerate

This month as we’ve talked and thought about love I was reflecting on what is really one of the central aspects to love and relationships, both romantic and other types: other people. I know it sounds really obvious and yes, it’s important to love yourself, but for a relationship, romantic or otherwise, to really be successful you have to love the other person. Maybe that love is the passionate-fairy-tale-love kind, maybe that love is more of a respectful love, maybe it’s more of a compassionate love, or maybe it’s a mutual love of a sports team or hobby that makes you love another person. There’s a lot more to love than just saying “I love you” or wanting someone else in your life so you’re not alone.

Relationships are about more than just us and what we want or get out of them, there’s a whole ‘nother person to consider, and without that other person there would be no relationship. So where do you stand on your relationships including your relationship with your significant other, your family members, your work colleagues and your friends? Do you really take time to consider them and their needs, capabilities and needs as part of your relationship with them?

I think one of the biggest secrets to showing love to others is just being considerate. There’s nothing fancy or complicated really about it, it’s just you taking the time to open your eyes, mind, and heart to the other person. Sometimes that consideration means being extra patient with them, sometimes it’s about showing them in dramatic form how much you care, sometimes it’s just a touch on the shoulder or text message to let them know you’re there and you support them, and sometimes it’s connecting them to a great opportunity or resource that you hear about.

Have you taken the time to dive into love this month and explore the relationships that are important in your life? Which relationships have you realized need work and which are you most committed to exploring and strengthening?

3 T’s to a Healthy Relationship

Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. As I flip through TV channels, see the commercials on my computer and see the latest books and movies being published I’m constantly amazed by how many versions of love there are. My relationship with my partner doesn’t look like the relationships other people have with their partner. Some people love more than one person, some people never connect wiht the one person they could live with loving, some people love across great distances and some people call it love when it’s the furthest thing from real love. However there are a couple things that I think contribute to the success of a relationship, regardless of what your version of love looks like (with the exception of not real love).

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I’m a big supporter of communication, but that’s not one we’re going to talk about today, instead I wanted to talk about three other keys: touch, time and teamwork.

Teamwork: If you’re really committed to the relationship there has to be give and take, time and energy given by both of you towards the health of the relationship and to taking care of all the things that need to be done to run your lives and household. No relationship survives on the efforts of only one person, at least not for very long.  That means both of you should be working on the home, relationship and seeing to your kids’ needs if you have kids.

Time: If it’s a healthy relationship the people in the relationship need to make time for each other. Whenever possible that should consist of in-person time on a daily and weekly basis, and should also include digital communications too. The time that it takes to send even a simple text could mean all the difference to the health of your relationship.  But it’s also important to make a time commitment in other ways such as date nights, time at home together or video chats if distance prohibits in-person interaction.

Touch: While the other two keys we’ve talked about today can be done to some extent even if one partner isn’t physically there, this one does require you and your partner to be in the same place.  People thrive on touch.  While you don’t need touch to survive like you do food and water, if you really want to be your healthiest and happiest, and you want the relationship to be healthiest and happiest, there should be touch involved, whether it’s holding hands, snuggling and/or more intimate options.

How healthy is your relationship with regard to teamwork, time and touch?  Are they regularly incorporated so that both of you are supported in the relationship and your lives, or are they something you should make a new commitment to this Valentine’s Day?

Open To Love

This month we’ve been talking about the topic of possibilities. Today I want to ask you a question that may challenge you: are you open to love? What about being loved or loving others? Before you give a knee-jerk answer, think about your life, your attitude, and your relationships. Do they reflect someone who is loving or has love, or does your life show an absence of love?

In many ways love is a choice, we choose to accept love in our lives or to give it. Sometimes love can sneak up on us like with a pet or an adorable kid, but that’s more often affection than love, at least in the beginning, until we choose to let it become love or not. Sometimes when we choose to love our choice won’t be returned or we love someone who doesn’t love us or loves us in a dangerous way (not true love). But with the exception of loving someone who’s dangerous or hurtful, it doesn’t do us any harm to love someone else, especially if we choose to love others regardless of how they react or respond to our love.

Why choose to love and be open to love? Because let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to love other people, they can be stubborn, bad communicators and not considerate of our needs and feelings. The person who’s our “one true love” is almost as difficult to find as it is to decide on something to eat at a diner with a 20 page menu. And around half of all marriages end up in divorce. So why bother with love?

I think more of us would be happier if we chose to live with love and let love into our lives. Yes, it’s a bit of a risk to be open to love knowing that others could hurt us, but I know we’d have better relationships with our partners (and our kids) if we truly loved them and showed it on a daily basis, especially in our communications with them.  Being closed to love means you don’t have the opportunity to experience that once-in-a-lifetime relationship and love that you could, not to mention all the little moments where loves surprises you, or moments you could share love and surprise someone else.

Over the next month we’ll be diving into the topic of love. We’ll talk about how to be a better significant other, be a more loving person, deal with the failures and hurts of love and more. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like me to write on next month too, you can share them in the comments. But before we can get to having love in our lives we have to choose love. Why do you choose love?

Relationship Repairs

Last week I spent some time thinking about how many people do things that create huge divisions between themselves and others. Sometimes we’re not aware of it and there’s nothing we can do until after the fact. But usually we play a key role in that division being created, and are aware of it. Maybe we’re not willing to give a little, maybe we’re tired of giving, maybe we’re at a place with different goals, or maybe we just didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did.

When we reach these divisions in life we’ve got a choice to work through them or to let them permanently drive a wedge between us. We’re really good at creating the permanent wedge, and some people talk about working through it or give fixing it lip service but never truly make the effort.

The thing about saying hateful or hurtful things to another person is that hurting the other person will not in any way, shape or form, accomplish what you really want to have happen. All it will do is hurt both of you. So do what has to be done to be able to go your separate ways or fix the relationship, don’t just hurl insults, hurt or hate.

If you’re really going to try to make it work go the whole way. See a coach together, attend AA type meetings to work on your own stuff individually, if there are kids involved seek help to be better parents, plan out times that you will be together each week for date type activities, plan times for you each to be alone, write up who will do what and so on. All of this is about doing the work and starting the necessary communication and creating opportunities to repair the relationship.

But this isn’t just about repairing your romantic relationship (or partnership as I call them) but about the other relationships in your life as well. We can be pretty bad friends and employees on occasion. Sometimes those are the relationships that need extra attention to get them back on track or to see that the relationship has run its course.

This week I challenge you to choose one relationship that needs work and actually get to work on it. Sit down with your boss, friend or partner and have the tough conversation and establish together where you go from there. It may not be easy but it will be worth it in the long run.

Are Parents the Problem?

I was talking recently with a nanny who comes from a family of many children and currently manages a family with 4 children. We got to talking about her experiences and her challenges, and she said something you may have heard before: the kids are a product of their parents. You may have heard something along those lines before, but probably not in the way that she means. For her, as a nanny when considering new families she always takes into greater consideration how the parents are than how the kids are, because she knows that the real issues and challenges (or fantastic experience) will come from the parents, not the kids. Yes, of course it’s challenging to work with kids who are unruly and throw tantrums and aren’t polite. But they often are that way because their parents have allowed them to be up to this point. That doesn’t really mean that the parents have failed, just that they really need to step up and take responsibility, or give responsibility to someone else (and not take over or micromanage).

Initially it’s not easy for the parents or kids, but over time kids do learn to interact differently with different people and in different situations. If you think about two classic examples, school and church, kids act much different at school and church than they do at home. At school you’re expected to use your brain, listen to adults and not be a bully and at church you’re expected to be quiet as a mouse and be on your extra best behavior (even at church picnics and fun events). However at home so many of the “rules” go out the window. In some ways it’s necessary to let go of some rules and give kids time to be kids, but the leadership from parents and respect for adults needs to stay in place at all times, and it can be difficult to be a leader and be respected when they’ve seen you down on your knees making train sounds during play with them.

So how do you get from being an unruly household to one that’s got usually well-behaved kids? Start with love, affection and attention. These three are super important because they show your kids that you do indeed care about them and want them to be part of your life. Follow that up by setting a good example, for example: if they see you disrespecting others (including themselves) when they’re talking by being on your phone, they’ll get the idea that it’s OK to ignore others too. Setting boundaries and time limits consistently can also help because you say that you need 5 minutes to do stuff and then they can have you for a game or to do something (or that you can play for x amount of time but at a specific time you need to go do your thing). Finally, don’t be afraid to screw up and make changes. What you teach them as you work through your mistakes can be as valuable as not making them in the first place. Employing a give-it-a-try attitude can make a big difference in how they approach problems and relationships of all kinds.

If you’re struggling as a parent, this week I would encourage you to make one small change in your relationship with your kids and that would be to love more, be more affectionate and give them your full attention. I’m not asking you to implement any real rules or make any big changes, just be more present for them and with them. What difference will a little love make in your life and theirs?

Can We Outgrow Love?

I asked an interesting question in the title of today’s post: can you outgrow the need for love? Frank A. Clark says: “A baby is born with a need to be loved – and never outgrows it.”

I have to say that I agree with him. I don’t think we can ever outgrow the need to love and be loved. Love is this absolutely essentially core aspect of who we are as people. Love challenges us in every aspect of our lives, yet when we think about living with out it, I know I break out in cold sweats, and you may too. When I think about living in a world without love, I can picture the depravity, the hurt, the hatred and the pain that would take over each and every one of our lives. I can see that we’d all be living sub-par lives of misery. Yet we all too often try to not let love play the role in our lives that it should.

We all go through periods of growth during our lives, growth is an essential part to who we are as people. Growth and change are essential to our lives. We can’t do all the activities we did at 4 at 84. We can’t expect to find success without making some changes and opening up to growth in our lives. So as with each spring and summer plants grow, we know that our lives will grow and change too. We will outgrow the things in our past and become (hopefully) bigger and better people.

But that’s not the case for love. We hopefully will learn new dimensions of love throughout our lives, but we’ll never ever outgrow the need to be loved by those around us. So why don’t we put the emphasis on love that we should? Why don’t we try to spread love within our relationships and communities? That’s one of the $64 million questions in life.

It’s one thing to turn down bad habits or people, it’s another thing to turn down or reject something that can be so positive and helpful in our lives. Yes, love like other things in life comes with some risk. Your heart can get broken, and your life turned upside down. But from what I’ve seen love is totally worth the risk. It won’t work out the right way every time, but nothing in life is a 100% guarantee (besides change, death and taxes).

This coming week I encourage you to open up to love again. Don’t give up, be persistent, and be open to the ways love wants to reveal itself in your life.

Mother Teresa on Life, Love, Loneliness and Hurt

Over 100 years ago this month Mother Teresa was born. She was a woman who had incredible wisdom, dedicated her life to a very selfless mission, and taught the world a lot about love. As I was considering her life, I happened upon a few quotes that speak to some insights on how we may be able to help the world heal from the tragic events that have unfolded around the US and world in the past few weeks, not to mention those that are ongoing situations. These situations can’t be resolved with a simple shaking of hands or trading of objects, these are issues that have remained and repeated in one way or another for decades, if not centuries. Resolution will take time, effort on everyone’s part and ultimately a decision that the world is a better place if things were different. Mother Teresa said:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

No war is won or lost by the actions of one person. No one person could have won WW2 or the Civil War or the Trojan War by themselves. But without each of the individuals who participated in those wars on the winning side, the history may have happened much differently, likely creating a much different today. If the world is to become a healthy, fulfilling, thriving place, we have to start doing something different and treating each other different, starting with ending the violence. Yes, there will always be violence, but in the majority of the time, a simple, quiet word can do more than an abrasive, violent tantrum.  I encourage you to take a deep breath the next time your first reaction is to be nasty or overreact, and see if you can’t communicate with a little more patience, peace, respect and love first.

A Love that Finishes Strong

We’re almost at the end of the month, it’s been a very full month with lots of events and opportunities, challenges and changes as well.  This month one of the topics I’ve been talking about is the topic of love.  One of the challenges of love is how awesome it is when it starts.  In some ways that’s really important because it sucks us into the relationship and makes us want to keep feeling those emotions and stay in love.  But it’s a whole lot easier to fall in love than it is to stay in love.  Those initial magic feelings don’t always stick around.  We get bogged down by the realities and challenges of life.  We see things about the person we fell in love with that we didn’t see when we first fell in love, things that aren’t so awesome or pretty (like bad habits or snoring).  When a relationship gets to that point it’s jokingly called “the end of the honeymoon period.”

While you may lose the cloud 9 feelings that you initially felt towards someone, that doesn’t mean you can’t love them anymore or that you don’t love them anymore.  It just means that your love has developed, changed or matured.  After all, you can’t do as a baby what you can do now: we’re all growing and changing, so why wouldn’t love do the same?  In some ways I think it’s kind of silly that we even think that love wouldn’t change and that we wouldn’t feel, see and do things differently after a while.

So the question as we work through the last full week of the month is how can we make sure our love finishes strong?  First and foremost it has to start with being open to love and all the many dimensions of it.   Also, there has to be a willingness to change and work through challenges.  As you get to know someone you may see red flags and things that make you take a step back.  There are always issues and things to disagree over, but these are serious things like a violent temper or (not) wanting kids that show you guys may not be really the best match, regardless of how much love you felt initially.  It’s not a bad thing to call a stop to a relationship if you know it’s not going to be the right one for you, in fact that’s a healthy decision to make.  I think one of the good things about all the change we go through and how fast life moves today vs. 100 years ago is that we can do so much more to fulfill our potential, rather than being held back or stuck in societal restrictions.

Second, you and your partner have to actively invest in the relationship if you want to keep it and your love alive.  There needs to be communication, time spent, moments created, laughter shared, friendships developed and life celebrated.  You should take time on a daily basis to check in with them, a weekly basis to spend quality time with them (a date night for example) and at least take a yearly vacation with them.

Your love will change through your life, that should not discourage you from making it part of your life.  Nor should you be discouraged by setbacks or a few failed experiences, because they will happen to just about all of us.  I believe it’s worth it to be in love and have a relationship, even with all the work it may take to help it finish strong.  How will you invest in your relationship this week?

Love and Happiness

Yesterday on the Life and Faith blog I talked a bit about the topics of love and happiness.  Today we’re continuing the conversation here talking about the relationship between love, happiness and relationships.  Relationships do not equal love and do not equal happiness.  That’s not the equation.  I do believe that there can be a connection between relationships, love and happiness, but that’s not the case for everyone and it’s unfortunately not a happily ever after situation for everyone either.  You’ve probably heard people who were with someone they loved for only a short period of time for whatever reason say that those were the happiest years of their life, and sometimes the couple gets lucky and they have one of those happy love stories for the ages that their children and grandchildren talk about for years to come.   Love, happiness and relationships can last and they can be short, and both types can be real and worth it.

Love, relationships and happiness are all things that can be hurt, can fail and can be disturbed.  In a perfect world everyone would have a fairy tail ending, but there are people who aren’t good in this world and believe it’s their right to treat people poorly or do stupid things like drugs and excessive alcohol which end up causing them to make bad decisions.  I believe everyone is worthy of love, happiness and a good relationship, but for various reasons that’s not how it always ends up working out.

If you’re in a relationship I’m happy for you and hope that it works out and that you and your partner have one of those great love stories.  If it’s not a happy relationship the first person to check is yourself, not your partner.  Make sure that you’re not the one causing your own unhappiness, because the only person truly responsible for your happiness is you.  If your partner truly loves you and is invested in the relationship they should make you happy most of the time (no one’s perfect), but you should not leave your happiness up to them.  So if you establish that you’re not putting unreasonable pressure on your partner in the relationship and are doing your part to make yourself happy and help the relationship thrive, then the next person to check is your partner.  Maybe they’re not feeling loved by you, maybe they’ve got a different set of expectations for the relationship, maybe they’re not the right person for you or maybe they’re a bad person and you should not be in a relationship with them.  I believe there is more than one person out there for each of us, but with more than 7 billion people in the world it’s not as easy as it sounds to find one of those right ones, and even if you do, maybe it’s only the right person for right now.  But no one has to be in a bad relationship or one that doesn’t truly fulfill them.

Happiness, love and relationships aren’t always picture perfect, they can get a little messy sometimes.  But if you remember back to being a kid or think about your kids, some of the happiest memories were pretty messy, and even in the movies there’s usually at least one dramatic rescue scene or cringe-worthy episode.   Don’t give up on a dream of having a happy, loving and fulfilling relationship, I’ve experienced it and so have others, and so can you.