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.

Lots to Love

This month the topic we’re talking about is love.  I know, in February we talked about heart which is in the same family as love, but I’m continually reminded of the power of love and the difference it can make in our lives and the lives of others.  I’ve seen what a little bit of love can do, and even the most dense people can often see love and the power it has when it’s in front of them (even if they’re not so good at loving personally).  So as we dive into loving ourselves, each other, loving the earth (Earth Day), and loving spiritually (Passover/Easter), and even loving our country (tax day), I’ll encourage you to keep an open mind as always, and consider thinking about love outside of whatever box you’ve put it in.

One of the reasons relationships fail is because people don’t take the time to nurture their love. What feels so great initially can get neglected, become routine, and get overwhelmed and pushed aside by life, ironically the life that the two people were so excited to build together when they were brought together by their love.  It takes intentional action and communication on a regular basis to sustain a relationship.  Yes, there are relationships that even when worked on just don’t work out for one reason or another.  But in most cases when you’re intentionally working on the relationship you’re able to work through the changes you both experience and ways the relationship grows as you get older and grow personally and individually.

Love is an opportunity, it’s one that some only think about in February around Valentine’s Day or when they attend a wedding or see a happy couple.  But love is something you can and should do every day.  Why? For thousands of reasons.  I believe that love makes the world a better place, one that’s more comfortable to live in, creates better respect in relationships of all kinds not just the romantic type, and helps us work together better.  Love can hurt, especially when tragedy strikes, but I believe it’s better to have loved for one day than to never have loved at all.  What will you tap into this month by choosing love?

Choosing Love

Love is a powerful emotion.  Emotion might even be too weak a word to use to describe what love is, because love is more than feeling happy, or sad; love lasts, endures and exists through those times of highs and lows.  Love makes our happiness conditional on the other person’s happiness.  Simply, love means we want those we love happy, and if they’re not happy we’re not either.  This is one area where all of the technological advancements of the past few decades have really made a big impact: it’s even easier to spread the love around even when we can’t be that physical shoulder to cry on.  You can send love through a Facebook or email message, a quick tweet or text, or send it over as a big photograph.

One of the greatest abilities love has is the ability to tear down barriers of loneliness and separation.  The only reason distance relationships work ever is because the love in that relationship is powerful and well developed.  Love doesn’t consider our differences, it just sees people and hearts.  Love isn’t concerned with politics or culture, it just wants to break down walls.  When we let love in it can do powerful things in our lives and in the lives of those connected with us.

However, it’s not just about being loved, it’s about loving too.  It’s one reason people who suffer from depression are told to get pets or do community service or spend time with kids: you feel better when you’re spreading love and helping others.  But just like many other things in our lives, love is a choice.  It’s a choice we have to make on a daily (or hourly) basis.  It’s a choice no one can make for us, and one we can’t make for them.  If you don’t want to feel alone, do something about it!  Choose to accept the love that is all around you and make it part of your life.

“It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.”  John Bulwer

Choosing the Romance

Relationships of all kinds have lots of challenges, and we’re not always given the choice of whether or not we want to be in that relationship, sometimes that’s just how it is.  For example, you don’t choose to have some of the relationships you have at work, they’re a result of where you work or what you do, and you don’t usually choose your family, those are relationships you’re born or adopted into.  But when it comes to romantic relationships they are relationships that we’ve chosen to get involved in, which is one of the reasons why I choose to call them partnerships rather than relationships.  Using the partnership term also is a big reminder of the responsibility of relationships and how we’re both supposed to be contributing to the relationship, not just being part of it because it exists as we do sometimes with our work or family relationship.

We’re almost out of February, the month of love.  I believe that partnerships should be attended to all year-long and are not something you do or don’t do based on the month it is.  You can’t put effort into something for such a brief period of time and expect to see fantastic results, especially with something as complicated as a partnership.  Yet there are countless couples around the world who don’t put in the necessary effort and are surprised when they’re unhappy, thinking about divorce or divorcing yet again.  Yes, there is something to be said for really choosing the right person for you, but the fact is we all change throughout our lives so to expect that you’ll be compatible with someone however many years from now when you will both change is only realistic if you’re both willing to do the work it will take over the years to stay connected to each other and invested in the relationship.

Everyone has several choices within their romantic relationship: first of course is whether or not to stay in it.  The next choice is how you’re going to approach that relationship: are you going to really invest in it or are you going to do the minimum amount necessary just to get by?  Some days you may not feel like you have a ton of choices about that, but there’s always the choice to make.  The final choice is whether or not you’ll intentionally look for things you love about your partner on a daily basis.  I choose to look for the things that I love about my partner, not the things that bother me.  But if things bother me I speak up so that my partner and I can get back to the pursuit of love.  What choices are you making in your relationship?

“For you see, each day I love you more, Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” Rosemonde Gerard

Relationship Reflections

It must be February: my email inbox is filled with talk of love and relationships!  The thing is, this year a lot of the posts and emails have been really great.  Usually it seems like it’s all the same stuff or it’s the standard Valentine fare, but this year it seems that people are really diving deep and wide into the love conversation, which has led to some very interesting reading.  It may seem like a tired topic, love and relationships, but the simple fact is that our lives are all about relationships, and that more often than not whether we’re having a good day or not depends on our romantic relationship.

I don’t know about you but I’m interested in getting more out of my romantic relationship.  My partner and I have a great relationship and of course we have our challenges and issues, but overall it’s a very peaceful, fulfilling and loving relationship.  We’ve been together for years and I’m still excited when I get to see him each day.  I know that’s not the case for many couples and I know there can be many reasons for that unhappiness.  If you want to get more out of your relationship you have to put in more, have a different attitude about your relationship and each other, and/or do something different than you’ve always done.

Every relationship does go through changes.  There are learning opportunities every day about how your relationship works and to learn things you never knew about each other.  There are countless resources available, often at your fingertips, that can help you work through some of the challenges or just get more out of an already decent relationship.  But ultimately it comes down to whether or not you’re happy with who you are as a person when your partner is with you, who they are when they’re with you, who they are when they’re not with you, and what your relationship has created and is creating in your life.

So today I encourage you to ask yourself this question: if I had to do it all over again would I choose my same partner again?  If the answer is yes, I encourage you to put in the extra effort in the coming days and weeks to rebuild your relationship if necessary or grow it from where it is.   If the answer is no then you need to evaluate what’s not working for you and sit down and have a discussion with them about what you’re feeling and struggling with.

Leaders in Life

Today I’ve got some wise words from one of the leadership experts today, Dr Henry Cloud.  I believe that everyone is a leader in one way or another, but even if you don’t work in a traditional leadership role, there are wise words that you can learn from as well.

“Nothing good is going to happen if you can’t deal with the bad things that are going to happen.”

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where i end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our own thoughts and clarify distorted thinking.”

“Encourage literally came from “in courage.” The courage is put “into” you from outside. Our character and abilities grow through internalizing from others what we do not possess in ourselves.”

“True intimacy is only build around the freedom to disagree.”  

“Just as we leave the effects of our work behind in results, we leave the effects of our interactions with people in their hearts, minds, and souls.”

“Your business and your life will change when you really, really get it that some people are not going to change, no matter what you do, and that still others have a vested interest in being destructive.”

“When we ask we are owning our needs. Asking for love, comfort or understanding is a transaction between two people. You are saying: I have a need. It’s not your problem. It’s not your responsibility. You don’t have to respond, but I’d like something from you.  This frees the other person to connect with you freely and without obligation. When we own that our needs are our responsibility we allow others to love us because we have something to offer. Asking is a far cry from demanding. When we demand love, we destroy it.”

“Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.”  

“Who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed.”

“If you want to become healthy, you have to surround yourself with a group of people that are getting healthy, and you have to be connected to a community that is doing what you want to do.”

A Family United or Divided?

You’ve probably heard the saying “a house divided against itself will fall.”  I believe this statement is very true and is one of the reasons that individuals, those in partnerships (aka relationships) and families struggle.  We personally go through our lives experiencing different things, thinking about public impressions, things we “should” do and our own dreams and desires.  All of these things pull and tug us in different directions.  In relationships you’re dealing with 2 people who have their own preferences, desires, loves, dreams, hopes, challenges and fears. Yes, you would hope in a loving partnership that some of those things would line up because the two people have similar desires, loves, dreams etc. But everyone is different, so it won’t always be the case.  As families we have tons of different people involved in the shuffle, with different opinions, schedules, needs and plans.  It’s not easy to find a happy medium that allows the parents to be parents, the kids to be kids, the family to come together and everyone get along fantastic.

I believe that some things and some people are meant to come together for a period of time and then go their separate ways or be done. I believe there are things and people that should never have come together. I believe that some things and some people are meant to last forever.  I believe that some people and things stick around only through sheer grit and a can-do spirit.  Life isn’t always going to be cupcakes and chicken soup.  Sometimes you’ve got to get down and dirty and really work to make things continue.  And sometimes we keep working on things long after they’re broken beyond repair (the nasty and graphic phrase “beat a dead horse” applies here).

I fully believe that we should each be our own person.  We should have our own interests, personalities, dreams, talents and perspectives.  I don’t see a need for carbon copy people.  But with that individuality comes the responsibility of respecting the individuality of others, which is something I think we sometimes forget.  But the simple wisdom applies that if you want to be treated well, you should do the same to others.  If you treat others like crap do you really expect they’ll treat you like your the Next Big Thing?  Some of us need to work more on being our own person, but quite a few of us need to work on working together better.  Working together doesn’t mean that you ignore who you are or turn yourself off, it’s about learning how to bring what you can contribute to the table and working it in with what everyone else can contribute.  What will you contribute this week?

A Timely Holiday

This week I’ve gotten a whole bunch of emails from people and companies with different sentiments about the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. They’ve all contained some sage advice, and I’ve been sharing what I’ve been reading through my blogs and newsletters as well as with friends and family.  The word that I wanted to share today is timely.  I do believe in a right time for everything, even if we don’t think it’s the right time.  So often we’re wanting things to happen on our time but that’s simply not how it works.  Time isn’t something we can control.  Sure we can do everything possible to expedite things, but sometimes there’s no way to push things through quicker.

I don’t know why some things take years to develop or why some things happen way before we think we’re ready for them or everything seems to happen at once.  I don’t think that’s life playing a joke on us, I think that’s just the way it works and part of how we learn and experience the life journey.  Sometimes it helps if you take a step back, other times it helps to push through and not keep looking back so much.  Sometimes you just have to be patient and let it do what it’s going to do.

This weekend as you gather with family and friends, consider the timing.  Is this the right holiday for some forgiveness?  Is this the holiday you should be taking extra time off?  Is this the holiday you should be giving extra? Is this the holiday that you need to step up for family and friends?  Is this the holiday that you do something for yourself?  Whatever comes your way this holiday I encourage you to reflect on what’s life trying to tell you and what opportunities life is bringing you.  And if life’s bringing you lots of blessings and joy make sure you share it!

All I Want for Christmas Is You

There are lots of great sayings flying around on cards, on banners and around the internet as we approach the holidays.  Some of the ones you’ve probably seen include ‘”Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more”‘ (From The Grinch), ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year,’ ’tis the season to be jolly,’  and ‘Christmas is not so much about opening presents as opening our hearts.’  But the one I’m thinking about today is ‘All I want for Christmas is you.’

For fortunate couples this is the sentiment.  They’re happy to just have each other, to be able to celebrate another Christmas together and with family and friends.  They’re not concerned with how big the ‘rock’ is under the tree or in the stocking (or even if there is one at all), or if they got a cool toy or tool or memorabilia.  However, they may buy those things for their partner because they know they would enjoy receiving it.  What they’re most excited for is going to bed or waking up on Christmas and being there with each other.  This is not the case for every couple, some couples are very unhappy, or they let that ‘perfect’ gift overwhelm them and ignore what their partner is saying about what they really want for Christmas.

I know that what most people want is to be loved, feel appreciated and feel wanted.  It’s unfortunate that so many relationships reach the point where the love isn’t there, or even worse when hatred is there.  So this Christmas as you’re thinking about gifts and picking up a few last minute ones (or if you haven’t started shopping yet) I encourage you to really think about what would make that special person smile the most or feel loved the most. Maybe it’s as simple as spending a day or an afternoon alone with you.  Maybe it’s a commitment to leave your phone someplace else during dinner.  Maybe it’s a commitment to be do more around the house or spend more time with the kids.  Or maybe it’s the gift of listening and seeing a coach or counselor and working to improve your relationship.  Whatever it is I encourage you to let it be something that says loudly and clearly to your partner that you want them for your Christmas present.