The Love of Christmas

This time of year is really about love. It’s in Jesus’ story, it’s in Santa’s story, it’s in countless stories recorded by Hollywood, and there’s many a couple that will tell you they fell in love over the Christmas season. Love is many things: it’s giving, it’s forgiving, it’s endearing, it’s celebratory, it’s rewarding, it’s difficult, it’s educational, it’s life giving, it’s challenging, it’s attractive, it’s exciting, it’s work, it’s fulfilling, and that’s just for starters.

Love has highs and lows, but I believe if we’re talking true love (regardless of whether you’re talking romantic, family or friends), the highs and rewards far outweigh the challenges and difficulties and hold true to the statement ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than not loved at all.’ The challenge of the journey doesn’t make you love them any less, and you can work through just about everything that is thrown at you as long as you do it together.

Christmas isn’t the time to be discouraged about the love in your life, it’s time to celebrate it and commit to being more loving from here going forward. Even though it’s a story that’s grown over the years, why would Santa deliver presents around the world if not for love? It’s a lot more factual that Jesus came to earth some 2000 years ago as a baby, and it’s been said many times and in many ways that it was because of love. Why would we give gifts each holiday season if not for love?

So be encouraged that love is really all around. Will you welcome love into your life and heart this holiday season?

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Relationship Responsibilities

This month one of the things we’ve talked about is the topic of responsibility. Unless you or your partner is an abuser, serial killer or some other type of evil individual, and as long as you’re both in agreement with being in the relationship, you both have a responsibility to each other and your relationship.

You’ve got a responsibility to communicate with each other, to treat each other with sensitivity and compassion, to be respectful of each other, to consider each other’s opinions, to be open to each other’s needs, to support each other, to encourage each other, to be confident in each other, to grow the relationship, and to take care of each other through thick and thin. You also both have the responsibility to speak up if something, including the relationship, isn’t working for you.

All that may sound overwhelming, and something else to add to the responsibility plate of your life, but if your relationship with your significant other is truly one of the most important and valuable things in your life, shouldn’t it command appropriate responsibility as well? If it’s feeling too overwhelming, either your relationship needs to be evaluated or you and your partner need to have a serious conversation about responsibilities and reworking the relationship. Yes, there should be some sense of weight because it’s an important relationship in your life, but it shouldn’t be so much that you feel you can’t handle it or don’t want to.

This week I encourage you and your partner to have a conversation about the responsibilities in your life, and to each other.  Don’t be discouraged if the conversation brings up a lot of stuff, instead be encouraged that you can now make a plan for improving the health of your relationship.

Comfortable Changes

How do you handle those conversations with your partner when they want to talk about things they want or feel are lacking in your relationship? I had a conversation with someone about this during the past week and it got me thinking about how we can overcome the challenges we personally may face if we’re asked by our partner to make a change or do something different.

While the first emotion you may feel is gratitude that your partner is finally sharing their concerns, fears or desires, the emotions that may closely follow are guilt, fear, and panic. It’s never easy to realize that you’ve been failing in some way on something or not being everything your partner needs. But that’s not necessarily what the conversation means, because it may not be about you failing to do something, but about something new your partner wants or needs or wants to try. If you’re in a healthy relationship, it should be an opening conversation, a beginning of a discussion, not a requirement or hard line.

Change and growth are natural parts of a healthy relationship. So what it you do feel overwhelmed by the request or the conversation? Instead of trying to conquer the mountain in one jump, pick something that’s easier for you to work up the courage or confidence to get to that point, or at least try to get to that point. Showing that you’re trying will mean a lot to them and may give them the immediate positive reinforcement they need to regain their confidence in your relationship and encourage you and work with you on trying to incorporate their requests or feedback into your relationship. It will also give you the courage and strength to keep going and working on their requests or feedback.

For example let’s say they are bored with what you all typically have for food options in the house and everyone needs to eat healthier, but you don’t really like fruits or vegetables. So don’t dive into trying the ones you know you don’t like, start with incorporating more of the ones you do like into your diets and pantry. Let’s say they want to do more and get in shape. Instead of trying to be ironman or woman, start with walking or swimming or whatever fitness activity you are OK with.

That first step may be a little intimidating, but it’s way less challenging than trying to go all the way from day 1. What tips do you have for working through conversations with your partner?

We Have To Talk

The other day my partner said the phrase that most people don’t enjoy hearing: “we have to talk.”  I cringed initially, but then I remembered something I read recently that was about this exact phrase.  Let’s face it, often when people say that it’s not a good thing.  Countless relationships have ended with that phrase and lives have been changed because of it.  It’s a very easy way to dive into what can be a challenging conversation.  It’s a statement that’s gotten twisted up in our minds as always being a harbinger of bad things.

But what if it wasn’t a challenging conversation and they just wanted to make sure you made time to catch up with them later?  What if they had something exciting they wanted to share with you?  What if they just wanted your feedback or thoughts on something they’re trying to decide?  What if instead of fearing changes and challenges you had confidence in your ability, your partner’s ability, and your ability together to conquer whatever comes your way?

What if the simple truth is that you’re showing how little trust you’ve got in your partner and your relationship with them when you react negatively over that phrase?

As we finish out another week and head into the new week I encourage you to not think the worst about your relationship, but instead look forward to growing and strengthening your relationship together.  Do be cognizant of the words and phrases and attitude you choose when you talk with your partner, but don’t ever lose sight of the trust you’ve built, experiences you’ve had and time you’ve spent together.

Relationship Freedom

With the Fourth of July next week, and the celebration of Independence Day here in the US, today I thought we’d talk about having freedom in our relationships. I love relationships, I think they’re key parts of who we are, and essential to our growth and health. Few relationships will ever be perfect and most will challenge us, but the relationships that we invest the most in should be those that fulfill us the most. Let’s talk about our relationships and some freedoms that healthy relationships have.

Free to be yourself: This is true for both you and your partner, you should both be free to be who you are. That means being comfortable and accepting of each others’ quirks, that you’re able to go out and do things together because you have similar interests, that you only tease and make fun of each other with love and respect, and you’re free to be honest with each other when you’re scared, screw up or need support.

Free to be happy: This is something that is missing in too many relationships. Yes, it’s important to take your relationship seriously but you should also really enjoy being together, want to spend time together, and make each other laugh and be able to laugh at each other (and not in a malicious or aggressive way). Yes, there are some relationships that are in our lives to challenge us, but the person you call your significant other should be someone who makes you happy and you’re happy to be around.

Free to learn and grow: If you’re really serious about being in a relationship with your significant other for years let alone decades, there should be an expectation of growth for each of you and together as a couple. It shouldn’t be a hindrance or breaking point of your relationship that you’re both growing, and that life as it goes on around you is forcing you to grow, it should be an accepted part of your lives. No, it won’t always be easy, but if you go into the relationship knowing that who you are now isn’t completely the person you’re going to be in a few years, who they are now most likely won’t be the person they’ll be in a few years, and that you’re committed to learning and growing together, it will be easier to navigate those changes and growth spurts.

What about you? How does your relationship bring you a sense of freedom? If it doesn’t what’s something you want to work on with your partner?

Parenting Relationships

This month we’ll be taking a look at some dad related topics with the celebration of Father’s Day on the 17th here in the US. If you watch true crime stories or read the news you know that both moms and dads have left their children before and that both moms and dads can do the single parenting thing. But, as you know if you’ve been on the blog for a while, I believe in raising kids with a village, including having both male and female role models in the children’s lives, whenever possible that being the child’s parents or the 2 people who claim that child as theirs. Today I want to talk about one of the challenges and choices that has to be made when it comes to being a dad, and that’s the relationship that the dad has with the mother (yes, I’ve talked about heterosexual relationships specifically here but the insights here definitely apply to same-sex relationships with kids as well).

One of the greatest challenges to raising a child is both parents being committed to that child for the typical 18 years and working together throughout those 18 years to raise that child. 18 years is a very long time in this day and age to be committed to one thing, let alone more than one person being committed to that one thing. I’m not saying it’s not possible to have a relationship with someone for 18 years or more, just that it’s a challenge and a big commitment. If you think about it we typically have much longer relationships with our families (sometimes many decades), because it’s often harder for us to separate from those we’re connected with by blood (or adoption) than it is those that we’re tied to through a piece of paper and a ceremony of some kind.

One of the best things you can do for the future of your child is to have a healthy, open, growing, conversational relationship with your significant other. Our lives are all built on relationships, and what we learn about relationships as we grow up can have a serious impact on how we view and build relationships as adults. Some children learn that relationships don’t work, some learn that relationships only work for a short time, some learn that relationships are violent, some learn that relationships change over time, some learn that relationships can be rebuilt, and some learn that there can be new relationships formed after the death of a parent.

But the bottom line is, the healthier the relationship that dads and moms have, the better example their children will have to learn from. How healthy is your relationship with your significant other, and what are you teaching your child(ren) through that relationship?

Remembering our Relationships

One of the missionary couples that I support has been going through some extra challenges over the past year, with the wife developing and beating cancer and it having recently returned. These two have been through a lot together, they have children and grandchildren in addition to the lives they live as missionaries (which is a lot more work than just going to some place and sharing their faith because they have to raise the funds and sometimes deal with countries and legal stuff).

We’re in the middle of Memorial Day weekend, the time when we stop and remember the men and women who sacrificed so much to protect us and our country. Whether you agree with the politics or not (and no one does all of the time), there are some 300 million people living in the US who rely on those men and women to keep us safe, and do some other good in the world, too. It’s sad that we can’t just stay in our own corners of the world and everything would be great, but that’s just not how the world works, in part because we are all dependent on the whole world being intact if we want to keep living here, and life wouldn’t be as rich if we stayed separate.

While no couple ever gets together with the wish that one of them will face cancer or one will be killed while in the military, that’s part of life for some couples. But just about every one of those couples will say that the years they had together are years that they will always cherish and be grateful for (even if they wish they could have more). While no two couples are exactly alike and every couple faces challenges, with as many couples as there are that experience one partner being in the military or one partner having a terminal illness who are able to make their relationship work and last, it would seem logical that with a little effort the rest of our relationships could last too.

This Memorial Day, make sure you thank a soldier or their family, but also take time to be with your significant other and enjoy the time that you have together, as long as it is.

Choose Your People Wisely

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to honor and remember the moms in our lives. As I was thinking about Mothers Day, it got me thinking about the other holidays throughout the year, and I realized that many of them help us do something important: recognize the people in our lives. Valentine’s Day is about you and your significant other, Mother’s Day is about mom, Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died while fighting for our country, Father’s Day is about Dad, the Fourth of July is about remembering the people who founded our country, Labor Day is about honoring the people who work hard around the country to keep us going, Veteran’s Day is about honoring our veterans, and Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people in our lives.

I’ve shared many times about the importance of communication to our lives and our successes, but as I was thinking about Mother’s Day this weekend I was reminded that it’s not just about the communication, it’s about the people we’re communicating with as well. I received an email from someone the other day asking for advice about increasing the sales in their business and I gave them some advice, but either they didn’t like the advice or something because they replied back “yes, but how can I make more sales?” What did I tell them? I told them to fix the spelling and grammar mistakes in their listings (and there were many). It’s one thing to say you want help, but another when you don’t do something with that help when it shows up.

Typically, the only way for someone to change or transform their life is if they want to, they won’t usually do it if you tell them to change and they’re not interested in changing (something couples and families struggle with). And think about the last time you were with someone who you just can’t stand, what did you do after you were with them? Probably complained about them to someone else, just like you do every time you interact with them. With over 7 billion people in the world, there’s really very little reason to spend time with people who treat you disrespectfully, you don’t like or doesn’t like you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t work on fixing relationships or making a relationship last, because you absolutely should for those relationships that matter the most like with your kid’s other parent or your family. Just that life’s too short to spend much time on or spend it with people who aren’t on the same page as you. Choose your clients, coworkers, bosses, and friends wisely, every day is a gift, and it’s up to you how you spend that gift.

Ready for Responsibility?

This week I’ve been thinking about the topic of responsibility. It’s something to think about as important for both kids and adults. As adults we’re supposed to be responsible and we have to teach the next generation about responsibility as well. Some people never learn the responsiblity concept, others learn it after a wake up call like a serious car accident or health scare, and some people seem born with responsibility in there genes.

As adults sometimes I think we are sometimes so involved in doing life that we don’t think about it in terms of being responsible, or about all that we’re doing as part of being responsible. For instance, you pay your bills and go to work because that’s what you do each day/week/month, you don’t do it so you can check the “be responsible” line on your daily to-do list. You make sure your kids are clothed and fed because that’s what you do as a parent, you don’t typically do it to be a “responsible parent.” Sometimes I think we get so focused on getting it all done that we don’t always take time to consider what’s really best or most responsible in that situation.

As a parent or role model for the next generation you’ve got a lot of boxes you’re trying to cross off. You’re trying to get them educated, to be culture smart, to be able to dress themselves, to be able to tie shoes, to have some idea of right and wrong, to develop personal values and morals, to have a can-do attitude, to plan for the future, to have confidence and to be able to navigate the challenges of relationships with others, just to name a few. You teach them lessons about responsibility with putting books and papers back in their backpacks after doing homework rather than leaving them everywhere, putting dirty clothes in laundry baskets instead of on the floor, earning an allowance to learn good saving and spending habits, cleaning up dishes after eating, and even in time outs or other types of punishments for poor behavior and attitudes.

If we really want the next generation to be better leaders and people we need to make sure they understand the importance of responsibility and learn how to be responsible not only for themselves but also for the people in their care and the world we all share. There’s also time for most of the people of the world to choose to be more responsible as well, it’s not just something we leave for the next generation. Does your life need a responsibility check or do you need to work more on teaching responsibility to your kids? If you need a responsibility update, I encourage you to make time to make some of those changes this week.

5 Principles of a Successful Relationship

Today I thought we’d take a look at 5 principles of a successful relationship, as inspired by a post I saw on principles that are indicative of people who can become millionaires.  As a side note, it’s interesting that these principles can be applied in what seems like very different applications, but it’s really all about success, however or whatever you’re hoping to be successful in.

Say No: I think this is an interesting one to start with because sometimes we’re all about saying yes or ‘ok I’ll do it’ and then we get caught up in something else or just don’t have the time or ability.  You have to make sure that you’re capable of doing what your partner asks of you and letting them know when you just can’t do it all and need help yourself.

Plant Seeds: this is one of my favorite things to do with regards to relationships.  Relationships aren’t usually made or broken on one single event, it’s little things over the whole time that you’re together. It’s those date nights, it’s the moments having a cup of coffee together, it’s those walks around a park or other favorite place together, it’s the stories you share with each other, it’s the people you enjoy life with, it’s how you teach your kids together, and a thousand other little moments that all won’t be remembered, but are valuable parts that come together to strengthen (or hurt) your relationship.

Don’t Rush: I know we’ve all got tons of things to do on our individual lists each day, but at the top of that list each day should be loving on your partner.  Yes, you can do a quick kiss goodbye in the morning or quick ‘I love you’ text in the afternoon, but at some point in time during the day there should be some serious quality time between the two of you.  Maybe it’s only a couple of minutes, but for those few minutes you’re fully present with each other.

Ask Questions: my partner is really good at asking ‘what can I do for you’ and I’ve gotten pretty good at asking clarifying questions so that I fully understand the thinking or the story or the need before trying to follow through on a request (both with my partner and my clients).  Sometimes what comes out of someone’s mouth isn’t really what they want or isn’t really the issue and it’s important that you take the time to figure out what’s really going on or really needed.

Love: this is one of the most important principles of a successful relationship, because if you don’t really love each other how much motivation do you really have to make the relationship a success?  And if you have some other kind of motivation, is it really healthy or will it end up damaging both of you before the relationship ends?  So I say start with love, make love the foundation of everything you do, work on talking with love, and work on living with love.

What principles have helped you grow your relationship with your significant other, or have helped it last?