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?

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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?

Looking at the Good Things

Every relationship, every family, and every person has things they can work on. No one is perfect and that’s just the way it is, we’re all works in progress. It’s important to work on those issues because the issues and imperfections we’ve got can get in our way to achieving success and becoming the best person we can be for ourselves and others.

I love my partner but if I wanted I could find quite a few things to complain about regarding him, he’s not perfect, and if you asked him he would tell you I’m not perfect either. But I’m not with him because I think he’s going to become perfect or to fix him. He’s much more than the issues and imperfections, he’s a thoughtful, caring, smart, funny and loving guy.

Perfection isn’t possible, but what if we took more time to focus on what’s right than what’s wrong? I’m not saying we should ignore the bad or not good stuff, in fact something that my partner and I do ask each other from time to time is if we can do anything better or be better in some way for the other. So it’s not that we’re ignoring the issues that each other have, my partner and I are always trying to do and be better for each other, but we choose to celebrate the fact that we’re together and each day we’re able to share our lives together.

Yes, your kid may have gotten an F on a math test, but they did well on the other projects that they just wrapped up, and they’re excited about a chapter coming up in history. Yes, you may have made a less-than-perfect dinner tonight but you cleaned the house, changed the sheets, organized the toys, washed the clothes, caught up on the paperwork and bills and helped your sister pick out colors for their soon-to-arrive baby’s room. It’s not about getting everything right or being perfect, but taking the time to celebrate the good stuff. Just because your kid isn’t great at a subject in school doesn’t mean they’re destined to fail at life. Just because you can’t cook doesn’t mean you aren’t a good parent or partner. You don’t have to be good at everything, but you are good at many things.

What are you good at that you can celebrate today?

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?

Impact Big and Small

As I was thinking about the big football game happening in a few hours I was reminded of the topic of impact. In hearing the different plans that people have depending on the results of the game and about the history of the teams for winning seasons, it got me thinking about how many people’s futures are going to be impacted by the events of a few hours. No, it’s not life and death like cancer and it’s not as impactful as something like an election, but it’s still a really big deal to many people, and people are willing to put their health on the line for the victory today.

For some the events of today in the world of football mean very little or nothing to them. They don’t watch, they don’t care, they may not even know which teams are playing. And that’s OK, because what we’re talking about today isn’t really about football. It’s about the impact that each of us have on each other. Yes, today’s game will have a big impact because it impacts many people. What you choose for dinner tonight may not have a big impact on many people, but it will have an impact on you, and maybe a few of the people who live with you. How you talk to your kids will have an impact on them, how you show your partner you do/don’t love them will impact them, the way you treat yourself will have an impact on your self esteem, your self image and your confidence.

The thing is it’s these little things that add up to make a big impact. If you put one quarter in a jar every day for the next year you’ll have $36.53 which might be enough to take your significant other out for dinner. Divorces rarely are the result of one event or thing but days, months and even years of issues and buildup. People are rarely born bad, they turn that way after years of negative influences and anger directed their way. I doubt that any of the parents who have kids playing in the football game today knew the day they were born that they would end up playing today.

You can’t predict the future, but you can do your best to make choices that will give you the best big and little impacts possible. What impact will you choose to have?