Relationship Pride

This week I had an interesting conversation with my significant other which got me thinking about how we see our significant others and how they see us, and raised a question of pride. We often talk about pride with regard to what our children and grandchildren do or who they are, or sexual orientation or even pets, and sometimes it comes up with regards to how successful or helpful our company or organization is. But I don’t really think about pride in terms of myself or my partner and our relationship. I think about being thankful or happy or feeling accomplished or loved/loving or teamwork, and you probably do too. So ask yourself what I asked myself this week, are you proud of your partner and your relationship?

There’s really two questions there, the first with regards to being proud of your partner. Having someone be proud of you is empowering, it helps boost your confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. When someone else knows you’re proud of them, it gives them that power, and in some ways it’s more powerful when someone is proud of you than just when you’re proud about yourself because you know that someone else believes in you and celebrates you too.

The other question is with regards to being proud of your relationship. This might be one of the missing keys that helps keep relationships healthy, alive and thriving. When you have a sense of pride about something you care for it a little better, give it priority attention and invest in it. If you’re proud of your relationship you also want to show it off and be with your partner in private and public, developing bonds and spending time with other couples and families and generally doing things together.

If you’re in a healthy relationship, one that you really do value and want to stay in, even if lately it may have been going through a rough patch, you should find several things in and about your relationship and your partner that you can be proud of. What are you celebrating today?

Growing Beyond Perfectionism

The other day I was going through a list of things I needed to do in my head and was heading to get some tea from the kitchen and noticed a few things like little spots that need painting or things that needed a little extra help along the way that I added to my mental to do list. It got me thinking that if we really added everything we needed to do to a to do list and tried to do it all perfectly, we’d probably never get it all done. You may be able to make some great inroads, but there will always be something new to add to the list, and the more we add the more discouraged we may get which would result in even less getting done.

The same holds true for our relationships. We could constantly be pointing out things our kids aren’t doing right or what our partner is doing wrong. No one is perfect and we all have things that we do that annoy some people more than others, not to mention the things we try and fail at. So the question has to be asked: are we more concerned about appearances and perfection or are we willing to let love, trust and forgiveness prevail?

This is one of the reasons why communication is so important for families and in relationships: because you have to talk about what the lines are that shouldn’t be crossed or have to be followed. In general there should be a no abuse line, there should be a line about the importance of education and growth, there should be one about communication, and there should also be one about respect. Beyond that every family and relationship are different, and every person is different. You may have a more open relationship, or believe more in having your kids explore the world and try new things, or you may be less open than someone else. The question is are you all/both on the same page when it comes to the most important things, and willing to work through just about anything because you’re committed to loving and respecting each other?

As we enter this month that is often the topic of fears, violence and scaring others, I encourage you to consider if perfectionism is causing separation between you and those you love or hurting the quality relationships you could have. I’d rather do “good enough” and have healthier relationships than try for perfection.

Communicating Who and What’s Important

This weekend there’s a lot of talk about rest and work, how it’s important to recognize the hard work people do day in and day out as well as take a rest from doing that hard work. Work is important because it provides for our needs and often plays a role in fulfilling us on a personal level as well. Of course we can’t ignore how important work is to the existence and progress of our world because without work being done daily or on a regular basis the many infrastructures and components that are essential to our lives would quickly break down or become dangerous or outdated.

Work can be consuming, especially if you’re either completely overwhelmed by or totally in love with what you do. It’s normal to have periods of time where you have to devote more time than usual at work, but that should be abnormal and not something you do on a frequent basis. Work should be balanced with fun and family and personal time in our lives. When we aren’t making an effort to have that balance in our lives we run the risk of damaging those other aspects of our lives. Once a relationship has been damaged or we aren’t really caring for ourselves, it’s hard to get back to healthy and whole again.

Between Labor Day and all the hours each day we invest in it either doing it or thinking about it, I think there’s a pretty clear statement that work is important to us, but do we make the same statement about the people in our lives who are supposed to be equally or more important, including ourselves? Are you making healthy decisions for yourself, making the changes to your schedule to spend time with them when they’re free, creating regular events in your calendar to be with them, and especially communicating with them about how much they mean to you?

Each week we’re given 168 hours. If we sleep 40-50 of those hours and work 40-50 hours each week, we’ve got about 70 hours to devote to the people who are important to us and to caring for ourselves. Surely we can make time for a few phone calls, Skypes, text messages, coffee shop visits, dinner parties or date nights in all of those hours.

There’s no underestimating or understating how valuable, treasured and important those moments with your loved ones are. Have you told your loved ones lately that you loved them? What about showing them?  You’ll never regret making time to care for yourself, or telling others that you love them and are thankful for them being in your life.

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” Aurde Lorde

Finding Freedom as a Family

For many of us this month started off with talks of freedom because of July 4th, Independence Day. Freedom is an important topic to talk about with regard to raising kids and being in a relationship. It’s important to teach your kids about freedom, from both the perspectives of costs and benefits of pursuing it. Relationships automatically mean that you give up some of your freedoms, which is OK in a healthy relationship because what you gain from the relationship is worth more than what you may lose.

Teaching your kids about freedoms is something you can do in both reward situations and when you’re dealing with issues. One great parenting technique is to present your kids with 3-5 options in a given situation and let them choose what they want of the options you’ve preselected for them. This works well with food, with homework, with chores and fun activities. It’s one way to break through a blossoming tantrum or help both of you regain control. It also teaches the kids how to make decisions and choose what they want in their lives which is important for when they’re adults.

Freedom in a relationship often exists simply because you’re in a relationship with someone who has similar interests, passions and pursuits as you. Those shared pursuits creates the freedom to be who you each are. But since you are individuals and not identical in every way, there are some different desires you each have. When it comes to them there’s always the option to give and take or finding a middle ground. It all comes down to good communication, trust and knowing your partner to make sure that you’ve got freedom, your partner has freedom and you’re both happy and healthy together.

As much as freedom is an individual choice, it’s really a group effort because what you choose as freedom impacts others. It’s why it’s important to teach the next generation well about freedoms and be comfortable in who we are while still being willing to learn, explore and grow.  What freedoms are you working on today?

Love without Strings

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”  Wayne Dyer

I’ve shared before about the importance of letting your kids have their own dreams, dreams that can make a positive impact on the world.  But the truth is that all of us need that allowance: we all need to have our own dreams and make our own place in the world.  Yes, we can do it by fighting to show the world who we are aggressively, but when we do it with love there’s a lot more potential for us and our world, and a lot less damage to clean up and repair too.

The first place that we need more love is with our families.  It’s easy to pick a fight with them because they’re always there and we know them so well and they know us so well, but those are also good reasons to love them even more.  When we have more loving families it will be easier to spread love throughout the world because we’ll have a more stable foundation to work with.

The other reminder Dr. Dyer shares here is that no one has to satisfy you, that’s not their job or mission in life, nor should you require it to be.  If you’re not satisfied with things it’s up to you to change them, and sometimes that means changing the people in your life (note: if you change the people in your life and you’re still unhappy it’s a pretty clear indication that you are what needs to change, not them).

In this coming week I encourage you to love more, argue less, and make decisions that not only make you happy but are good for your future and the future of the world too.

Summer Family Teamwork

Whether you’re a single parent or raising your kids with your significant other I believe every parent needs to have support. They should have the support of their kids as well as the support of other adults. Recently I heard a father say a great comment to his kids as they were waiting for mom to return and then all leave for vacation. He said “OK kids, go do what your mom would tell you to do before she gets here so we can leave sooner.”

Why is this such an incredible statement? From an adult and partner perspective it’s an incredibly supportive statement of his partner, as well as a proactive one. Yes, sometimes supporting means showing up and doing what you’re asked/told to do, sometimes that’s exactly what a parent needs. But it can also mean that you take initiative and get things done for them, especially if you know how they want things done or know what things need to be done on a regular basis. This father’s direction to his kids not only shows his care for his wife, it also shows that he’s aware that she’s going to want things done before they go on vacation and that it’s in all of their best interests to get to work on that sooner rather than last minute.

The other part of this statement that has to be considered and celebrated is the importance of getting the kids involved in supporting the parent(s). Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support their kids and care for them, but part of raising kids well is teaching them how to do as much as possible so they’re prepared when it’s their time to go out into the world. It’s also teaching them good relationship skills, about how to work together as a team, and teaching them to anticipate needs and plans of others and doing your best to help out.

Summer is a great time to hang out and have fun, but it also brings some unique opportunities to strengthen and support the relationships in each of our lives. What will you do this summer to help everyone, including yourself, have a productive and enjoyable summer?

On Relationship Fights and Conversations

Summer is here and that means lots of together time! No relationship is perfect, but constantly sniping and demeaning each other in front of the kids is not only a great way to irreparably damage your relationship with your partner, it’s also a great way to damage your relationship with your kids. I’m not talking about the occasional serious conversation or minor fight in front of them, that can be educational for the kids, and it’s healthy and normal for a relationship.

If you’re working through a very stressful time (that you can see an end to in the near future), try to have those disagreements when the kids aren’t present, scheduling them if necessary. Scheduling fights and discussions sounds dumb, but it not only protects your kids and your relationship with them, it also may help you avoid some of the fights because you’ll have more time to think things through and make sure you’ve got all the relevant information instead of just reacting.

Most of us don’t enjoy fighting or arguing, and it doesn’t feel good when we’re at odds with someone we know so intimately as they know us. But if you’re constantly fighting or going out of your way to be nasty, it’s not healthy for either of you or the kids.  At that point you either need to seek counseling as a couple, or if you’ve tried that and it’s failed or it’s not something you’re willing to do, it’s time to reconsider the relationship.

All relationships have ups and downs and some only last for a short time. But most of us want our romantic relationships to last, which means the sooner we accept that things will change, we don’t know everything and the importance of listening, patience and compromise, the more likely your relationship has of being what you want it to be.  What positive strides will you take in your relationship this summer?

Giving Love a Chance

As I was thinking about the topic of love today I got to thinking about one of the greatest challenges and opportunities with love, something that we don’t always remember: love doesn’t give up. Do you believe that love will always come back for more, always be there when you turn around, always be something you can reach for, always stay with you and always be there to guide you?

Love isn’t something you wake up with one day and don’t have the next. If you do it wasn’t love. Love won’t allow you to give up on someone no matter how irrational it may seem. Love also won’t allow you to give up on yourself and your dreams. Love is here to stay.

The issue comes in because we’re so persistent in trying to keep love out of our lives or not working with love and the changes that life brings and being committed to love and our significant other. We’ve refused so many times and in so many ways to allow love to have the role it should in our lives. It’s not easy to let love in our lives, in fact it takes a lot of work, change and communication (I know, 3 big favorites for just about everyone). But when it comes down to it, love’s enduring qualities are always worth it.

Are you truly giving your love with your partner a chance? We’ve all been hurt before but hurt is part of the human experience, just like love is. But if you don’t give love the opportunity to work in your life you’ll never know the amazing blessings and opportunities you’ll have because of it.  If you and your partner need to sit down this week and talk about your love and how you’ll move forward together in your relationship I encourage you to do that.  The longer you wait to talk about it, the harder it will be to fix it and get you back to a point of thriving.

Where Have All The Date Nights Gone?

I think that the advances in communication have done some great things for our relationships. We’re able to send a short text or email anywhere at any time to our significant other and let them know we’re thinking of them or tell them what we love about them. We can also keep in touch with them and have great, long conversations while we’re on the road to and from work or if we have to travel for work. In some ways the improved communications make up for the changes in our lives that separate us as we weren’t before, since most people worked where they lived and didn’t do a lot of traveling.

However I’ve noticed a decrease in people taking time for date nights, or dates of any kind day or night. In some ways I can understand because my partner and I both work nights and often holidays as well (which means our dates are day dates). I also understand that many people are tired at the end of the day since just about all adults work now (there are fewer stay at home parents), and by the end of the day you just want a quiet evening with the kids (or by yourself with your pillow).

But just like we’ve lost much of the imagination and sense of adventure we had when we were children, in some ways I think the busyness and responsibilities we’ve taken on as adults have pushed aside our dedication to our significant others. It’s not that we take them for granted necessarily, just that we don’t invest in our relationships the same way that we used to. With all the other priorities we have (including financial and family) our relationship seems to be the one priority that we let go or put towards the bottom of the list, a fact that’s supported by all the divorces in our society.

So what if we make one small change, that we commit time alone and in person with our significant other each week, or at the very least each month. If you’re really serious about this person that you’ve committed your life to, and may have kids with and therefore would see for the rest of your life, it would serve both of you to dedicate even just a couple of hours a week to your relationship whether having a meal, taking a walk, going to a museum or doing some other activity that enables you to have quality time together.  What fun out-of-the-house time will you plan with your significant other this week?

Let’s Do it Together

There are some things only you can do, and we all have our own responsibilities.  However, I don’t believe that we’re here to conquer life alone, and there’s no reason to try to do it alone when we’ve got lots of other people who could be supporting us if only we would ask.  I believe one of the biggest reasons that some relationships succeed and others don’t and some families are so healthy and others aren’t is because they choose to do life together.

It’s the choice of a true partnership, a commitment to work together, to confide in each other, to trust each other to do what each of us do best, to help each other when we’re down, to cry together, to laugh together, to try together, to be there through thick and thin, to recognize that there will be changes and we will grow, and to commit to learning to love each other through every step of the journey.

Of course, for this to be a true partnership, a true commitment from both/all parties, it means that everyone is committed to doing good for each other, being there for each other, and not tearing each other down.  Yes, there will be some fights and disagreements, that’s normal, but no violence or hate.

Can it be a forever thing? Yes, I believe we can make a commitment to each other and have it be forever, that you’ll commit to working through anything and everything together until death do you part.  For others it can be a rock solid commitment for whatever time you choose to spend together, and when the time comes that it’s best for both of you to separate, you’ll do that knowing that you both fulfilled your commitment to each other.

Commitment is a choice, but if you choose to commit you really need to follow through on that commitment.  I encourage you to sit down with your partner and/or family and consider the commitment that you’ve made to each other, if there is one, and how you want things to be going forward.  Are you in this together?