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?

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Spring Alive Together

There is nothing that says “alive” more than spring. The whole world bursts into life and color in the matter of a few short weeks. I don’t know about you, but I fully believe life is better when we live it with others. There’s so much we can learn from others, and I can’t imagine trying to do all that everyone else does around me while doing all of my stuff (like fixing cars, picking up trash, policing the area, and running hospitals). The good news is that there is plenty of life to go around.

The thing about spring that’s very evident in much of the new life is that it’s about multiplication and family. All of the new animal lives and seed growth are small representations of what should be happening in our lives too. Yet over and over we shy away from contact with other people, or at least the deep and full contact that is seen in the new life of spring.

I wonder what it will take for people to start building the relationships that it will take to make a difference in the lives of the next generation? How long it will take us to learn that together we are more than we ever could be apart? To learn that hatred and violence do not make the world go ‘round?

The more I see, read, learn and discover, the more I realize that we’re all connected whether we want to be or not. We’re connected to the earth by what we eat and use. We’re connected to each other through the thousands of invisible threads of the internet. We’re connected to the past and the future by the choices they have made and we will make. Even fully isolated from human contact we’re still connected to the earth by how we live and eat.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting the connection and start working on how we can coexist together. Let’s work on making this spring a time of growth and health for all of us.

I’m Not Tired of Love

As we close this month of love this coming week I wanted to share one more thought about love as it has to do with families, communities and relationships. Love comes with challenges and there’s always the potential to be hurt by love. But I believe that it’s worth the risk. Love should teach us many things, it should make our lives richer and more fulfilling, it should give us support and encouragement through life’s challenges, and should create rewarding opportunities and relationships.

The one thing love should not do is make us bitter, unhappy, or tired. Yes, sometimes we’ll feel that way because of other aspects of our lives, but love itself should not make us feel that way. If you really feel bitter or unhappy about a relationship that you thought was love, it probably wasn’t love, or isn’t love anymore. Love, like many other things in our lives often changes and grows and goes through seasons, some of which will be more challenging or less invigorating, but generally it should be one of the more consistently positive aspects of your life.

Overall you should be sustained through the more difficult times both regarding your love life as well as the rest of your life. Love should make us want to share the good with the world, to help others have what we have, to turn the tide from the negative to the positive. Love should inspire us to live full lives, lives that make a positive impact on each of us and the world around us.

If you’re not feeling inspired, maybe it’s time for a talk with your significant other and family. Maybe you need to get serious about what’s going on with you personally and relationally.  Maybe it’s time for some changes.  Life shouldn’t consistently drag us down, and when it does we should have the support in our lives to get back on our feet.

On the other side of that, if you’re doing well or even thriving, it’s your turn to be a support for someone else and give them a helping hand.  Everyone needs a little helping hand from time to time, and a reminder that there’s still love in the world.

An Attentive Partner

This week has been one for the books.  I’ve seen lots of examples of love, and I’m so thankful.  It seems like the world has really stepped up and embraced the topic of love this week, from galentine’s day to pet love to children love to the very traditional meaning behind Valentine’s Day, romantic love.  With Valentine’s Day being on a Thursday this year both my partner and I had very full days and didn’t really celebrate on the day of (a frequent occurrence for holidays because my partner is in both the restaurant and wedding industries).  But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t take time to express our love and remember all of the great years we’ve had together.

I know how challenging it is to keep a relationship alive and healthy, especially for a long time.  I think one of the reasons that relationships don’t last is because we’re used to how fast things change and have to be purchased and aren’t as focused on things lasting forever.  So to then switch to expecting relationships to last for years let alone decades, while we’re not commitment-phobes, it’s a big perspective switch.

Whether you’re interested in having a long term relationship or one that lasts as long as it lasts there are somethings you can do to help that relationship work well.  I talk often about the importance of communication, of course things like having similar interests and hobbies and opinions about things help as well.  The two things I want to focus on today that go hand-in-hand are awareness and attention.

Awareness and attention mean that you’ve got your senses open to your partner and to what’s going on in their life.  If you’re not paying attention to them and what’s going on in their life they may someday feel that they’re not truly wanted by you or that you don’t really care about them.  Being aware of what’s going on doesn’t mean you stalk their social feeds or scroll through their phones each night, it means that you take the time to look at them and listen to them, to know what’s going on in their life and what is affecting them.  It means sharing the little things with them, checking in with them throughout the day, and actively building memories and sharing experiences with them.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the love should end.  I encourage you to commit to your relationship anew each day, for as many days as you’re blessed to be together.  What have you learned about relationships since last Valentine’s Day?

A Little Valentine Treat

This week I bought my partner some little pint containers of ice cream. I don’t do it every week, but they were on sale this week and I thought it would be a nice treat for him (and us). We like ice cream, not as much as some people do, like my brother (he buys several gallons at a time), but a night or a couple nights each week it’s a nice treat to have. Over the past few months I’ve gotten some different kinds of ice cream and ice cream treats for my partner to try and he’s enjoyed them, which makes me feel good.

But my favorite part of all of this is when I see my partner going to the kitchen freezer. I love being in the room and hearing or seeing his reaction when he opens the freezer door. I always wait silently while he goes to look and pretend innocence when he asks me with surprised pleasure and happiness how those ice cream treats got there. I love surprising him with them and hearing his excited reactions to finding them. It’s one of the only things I enjoy about our freezer being on top of the fridge: the treats are front and center at eye level when you open the door.

It may not sound like a really big deal to you but it’s these little ways that we care about each other that make a big difference for our relationship. With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, it’s the perfect time for you and your partner to get into a habit of doing nice things for each other, and not just on Valentine’s Day but throughout the year. Relationships aren’t built on one or two days a year alone, they’re built on countless little moments, words, actions and thoughts. Whether those thoughts are positive and empowering or dangerous and hurtful determine the health, longevity and satisfaction of your relationship. What little things will you do this week to show your partner how much they mean to you and how much you value the relationship you two have?

Are You A Control Freak?

This February we will talk about couples and romantic relationships a lot, since it’s the month that contains Valentine’s Day, but today I wanted to start with something that is really important whether we’re talking romantic relationships, family relationships or even work relationships. This is a topic that most people struggle with, including myself: my way doesn’t always have to be how it gets done.

We struggle with this because we’re all secretly (or not so secretly) control freaks. We like to be in charge, direct all the action, make sure that things get done, make sure they get done right (according to us), and tell everyone what to do and where to be. Sometimes this can be a good thing because it means things will get done, but most of the time this actually hinders things getting done when you’re busy being the slave driver instead of bringing others into the team to get everything done together and letting everyone use their individual giftings to do things to the best of their ability.

I don’t disagree that you probably have some really great ideas about how things should be done, but people are a lot more likely to cooperate and work with you on getting things done (and stick around for longer in your life) if you talk with them about it and then let them help make the final decision about how they get the project you’ve given them done, what the next steps of your relationship look like, the direction their life will go in or about countless other things that could result in wins for everyone.

This week ahead I encourage you to give yourself and your partner a break and work on working together more and fighting and directing less. What small but significant changes can you make together to make this week less about control and more about cooperation?

Changes At Heart

In less than a week we’ll be in February, and we’ll be talking a lot about love. But if you know me, you know that I am a big fan of love, and anytime is a good time to love, not just February.  I recognize that sometimes love can get a little tricky. The biggest challenge is that everyone, yes everyone, changes! We don’t always like change and sometimes we want change so much but it just doesn’t happen. I’ve met so many people who say “I just want my partner to…” and then they share the biggest frustration that they have with their partner or with their relationship. Often it’s not just our partner who needs to make a change, sometimes we do too. And since change is one of the very few guarantees in life (besides death and taxes), what do we do about it?

Well, the best, but not always easiest, thing is to work with the changes that happen. You may decide that a few of the changes aren’t really necessary for you, your relationship or your family, but many of them are. So how do we approach change? Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman have some wisdom on that subject:

“When you really want change, reinforcement will come from your heart.”

When you’re really open to change your heart will encourage you to go for it. You may also have little (or big) signs in your life that it’s time and that your life is moving in that direction. The key to remember is that you’re never going through the change alone, no one is. There’s always the guidance of your heart, which doesn’t lie, and thanks to the internet, a whole world of people willing to support you (including me!).

The biggest challenge is learning how to hear your heart. As I said it won’t lie, but you may not understand what it’s trying to say to you unless you listen to it, and live by it, on a regular basis, even when you’re not going through changes.

This week I encourage you to listen to your heart on the little things and get to know how it works and talks to you. It’s a fun exercise and can really pay off in the future.

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?

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?