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.

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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?

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?