“The only real security in a relationship lies neither in looking back in nostalgia, nor forward in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1906-2001, Author
Archives For Relationship
There used to be a saying that went something like this: “you can tell a lot about a person by watching their calendar and their checkbook.” Well, instead of calendars we use our smart phone and instead of a checkbook we use a debit card on our smart phone, but you get the idea.
Where we invest our time (schedules) and our treasure (money) is fairly revealing about who we truly are. Oh, I know, people will say, “But I have to ________.” You fill in the blank.
Really? You have to? Or is it just somehow what seems important to you at this time?
Leap ahead with me into the future – you’re older and wiser. As you look back at your life, what stands out to you that you should have invested more time on or in?
Now leap back with me to today. So why aren’t you investing your time, moneys, energies into those things and people right now?!
How are the investments you’re making in your relationships working out for you? How about those investments in your spare time?
What do you need to change today?
In the States, we have several special days set aside to honor, or remember, or celebrate one another. Tomorrow has become known as Valentine’s Day – a day set aside for those in a relationship to verbalize their feelings for each other.
I’m always surprised by those who scoff at the idea of such a day. Several moan and pout that the day was most likely invented by various greeting card manufacturers, or candy merchants. They go on to lament that there should not be one day set aside to focus on your relationships for, in their words, that should happen every day.
And that’s one point on which we can agree. Every day we should be verbalizing to those closest to us some quality we enjoy seeing in them, bragging to them about the progress we’ve witnessed as they work on improving their lives, or reminding them why we first pursued them anyway. I suggest to folk who may be experiencing difficulties in their relationships to return to the basics and begin with a daily compliment for the others in their relationships – whether spouse, siblings, parents, or extended family.
And so, every day we should be singing the praises of those we are connected to. The fact remains that we absolutely stink at it! And those who offer the loudest or noisiest boasts about how a day like Valentine’s Day is a “big waste of time and money” are quite often the biggest offenders at not keeping their relationships vibrant and alive.
So let me remind you, if you have forgotten, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Do something nice for those you love. Tell someone you have a relationship with how much they mean to you – go ahead it won’t hurt.
And you just might make their day.
A long time ago I had someone speak this wisdom into my life: “If you have expectations about your relationship and never tell the other person in the relationship about those expectations, they can quickly become unmet expectations – and that can lead to animosity that should not be there.”
So let me ask you this question: what is keeping you from sharing the expectations you have for your relationships with those involved in those relationships? Do you understand, as my colleague spoke earlier, that when you do not share on that level, then you are setting up the relationship for near failure?
I’ve seen it often in my office with couples who are coming apart at the seams. Each one had their idea of how things would be once they married, had children, graduated from college, got that next promotion, etc. But often, for some reason, they don’t share those ideas, those expectations with their closest friend or companion.
Here’s the kicker: if those expectations are met – no sweat – everything’s right as rain in the relationship and they go on as if they never had them in the first place. But when those expectations that nobody talks about are not met, coupled with other expectations that are unmet, then all of a sudden the other person, job, whatever is no longer “meeting their needs” and they want out of the relationship.
And it all points back to their expectations being unvoiced and then unmet. When it comes to a marriage relationship one of the two begins “looking for love in all the wrong places.” If it happens on the job then the employee begins looking for work elsewhere. If it happens with your car dealer then you start shopping around for a new car or a new place to take your car.
So let’s make a deal. OK? Let’s stop thinking that other people can pick up on our “signals” or read our minds. Let’s begin, instead, to share our expectations with those in the relationship. I do it with my broker. I tell him, “I will give you my hard-earned, limited money if you will invest it so as to make us more money.” There’s the result that we are both looking for – if he makes more money for me, he earns more money for himself. Simple – and we both know what to expect as the relationship moves forward.
Why can’t we be as up front with our other relationships? We do it subconsciously any way. Why not take the guesswork out and help our relationships become what we thought they’d be?
When you were growing up who in your household ensured that the dishes were cleaned up after the evening meal? Who took care of the landscaping outside the house? Was one parent usually the discipline parent, or was that responsibility shared? Perhaps you grew up in a one-parent family, if so how did the everyday chores around the household get done?
Believe it or not the way you answer those questions has a great deal with how you relate in relationships. They don’t have to be dating relationships, nor marital relationships. But somewhere along the line as you were growing up you learned about who was responsible for what and those role definitions often carry over, or at least have some kind of influence, in our adult lives.
For instance, my father rarely cooked a meal. But on certain occasions he would fix a great breakfast: bacon, eggs, toast & coffee. That was his signature breakfast. Dinner – not so much. And his idea of getting lunch for everyone would be to run to the local deli or bar and snag a few Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches with a box or two of TastyKakes for dessert. You know what I mean?
The important thing to remember here is that many of us tend to copy our parents somewhat when it comes to roles in our relationships. Once you understand that this is at work in your own life, you can then become more tolerant of others and the roles they’ve chosen for themselves in their relationships.
And if you are in a dating or marital relationship, a great exercise you can do is to list the various roles you do while the other person lists the roles they do. Then think about if they align with what your parents did or not. If you really want to stretch yourself try switching roles for a week or two. That should prove very interesting.
So, what are your favorite roles and your least favorite? There are no right or wrong answers.
Are you familiar with the old phrase: “It takes two to tango”? I’ve most heard it used by couples having relationship issues and each one wanting to blame the other for the issue. So imagine someone very upset and wanting to hurt the other person in the relationship, snarling, squinting as they say: “Well, it takes two to tango!”
Here’s just a bit of what I’ve learned about that over the years. Very often in the heat of the moment when we feel we’ve been wronged by someone we realize that our “button” has just been pushed. You know that button – the one that just – gets – on – our – nerves!? How do we respond? We feel as though we’ve been attacked so we attack back and say something like, “I don’t get back, I get EVEN!”
So think about that for a moment. If that is truly what happens, and we attack back, how will the other person respond? They escalate just a bit to attack back. And so this vicious cycle is begun with each one attacking the other and escalating it just a bit each time. The levels increase and increase a bit more and a bit more until – there’s an explosion!
Once the explosion happens, the clean-up begins. There are parts everywhere to be gathered and raw feelings have been exposed. Words have been used as weapons and they cut like a broadsword. And quite often the damage done is near irreversible.
Here’s something else I’ve learned about these situations: if one of the two will just take a moment to stop the ever-building cycle, often that’s just enough time to allow a bit of de-escalation to take place and the cycle can begin to wind down. Just a simple question like, “Are you really that mad at me right now or is it the situation that has you upset?” may be just the break needed to allow both parties to step back a bit and see how quickly the situation was escalating out of proportion.
This works for every relationship – not just marriages. So, which one will become responsible, recognize the dangerous escalating cycle, and be willing to “take one for the team” by not continuing the madness?
Try it the next time you’re in the midst of a conflict and when the rage has settled, talk about what just happened. It just might save the relationship.
As I’ve shared here on other occasions I come from a family with 4 kids, and I am the oldest. We also grew up in a town with our cousins, aunts, uncles, and 3 of our 4 grandparents. So our holidays, birthdays, and any other special days were filled with family and friends, lots of food and noise. Plus we entertained people often. So if the family wasn’t in the house somebody else usually was.
My wife, on the other hand is an only child, whose father was an only child. Her nearest relative lived about an hour and a half away – if you went really fast. So her birthdays and holidays were spent with her mom & dad and occasionally with a close friend. Needless to say when we married we had to talk through the whole holiday/birthday thing.
Whether you want to admit it or not, your family of origin (FoO) plays an important role in how you think, act, and behave in your adult life. Of course, they are not the only influence, but they DO have a major influence in your life. I’ve been privileged to visit in the homes of people during the Christmas holidays and experience some of their traditions. Some have big dinners on Christmas Day, others on Christmas Eve. Some open presents on one day, others on another day. Some decorate every square inch of their house – inside and out. Others have a few simple decorations.
One way is not better than the other – just different. In many other areas of your life you will discover your FoO ways creeping in. It’s a good idea to recognize them for what they are and not to allow them to cause a rift between family members. When you see them showing up at your next event, allow that to become a topic of discussion, not arguing, for a later time.
Open yourself to new and different ways of celebrating holidays, birthdays and other life events as you talk about various FoO nuances. You just might discover a whole new world!