Archives For Relationship

anne_morrow_lindbergh“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

Sharing their lives with each otherThere 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?

ValentineIn 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.

Unspoken Expectations

November 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

expectationsA 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?


Defining Roles

November 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

roles2When 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.

Stop the cycle!

October 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

tornadoAre 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.

F.o.O. Differences

October 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

family in bedAs 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!

puzzleThink back to when you were quite young. Did your parents share the roles associated with the everyday activities in your home? How about your grandparents? What about your siblings – did you all share the responsibilities around the house or did your parents do everything for you?

Quite possibly you’ve never even thought about who did what in your family – it just always was a certain way. I had friends who grew up in a home where mom did not work and she did all of the cooking, laundry and more. I had other friends who came from a home in which both parents worked and the children helped with most of the “chores” around the house including the cooking.

Every relationship you are in has its own set of roles associated with it. Let’s face it, there are just responsibilities that accompany our relationships. Here’s a great exercise to do with the person or persons with whom you have a relationship: separately list the things you do for that relationship, then determine a time to get together to talk about your lists. If your relationship is an engagement, you can list the things you currently do and plan to do once you are married. If the relationship is between siblings or between parents and children just understand that your lists will be very different than the lists of a married couple.

When you get together to discuss your individual lists, see if there are any surprises. You just might become aware of something the other person was doing that you had not thought of. Also as you discuss the lists determine if they are mainly divided by interests and skills or by more traditional roles. Then take some time to discuss whether you are content with the current role distribution or if you’d like to see some changes.

You might even discuss a time when you could reverse roles for a certain amount of time. Years ago, my wife was the main bill-payer in our family. She would write out each check and ensure they were paid on time. Then for several years I took on that responsibility and now for the past few years she has accepted that role again.

It’s good to work through these role definitions and assignments to gain a new appreciation for the other person in the relationship.

How have you seen this work in your own life?

coldThank goodness for the Internet! If we were meeting one-to-one you wouldn’t want to be  too close to me. Some nasty head-cold-bug decided to take up residence in my sinuses the other day – similar to the TV commercials for the anti-congestion medicine – and has now decided to move a bit lower in the body. Enter the coughing and achy feelings.

One good thing is this sickness has allowed me to reflect on how it’s those small things that we often overlook that can trip us up! I’ve had people share with me their modus operandi for sickness and it usually creeps up on them when they are unaware. With me, it’s a full on frontal assault! No sneaking behind enemy lines, nor secretive bombarding from distant battleships, feeling fine one morning and that afternoon -WHAM! – I’m flat on my back.

It’s the same with our relationships – whether between husband and wife, parent & child, God and humans. It’s the little things that we tend to overlook that can make us sick or bring us down. Little things like remembering common courtesies, thanking one another daily, praising someone for all they do for you or with you, or taking just a few minutes to talk to your Creator – or spouse – or employee – or child – or ??

Or it can function in the opposite way like allowing little things to creep into your relationship that can become nightmares – like checking out that questionable website when “no one” was looking, or allowing a critical attitude to sneak into your conversation, or letting the big “I” take over and become more important than others.

We all have those little things in our lives. It’s just sometimes a “royal pain in the neck” to have to deal with them over and over again. But on the good side, hopefully like this head cold attacking me, once over it I should develop the anti-bodies that should help defend me from the next attack of the nasties. In the same way, once you work through those little things in your relationships, you should be stronger for the next chapter.

So, what nasties are you dealing with? Why not talk to someone about them today?

relationshipsI’ve been involved with marriage counseling, either pre-marriage or marriages in crisis, for more than 30 years now. My involvement began before I was even married! So I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned over the past 3 decades about relationships, marriage, family life, etc. each week.

One of the things I’ve learned is that communication is central to any and every relationship. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a married couple, an engaged couple, a parent and child, an employer and employee, friends, you & God, co-workers, neighbors, etc. – communication, good communication,  keeps the relationship moving forward. I don’t know how many couples have been in my office because they are struggling as a couple, that when I ask how the communication is between them they reply, “Not good.”

Allow me to suggest 3 ways to improve your communication in your relationship – no matter what relationship we’re discussing at the moment. OK?

1)    Sharing strengths and weaknesses. Carve out some time to get together to work on your relationship. Yes, relationships do require work! So make the time to get together and during this first meeting share what you believe are the top 3 strengths in the relationship. Then allow the other person to share what they see as the top 3 strengths of your relationship. Each must listen until they understand what the other is describing.

Next move on to the bottom 3 weaknesses in your relationship and then allow the other person to share their 3 weaknesses. You will be amazed at how just sharing those top 3 and worst 3 will open up communication. Then devise a plan to build on the strengths and improve the weaknesses.

2)    Daily dose of communication. Commit to one another to at least a daily dose of communication. And not just talk on “how’s the weather?” Talk at least daily about your relationship – what’s working, what’s not, how you can help.

Here’s a great way to start: give each other a daily compliment. You would be surprised how many people I talk to or counsel with who never hear an encouraging word for weeks, sometimes months at a time. That’s just wrong! So start a revolution and give each other compliments – every day! You will be amazed at how those simple compliments begin to work their way into other relationships as well.

3)    Create your dream list. This third exercise is a bit tougher to do, so take your time. The results are absolutely amazing, though. Here’s how it works. Separately think about the relationship, search within for the top 1-2 things that if done by the other person would speak volumes to you and take the relationship to a higher level.  Then after an agreed upon time frame, get together and take turns discussing your dream list. Because you have differing personalities, come from different backgrounds, etc. you just might be surprised at the simple things the other person is looking for in the relationship. What may seem as almost nothing to you, could be a big deal to them and vice versa.

Let me share an example from my own life of how this might play out. My wife and I did this exercise several years ago between Christmas and the New Year. And one thing I discovered is that she likes it, and really appreciates it, when I make her a cup of coffee in the morning. You see, she equates that simple mocha latte with me thinking about her the entire time I’m brewing her cup of coffee – and is truly thankful when I take the time to do that for her. See, it can be the simple things that speak volumes to another.

So there you have 3 tips for keeping the communication going in your relationships. Give them a try and let the other reads know how they are working for you.

Thanks for reading and come back again soon.