Relationships are very important to us as human beings. We need and want our relationships to be as emotionally healthy and happy as possible. As we live, learn and grow it is important that we understand that a relationship can only be as healthy as the least emotionally healthy person in the relationship. The reality of that fact can sometimes shock us, especially if we are the least emotionally healthy person dancing this relationship dance!
So, what can we do?
All we can do is work on our own emotional health. This post is designed to bring to your awareness a question or a consideration that seems to get in the way of emotionally healthy and happy relationships. I challenge you to look at the daily additions and see how they apply to the way you are living and growing in your relationships…all of your relationships. As we challenge ourselves, we can learn to dance the dance of relationships without stepping on each other’s toes!
Enjoy your journey…
Newest Relationship Thought:
If the cake is bad, what good is the frosting?
Taking care of your heart is a necessity when contemplating the need for good relationships in your life. Do you like who you are? When you look in the mirror, who do you see? (I’m not talking about false self-contempt – for that is a self-esteem issue.) I’m talking about facing the ingredients that make up the inside of you. Have you been paying attention? Are you measuring what you put into your heart and head? Those ingredients will have a direct impact on how the finished product (you) will be. Bad stuff in, equals a not-so-hot final product. Rather than trying to cover up the not-so-hot inside with flashy and fancy distractions, try working on the ingredients that are going into your heart and head each day.
Are you reading trashy novels, watching crime shows, listening to violence-filled music, watching more than 1 hour of news channels a day, hanging out with others who revel in gossip and hate talk, eating fast food, using drugs, watching porn…? Or are you taking in the beauty of nature, listening to uplifting music, reading the Bible, meditating, exercising, eating healthy foods, spending time with good hearted friends, filling your head and heart with the goodness that is out there if you take time to look for it.
Research indicates that it takes 9 positive things to undo the impact that 1 negative thing has on your heart. You do the math. Are you filling your life with negativity or are you actively trying to fill your life with the positives that surround you…if you spend the time soaking them in?
From the chapter of “Learning to Love Well” in Sexuality and Holy Longing: Embracing Intimacy in a Broken World by Lisa Graham McMinn
“Sacrificial living and loving empowers and gives voice to the dreams of a spouse, even if they are not one’s own dreams….Smiling at and even finding endearing the nuances and habits of one’s spouse that could otherwise be regarded as annoying or irritating is to live graciously. In doing so, marriage is lived in the freedom of grace where husbands and wives are honest about who they are and can be known and embraced in spite of imperfections. Coming home at the end of the day is returning to a place of refuge, where two people embrace, listen to, and share the events of the day, both bad and good. They nurture and accept, and are nurtured and accepted. Human sexuality, which draws us into consummate communion with another, is expressed in sacrificial loving and living.
The alternative is to live without freedom – fearful of what compromise or giving up control, or even giving too much affirmation, might cost. Instead of living in grace, couples engage in subtle battles for power, protecting themselves from being taken advantage of. Fear and habit drive much of our broken ways of relating. The models we have around us show men and women constantly taking advantage of each other, using each other, leaving each other for someone new. We are accustomed to seeing couples criticize and work to “fix” each other. To hang on to what we have; we scrutinize and criticize and control each other, fearful that if we lose control, we will lose some right or something that rightly belongs to us, including our spouse. We criticize each other for foolish words spoken in public, critique our partner’s driving route from the passenger seat, or nag each other about a shuffling walk or the habit of jingling pocket change. Coming home means bracing oneself for criticism, for the next report on how one has added to an accumulating list of disappointments. There is little freedom to relax, to be securely loved for who one is. Sexuality is distorted and, instead of seeking closeness, couples move apart. A typical response to living in an unwelcoming or unsafe place is to withdraw, to distance oneself emotionally or physically from the other.”
“The grass is greener on the other side, but it is just as hard to mow.” It is often tempting to look around and see all that you don’t have – wanting something more, someone different, something ‘better.’ More…Better…Different…just not what you have. I wonder what would happen if you took a moment and inventoried all you do have. I wonder what would happen if you took care of your grass – tending to it, trimming, caring, nurturing, feeding it? Different doesn’t mean better – it is just different – it will stay take work. Spend a little more time tending to your own grass and maybe it will start looking more wonderful. The grass may look greener, but it isn’t. It is just a different shade of green!
“Making excuses doesn’t change the truth.” The truth can be rather elusive. Often when facing the truth you are left with the realization that things will change if the truth is accepted. That can be a frightening proposition. Without the change, things stay the same and familiar – that is comfortable. If there is a change, then the unknown must be faced and things will be different – that is uncomfortable. Where do you turn? Do you work through your fears of the unknown and move forward toward the truth in growth? Or do you stay in the familiar of whatever it is that is keeping you from moving ahead toward health? Your challenge today is to look at the truth. Face it. Challenge it. Explore it. Then move forward fighting your fear/discomfort of the unknown and celebrate the reality of growth on a personal and relational level that only the truth can provide!
“It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” This little quote could be taken down many paths and many directions. Today, I think I’ll take it down the path of integrity. People often have a lot to say, but when it comes to walking the way they preach everyone else should walk, they come up short taking a different path. Do what you say you are going to do. Make sure you think carefully before you say anything at all. Then, make sure your actions match your words. That is integrity in a nutshell. You will then be a person that others can count on and trust.
“He gives the very best to those who leave the choice with Him.” Sometimes it is difficult giving up your cares and worries. By holding on to them you experience an artificial sense of control. When you worry about things, then it feels as if you are doing something about the situation when really all you are doing is expending energy in an unproductive way. The next time you find yourself worrying about something ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do about this situation?” If there is, the do it! If not, it is time to get down on your knees and pray that God will take care of things for you. Then, let him keep it! Don’t take it back! It is prayer time! God is the absolute best problem solver! All you have to do is ask for his help.
“If you are not able to make yourself what you wish, how can you expect to mold another to your will?” This quote really struck my heart this morning. I am feeling a bit heavy of heart as a result of the increased number of people who are struggling with abuse and finding their way to my office. Not a day goes by when I am listening to a heart-breaking story of betrayal, pain, dehumanizing behavior, cruelty and evil! The pain that is left in the quake of such abusive behavior and talk is heart wrenching.
If everyone would worry more about the kind of person they are and how they are showing love to all the people they interact with each day – especially their families – then I would be out of a job! What a great prayer!
My prayer today is that tomorrow I will not be needed. I pray that all of God’s people stretch themselves to exercise self-control rather than a control of others. That they strive to build others up rather than trying to tear them down. That they open their hearts and minds to the unconditional love of Christ and realize His presence in peace, joy and love. Then, I will not be needed as a therapist…then God’s love will be flowing and my joy will be immeasurable as I embrace my state of unemployment!
“People do not fail, they give up trying.” I have noticed many couples who tire of the relationship dance. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Relationships shouldn’t be this much work!” I would feel like I had won the lottery! I wonder why some people believe that relationships aren’t worth the effort? These are the people in your life with whom you share memories, traditions, your heart, your hurts, your dreams…why isn’t he/she worth your time and effort. Why isn’t this priority reflected in the effort you give to it?
I understand that with the ups and downs in life, relationships can sometimes be exhausting. But isn’t that exactly why we are in these relationships? To share the ups and (especially) the downs? As we move through life, the sharing of these things (when done right) brings a richness and depth to life that surpasses so much of our expectations.
The only time I think a relationship is broken enough to leave is if someone has already left the relationship. In the case of abuse, adultery, emotional infidelity, addictions, etc. a person is often working on the relationship all by himself/herself. In those cases, it is difficult to work through problems unless there is true repentance. I find that many who find themselves in these types of situations fight to even convince their partner to care. In those cases, I do not believe a person is giving up. Then, it becomes preservation of the self that God has gifted to you.
“To belittle is to be little.” Gossip and put downs really shed a light more on the person speaking than the person being discussed. Watch your words. Understand your motives. Contemplate your heart. Sticks and stone do break bones and words do hurt – a lot! Make sure you shine brighter with a heart free of the burden of gossip, judgment and criticism.
“The peace within becomes the harmony without.” Inner peace is one of the best things you could bring into your relationships. Our world is so full of ‘busy’ and stressors that finding a moment to be quiet and breathe is difficult unless you are intentional. God tells us of how important it is to “remember the Sabbath” and that we need to “be still” and know that he is God. These loving instructions direct us to the importance of shutting off the business of our daily lives and to focus a moment on our creator and the truth of love he so graciously gives. God knows that the inner peace he provides removes all of the stressors in life, renewing our hearts and minds. When you are freed from stress, you don’t bring so much baggage to your relationships. Your relationships will then be filled with much more harmony, peace, joy and love.
“Be careful how you live; you may be the only Bible some people read.” Need I say more?!
“If there is anything better than to be loved, it is loving.” People often visit my counseling office because they long for more love in their life. They experience a profound hurt as a result of the void they genuinely feel. It is amazing however, how much of the void can be filled if you just turn your focus from getting love to giving love. When you take time to learn to love yourself as God loves you, the automatic result is a bubbling up of this love from inside of you. It can’t help but spill out all over everyone else. I guarantee you will be ‘feeling’ more love!
Good self-esteem is when you learn to love yourself the way God loves you. He sees you – all of you – the good and the not-so-good parts. He sees all of you and still loves you passionately. So much so, that He can’t get enough of you. You know, since this is God’s love for you, what makes you think your opinion of yourself is more important than His? When you can love all of yourself and take care of yourself that way, you will then enjoy the benefits of a good self-esteem – God’s genuine love for you!
“I should know myself better if there were not so many of me.” Does changing the hats of your different relationships cause you stress? That can be the case if you aren’t careful about making sure that your true character never changes from one role to another. Mother, father, co-worker, manager, teacher, leader, sister, brother, son, daughter, lover, friend…you should always be a person of integrity and character. Then changing your hats becomes much easier because you are not changing “YOU.”
“Consider wherein you agree with your opponent rather than wherein you differ.“ You can sometimes become so focused on your own thoughts, feelings and position that you fail to be able to see a point of compromise. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Standing there, you may find that you have something valuable to learn. At that point the middle ground will become easier to see.
“As long as man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.” How many times do you sabotage your life and relationships with behaviors that are contrary to your values, goals, dreams…? Do you know what baggage you are bringing into your relationships? If not, you better figure it out so that you don’t start tripping all over it and getting in your own way! I’ve always said, “If you have a heartbeat, you have baggage. To live happily in your relationships, you better learn how to carry your baggage gracefully!”
“Happiness is not a reward – it is a consequence.” Wow! This one really says a lot! To be happy is a consequence of living your life deliberately with purpose and meaning and focus on your relationships. When living with integrity and commitment, then your relationships will be much more complete and happiness will be the result. True happiness is always found in relationships – “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” That describes the ultimate happiness – it says it all!
”Sing your song and your whole heart will be in the singing.” It is amazing how great life can be when you live your life with purpose. Days are often times smoother, nights are often filled with better sleep and relationships are often times more fulfilling because your needs are being met on your own. So…what is your purpose? Your “sweet spot?” Your personal song to sing? Get in touch with your passions. God filled your heart with passion for things that may be a hint as to what your personal song is all about.
“The brightest blaze of intelligence is of less value than the smallest spark of charity.” Sometimes it seems that people can fill their head with a lot of knowledge and a lot of information with the hopes that they will experience a full life. Although ‘knowing’ is a good thing, feeling and experiencing relationships and connections are much more fulfilling. Are you investing yourself, time and energy in your relationships?
When my day is going badly, how do I let others know? Do I scowl? Do I yell? Do I throw things? Do I pick fights? Do I sulk? Do I retreat and avoid anyone else? Or do I kindly share that I had a very stressful day. Telling my loved ones that it isn’t anything about them, but rather how things went during my day. Then, ask them for forgiveness and grace as I need to put myself in time-out.
Integrity – Do my words and actions match? Am I living a life of integrity where “do what I say and not what I do” is a phrase I never need? Do I walk the walk or am I only talking the talk?
Every relationship is my opportunity to bring God’s love into the world today. Today, I will take a bit of time to honestly learn about myself and especially myself through the eyes of others. Am I living true, in a way I can feel good about what the world sees through me?
Honesty – Some of the most difficult truth to bring into light is being honest about myself. Am I genuine about who I am and what I do? Am I open to hearing loving criticism in search of self-growth and relationship repair? Do I know myself well enough that I can communicate my needs with love and grace? Am I self-aware enough to let down my guard so I can hear what you have to share with me? If not, I need to spend a little time with myself and figure out what is going on in my head and heart.
Humor – Can you laugh at yourself? When you make a mistake, a slip-up or generally just look silly, can you laugh about it? Or is your humor centered on making someone else the focus of your laughter? If so, you may be hurting your relationships. Laughing at someone is different than laughing with them. This is definitely a case where it is important to follow – not lead. Unless, of course, you are laughing at yourself!
Tolerance – often times, my intolerance is as a result of my own unresolved hurts, fears or challenges. To be tolerant means that I give up these things and I become open to the fact that others have ideas, thoughts and beliefs that may be different from my own. It doesn’t mean that I have to agree with another’s position. It just means that I give up the need to be “right” and my hurts, fears and challenges do not move me to judge or criticize others for their ideas, thoughts and beliefs.
Faithful – Commitment is an important part of relationship. Am I consistently trustworthy and loyal to others? How about to myself? Am I firm in my beliefs or do I waiver, giving into the pressures of culture, friends, co-workers and/or family? Being firm in my beliefs does not mean imposing them on others. It means living my life with integrity where my actions match my words so that others can count on me for consistency of character.
Forgiveness – I need to give up the need to change the past and the people in my life. When I hold on to the hurts and the hopes, wanting relationships to be different than they are, the pain in my heart continues. To forgive does not mean I forget. The hurt still happened – I cannot change that. Forgiveness does not mean reuniting. I do not have to open my heart to further pain. Rather, forgiveness means that I give up my right to see justice and healing today. It means that I can accept where people are and I am willing to move forward with or without them. I may still have grieving to work through, but I will free my heart from the pain of bitterness and anger.
Insight – I need to learn about myself so that I am more aware of how my behavior and choices have an impact on my daily relationships. What am I bringing to the table of relationship? What do I say and do that gets in the way of genuine love and care? As I know more about what I bring to the table, I am able to set “me” aside to be open to hearing you. When I hear you, I am open to being more present in our relationship.
Hope – Life is often times very difficult and challenging. Sometimes the heaviness of the realities in our world seem overwhelming. How do I stay focused on the reality of hope? How do I work through my struggles? Am I sharing hope with others in my life or am I contributing to the heaviness?
Sensitivity – Do I pay attention to those I come in contact with everyday? Do I try to be aware? I know I can’t read anyone’s mind, but I can recognize a tear, a frown, a worried look, a smile, a brightness in their eyes… When I see these things, how do I show them that I care?
Can I be happy for someone else when good things come their way? Or, am I filled with envy, regret and irritation that it isn’t me enjoying the blessing?
Empathy – Is compassion experienced in my heart. I may not know what is like to lose a child to cancer, but I know sorrow. I may not know what it is like to be abused by a loved one, but I know fear. I may not know what it is like being abandoned in love, but I do know pain. When someone I care about is experiencing the heaviness of life, do I engage my heart and join them for a while?
Patience – When I take the time to see others with an eye of compassion, I am able to be more patient. When I take the time to see others with an eye of care, I am able to be more patient. When I take the time to see others with an eye of thoughtfulness, I am able to be more patient. But, when I see others only through the lens of my experiences, I set expectations that are usually impossible for them to meet and my patience seems to disappear. What am I expecting from others today which may be getting in the way of me patiently meeting them where they are and seeing them for who they are?
Seeking Justice – Life isn’t fair. I know that! But, what am I doing about it? Am I actively looking and seeking for ways that I can bring a little more justice into the world? When I see injustice in my everyday life, do I call it what it is? Do I act upon it? Or, do I sit back and watch – hoping no one will notice and maybe it will just go away! “I can’t get involved…I don’t live there…it doesn’t concern me…it isn’t any of my business…what goes on in their house is their business…” can be poisonous words when someone needs our help. Do I seek justice for others, especially if they need power or a voice?
Kindness – Kindness is made up of many good things…compassion, thoughtfulness, gratitude, generosity, gentleness, concern, regard, respect, tenderness, etc. It is what pours out of me when I am eager to show another that they are loved and that I care.
Gratitude – Am I grateful for the lessons of my life? Do I look to the past and feel regret or have I held myself up in an honest reflection, looking, taking ownership and growing with all the lessons I have had the opportunity to learn?
Peace – Am I experiencing peace of heart, mind and body? Peace is realized when we can rest in the reality that we aren’t in control of very much at all. Peaceful existence translates into peaceful relationships. Am I bringing peace to the table of my relationships?
The grass is always greener…I am exactly where I need to be right at this moment. I do have dreams, goals, desires…but I do not spend all of my time worrying how I will get there. I also do not live fretting about my past and living my life with regret. I’ve studied then learned the lessons as life has presented them. I do not spend all of my days looking over the fence at the color of my neighbor’s grass. It is beautiful and very green, too. It is a slightly different shade of green, but it needs to be water, mowed and weeded just like mine.
Am I a human being or a human doing? How can I expect to experience loving relationships if I am living a busy, hectic, scattered, worried, frazzled, unsettled life? Instead of always trying to do, maybe it is time for me to just be.
Perseverance – Things that happen to me will change me, but only God defines me. Is there someone in my life that I am allowing to define me through their actions or words? Do I allow this encounter to bring me down? Or am I focusing on what I know to be true – God’s unconditional love for me?
Am I able to give my love with no expectations? Or, when I love are there strings attached making my love conditional? When God’s love fills my heart there are no conditions. I am then free to love without fear or hesitation because the greatest love is already mine.
Humor – There is a difference between making a good joke about myself or using someone else as my target. Humor is a funny thing! If I am not careful, I could hurt someone and then is it really all that funny?
Love your neighbor as yourself. Do you love yourself? If not, how much love is really going on? Is there a difference between self-love and being selfish? When we begin to see ourselves as God does (both the good and bad), love can’t help but fill us, bubbling up and spilling out to all we meet.
Self-control – Do I enjoy a peaceful balance between what I can control and what I cannot control? Am I exercising self-control instead of trying to control others?
Honesty – Am I being honest in my relationships? I don’t mean just speaking the truth (although that is important) but am I being my genuine, honest self? Do people see who I really am in my daily actions and behavior?
When was the last time someone saw the love of Jesus’ my eyes?
How do I handle it when someone’s opinion is different than mine? Anger? Frustration? Irritation? Annoyance? Intrigue? Curiosity? Excitement? Joy?
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…in my little corner of the world, what has loved inspired me to do lately?
If someone is driving me crazy, why am I letting him/her have control of the steering wheel?
A healthy relationship can only be as healthy as the least healthy person. Which one are you?