Relationships. Two of my daughters (Emily and Stephany) and I recently had a killer discussion about relationships – not just romantic relationships. We went deep – delving into what we thinks makes any and all relationships work, as well as the things that keep them from working.
Deep waters for a Wednesday afternoon walk, but it kept our minds off of the heat.
We all agreed that treating others with kindness and respect were pivotal ingredients of a healthy relationship. All three of us love nothing more than laughing, so we immediately agreed that any relationship without humor is… well… headed nowhere fast. As for the romantic relationships, we agreed that putting the other person needs ahead of your own is VITAL.
We also hit upon something else that I thought was pretty key.
I told my girls that I’ve been getting A LOT of e-mails lately from mothers who are either experiencing an “empty nest,” dreading the “empty nest,” or are learning to make the adjustment from small children to the young adult variety.
I’m not sure what this surge in sad moms is attributed to, but my heart goes out to my fellow madres.
First of all, I have to say that (with all due respect to anyone who uses or has ever used the phrase “empty nest syndrome” – I hate that expression with a peculiar hatred). For one thing, most of the time the so-called nest is still occupied by one or two parents…. often a cat or dog…. sometimes all of the above – at any rate, this does not an “empty” nest make.
More importantly, it doesn’t make an “empty” life.
I think that when someone feels emptiness in any area of their life, they should fill it. Often it’s not the nest that’s empty – it’s the life. At any rate, I have future articles planned for this very subject, with lots of tips and tricks of the trade to help these parents make these transitions with grace.
It’s so much better for all involved!
The reason I bring these particular parents up at the moment is because many of them make a perfect illustration for another key element in relationships.
Here’s a scenario (mark it down, it’s happening somewhere in the world even as you’re reading these words): A mother is left at home while her husband is off at a ballgame. The kids (who once would be watching television or making lovely noise that fills the house) are now suddenly on dates, at school, or out with friends.
When everyone comes home, they’re met with an icy stare and an attitude hiding a broken heart. When they finally get her to speak (occasionally it takes a while to break the ice), she hits them each right between the eyes and nearly knocks them to the floor with what has become a potent weapon: Guilt trips.
Naturally, nothing good comes from it. Instead of curing the ills of one person, suddenly the whole family is miserable. The problem is the husband and, especially the kids, have no point of reference.
Too often, all of us expect the other person or persons to understand how we FEEL – when that’s next to impossible… they’ve never been in the peculiar situation we’re in and have no point of reference.
It’s foreign to them, so asking them to “understand” is nearly impossible. Everyone winds up frustrated and – in the end – the one who started the ball rolling wishes with all their might they’d just held the ball. Sat on the ball. Swallowed the ball.
The same goes for the father who has worked hard to pay for his tools and rides his son extra hard to put them back, gently, where they belong. The young son doesn’t have a point of reference since he hasn’t had to work hard and save for something as nice as the tools his dad now treats so carefully.
The dad can blow up (and many do) but, in the end – what does the son wind up thinking, “Hot head! Why doesn’t he just chill… they’re tools for crying out loud?!”
No point of reference.
How about the wife who loses patience with her husband because he doesn’t want to “talk things out?” She’s accustomed to talking until her lips are numb with her mother, sisters, and friends. What’s his problem? Males don’t grow up “talking things out” – guess they’re too busy saving for, buying, and standing guard duty on their tools. (Sorry, guys – much love to you and your tools.)
I’m not saying that when we’re hurt we should keep a lid on it. No, no, no, not even close.
However, I am suggesting a few things:
- Before giving your emotions a voice, let the emotions come down a few decibels. If you speak when you’re angry or hurt, the words that come out of your mouth aren’t the words you’d “sign off on” if you were in your right frame of mind. You’d want to edit the heck out of them. Angry words are stones hurled at relationships.
- Sometimes, if you give your emotions a little break (by watching a baseball game, taking a shower, taking a walk, visiting Mayberry with Andy Griffith…) – they’ll be much more reasonable when you call upon them to testify.
- Even better, often if you give your emotions a much-needed break, you’ll find out that what you thought was worth blowing up over actually doesn’t even warrant a mention. Your relationship will remain intact and you can save your “anger card” for a more appropriate time.
- If, after the break, you feel that your emotions need to be heard (and often this is the case), do so in a manner that your point will come across rather than your anger or pain. Don’t go on the attack. Doing so will only cause the other person to throw up every shield and response mechanism they can find. Then a fight is more than likely to go down. Then, make no mistake about it, your point is toast. You are instantly public enemy number 1. Anyone who happens to be caught in the crossfire will see you as little more than a public nuisance as well. Be calm. Be reasonable. Be mature. Be an adult.
- Take selfishness out of the equation. If you’re feeling ignored, put upon, over-worked, slighted, etc – ask yourself, “And when did the world start revolving around me?” Some of the things people get bent out of shape over remind me of 5 year olds on a playground. “She said this!… He isn’t letting me have the ball!… She won’t play with me!….” Kids on a playground don’t think of the other kids. They think of themselves. They don’t think, “I bet he’d love to play with this ball. I’ve had it for a long time, I’m going to let him play with it.” Adults should be capable of thinking outside of the parameters of self. We don’t always do it, but we’re more than capable! Relationships require mature individuals thinking about the other person as opposed to just thinking about themselves.
- Every now and then ask yourself if you’re a fun person to hang around! Do you look for the good in life? Do you look for the good in people? Do you like to complain and moan a little too much – so much so that it’s become a habit? Do you love to laugh and, if you can’t find a reason to laugh, create a reason?!
- Show the people you love that they’re the people you love.
Relationships. Think about the word over the coming days. The relationships in my life are my riches. I value them more than a cat values her next meal, more than a girl values her cellphone, more than a boy values his X box, more than a baby values milk, and – yes – even more than a man values his Sears tools (If I knew a great brand, I’d use it – I could walk out to my husband’s toolbox and check the name written on the handle, but I might trigger the alarm system…). Relationships are more valuable than gold but, unfortunately, they can also be more fragile than glass.
You’ll do yourself the biggest, grandest, most supreme favor ever if you’ll begin treating your relationships with this in mind.
- What’s said cannot ever be unsaid.
- What’s done cannot ever be undone.
- People usually forgive but they never forget.
- Every word out of your mouth paints the picture of your reputation and pens your autobiography.
- Be the person you’d want to be around. If you’re a wife, be the sort of wife you’d want to have. If you’re a husband, be the sort of husband you’d want to have. If you’re a daughter, be the sort of daughter you’d want to have. If you’re a son, be the sort of son you’d want to have. If you’re a mother, be the sort of mother you’d want to have. If you’re a father, be the sort of father you’d want to have….
- Keep in mind that the other person may not have a point of reference. They aren’t trying to mistreat you or cause you mental anguish – very often, they simply don’t understand where you’re coming from. If you aren’t conveying the message in a way they “get,” the fault isn’t entirely theirs. Make your point, but please make sure it’s worth making first.
- Remember, it isn’t always about you. It really isn’t.
- Remember, sometimes it is about you. Contradiction? Not really. (Read the article on the other side of the link!)
I want you to have the best life possible – filled with the happiest days and nights imaginable. I know that this isn’t possible if you don’t start treating your relationships as the valuable treasures they are. Please don’t take people for granted and please don’t ever, ever treat them as though they just don’t quite measure up. The people you love deserve so much better than that.
When it comes to relationships, when all’s said and done: You’ll wish you’d said less and done more.