Relationships are personal, unique and somewhat unpredictable. They can be your greatest joy and your biggest heartache. The tools below are all difficult to do consistently, but practice these more often and watch how they directly affect the quality of your relationships.
1. Show up.
Showing up to a relationship may seem like a no-brainer, but there are relationships out there that simply don’t spend enough time together. They either work too much, stay too busy with their kid’s activities or stay locked into their phones or television screens. Being distracted has become more of a problem in recent years due to the technological advances of smart phones and internet TV. It is very easy to stay distracted and disconnected. However, I see this as one of the significant issues in my work with families. Try limiting kid activities to one activity per child and leave your phones away from the dinner table. Use the extra down time to look at your spouse more when he/she speaks and to ask about how your kids feel without judging their answer. Watch how quickly things improve.
2. Pay attention.
“I heard you” is a phrase many of us use when a loved one repeats themselves or asks if we were listening. I have been guilty too. However, when it comes to paying attention, it is not just active listening skills that I am referring to, but rather paying close attention to who the person is by way of their actions and words. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our “idea” of a person that we refuse to notice who they are. It is not fair (or loving) to force our fantasy of the perfect partner or perfect child on anyone we claim to love. Love is not contributing to an illusion and demanding they change to fit that image; love is being secure enough to pay attention to the truth of a person without sticking your head in the sand because you are afraid they may not be what you need.
3. Speak your truth.
This one can be confusing. Speaking your truth is not blaming others or speaking for them, but rather speaking up about how you feel and owning the responsibility of that. It also means speaking up about your boundaries without the need for others to agree with you and not judging them if they do not. It can be scary to talk about how you feel or what you think, especially if you are worried about how the other person may misinterpret what you are saying or your intentions. We cannot control other’s reactions or feelings, but only our behaviors. If living and speaking your truth does not work for another person, then they are not in a place to want to know you, the “real” you. An authentic connection is not possible if you refuse to be yourself. Therefore, the only thing the relationship is rooted in is projecting what the other person WANTS you to be, instead of who you are. Fear of showing our true selves keeps us from experiencing love and acceptance in the deepest ways.
4. Let go of the outcome.
Finally, we need to remember the result of any relationship is ultimately outside of our control. Lacking control can be difficult to process and accept, but it can also be very liberating and a more peaceful way to walk through life. If you worry about the outcome of a situation to the extent that you cannot consistently show up, pay attention, and speak your truth, you will never have the kind of meaningful relationships that we all ultimately desire. I know I will never be perfect on these principles, and honestly, that is not an attainable goal for anyone. However, challenge yourself to become continually aware of when you fall into old patterns and remember to choose to live from the strength of who you are rather than from an embedded place of old fears. Every time I remember and utilize these tools, I feel better about myself and my relationships, and I believe you will too.
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