One day last week, a reader said they enjoyed reading my thoughts on relationships. This is one of my favorite topics because it is the one I have struggled with the most. When I tell people that, they often laugh and say “Yeah, right!” But it is very true. Keep in mind that people who you believe have no struggles with building relationships are those who have the most. We have simply been good at hiding it.
Many people possess the gifted ability to see things inside relationships that are meaningful, positive, and absolute. They inherently know these components need to be fed and how to successfully accomplish these tasks with ease. I am not one of them.
I can look back on my childhood and identify certain things that may have contributed to my lack of relationship skills. One that stands out above the others is being taught to apologize, but never being forgiven by the person teaching. This is not to cast blame on anyone because I sincerely believe we don’t often think about teaching forgiveness while teaching humility.
This is one of the many regrets I have about raising my own children. I did the same thing to them because that’s what I knew. Only now that I stand back and watch, read books and genuinely try to engage in learning about relationships have I discovered that one small, yet giant strategy, can I begin to take on deeper, more meaningful relationships.
I honestly believe that because I did not receive (or perceive) forgiveness, I overcompensated by trying over-abundantly to create happiness for others. I suppose that when I see someone smile because of something that I’ve done for them, it fills the void of not having the feeling of forgiveness.
Another important aspect of having meaningful relationships is being a good listener. Only in recent years have I learned to listen and focus on what the other person is saying without thinking about a response while they are still talking. I have always wanted to be heard, but I have had problems throughout my life with listening.
I continue to catch myself doing this with my children. It’s not because I don’t want to hear everything they have to say, but because I want to solve their problems for them. I know in my heart and mind that I cannot solve their problems, so why don’t I just listen? That’s really all they want from me at this point in their adult lives. They want me to acknowledge and sometimes validate them. Yet I continue to find myself stopping them in mid-sentence to offer up unsolicited advice. I’m working on it, kids. I promise.
Communication in relationships is of core importance. We cannot communicate effectively without listening carefully. Having exposed my historic lack of listening, I can tell you I am a much happier person now that I have learned to listen because I can communicate much more effectively with the most important person in my life: my husband.
Relationships between spouses are more complex than any other. Communication is the most important component of any marriage. How we speak to one another determines how the relationship evolves. In the beginning, we are happy-go-lucky and have fun experiences to discuss. However, once children are introduced into a marriage, topics change. If a couple will commit to initiating a “Priority Communication Chart” and stick to it, they will find it much easier to navigate the relationship with children.
When we have children, life suddenly takes a turn that is exciting, unexpected and, if we are not careful, detrimental. Mothers instinctively draw close to their children and fathers often feel left out of her emotional support and the closeness they once shared. Wives who become mothers must be very careful not to forget the most important part of their relationship: their partner. Practice writing and utilizing the Communication Priority Chart and make sure your spouse (I’m speaking to both partners) knows they are the most important person in your life. That is what you promised when you said your vows and this is the point in life when those promises are tested. Communicate in love.
There are consequences to not communicating well. Divorce is the heaviest of them. However, there are other unintended consequences of making children the priority of every conversation. What happens when the last child leaves the home? What happens when you look at your spouse and have nothing to communicate because the last of your priorities has just flown the coop? Take time to know one another throughout your life. If you fall off track, find your way back and make time to discover who you want to be post-children.
Practice listening, sharing and forgiving in your relationships and although there will always be frustration, you’ll never be disappointed.