A neighbor called and asked if she could come over. I was surprised since I had just seen her and her husband the night before. But she was such a delightful and bubbly person that I quickly and enthusiastically said yes.
When she arrived, she held in her hand a large carton of heavy Costco cream – the kind I enjoyed using in my coffee.
I invited her in, and she handed me the box of cream. “This is for you.”
The look on my face reflected my surprise and confusion. As she declined my offer to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me, I went to get my purse to pay for the cream.
What?! Thank you for runny noses, staying up all night, cereal dumped on the floor, clothes strewn everywhere, muddy feet, muddy floors, dogs and cats and garter snakes?
Yes, even with sleepless nights, worried nights, “No’s”, stomping feet and even, “I hate you’s,” there is nothing like my kids.
Through thick and thin, I love them. They are God’s special blessings to me. And especially now that I am older, I appreciate them even more and the wonderful memories of raising them to be strong adults.
Everything was going so nicely, and then life stepped in. There’s not enough money to pay the bills, the credit card debts are piling up, in-laws intrude with too many visits or too much advice, to keep my job I have to work longer hours and accomplish more.
Suddenly we find ourselves arguing more – tempers flare, anger rises beyond the norm, and the blame game begins. We go outside our marriage to talk about our spouses and get consolation, validation, sympathy, and support.
And the scene is set for more serious troubles.
In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman lays out in a practical format the seven principles for making marriage work, based on years of research and study in his Seattle based clinic, The Gottman Institute.
Communication is a skill that is learned and developed over time. When we recognize what isn’t working, we can replace it with something that will work.
We communicate all the time. We cannot not communicate. With our facial gestures, postures, words, or attempts to change the other person, we need to know how to become the type of communicator who respects ourselves and others.
Knowing yourself is vital in becoming a good communicator.
You need to know what triggers your stress buttons or emotional upsets, your fears of being hurt or looking stupid. Finding ways of dealing with adversity are often hidden from you until you are willing to accept yourself unconditionally, with both the good and the bad. When you feel okay to face your vulnerabilities you are taking charge of your interactions and your life, and that is reflected in your conversations.
“But you said. . . ”
“No, I didn’t. . . ”
“Yes, I heard you say. . . ”
“Well, that’s not what I meant!”
And so, it goes – round and round and round and we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Anger builds as each continues to dig in their heels and insist they are right, and the other is wrong. You probably have had such conversations or have witnessed them. Discussions at this point soon move into the blame game:
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you were here instead of out golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – out shopping again.”
The conversation has gone beyond misunderstanding and name calling.
We gather together with others because we find some commonality with them. We have a human need to socialize and bond. The support we receive is more than just having fun or a sense of belonging. The people we hang out with over time become a statement, a reflection of who we are, our views, values, and beliefs.
Besides the relationships we form with others, the relationship we have with ourselves and God are essential. All three are important to living a life with purpose, integrity and meaning.
Develop Relationships with Others
The relationships we formulate have a deep impact on our lives. Because of that we need to ask ourselves whether we want to commit to or remain in certain relationships.
We enter relationships because we need people. We need what a relationship can bring, such as social activity and interactions, but we aren’t always ready to work on making that relationship valuable and meaningful.
We want to be loved and accepted for who we are in spite of our shortcomings. We want to be heard and understood.
Moving in and out of relationships is not very satisfying over the long term. So, understanding what we bring to our relationships and how we communicate with one another is important.
Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments, and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues or spouses. If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: Relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t I be happier staying out of any serious relationships?