It’s the week of appreciating relationships, and show those we love how much we do indeed care. One of the best things we can do for our relationships -- parental, sibling, marital, friendship -- is to feed them. What, exactly does 'food' for a relationship look like? I’m no expert, but a couple of suggestions:
Laugh together. A recent study out shows that the relationships that endure, the ones that make it through the tough times, are those wherein laughter occurs Those that laugh together, then, stay together, but not just at funny shows, or books, but through genuine interest and joy found together. Finding joy, finding a reason to enjoy a moment or idea, finding humor together … this is one of the fundamental elements of a rich and deep relationship.
Do things you are both/all interested in. Yes, this means you will be compromising. Yes, this means you will not always get your way. You will not always get to do exactly what you want, nor will the others. But I can promise a happy middle ground can be reached, and you will enjoy the activity together. Be it a trade-off on your vacation plans, or making concessions for the weekend's events, meeting each other halfway (or somewhere nearer to the middle rather than each end) not only shows respect for the wants, interests and needs of others, but also allows for a rich discussion as you discover what it is the other is interested in, why, and look into why that might interest you as well. (read: you are never too old to learn a new trick.)
Explore things. Do new things together. Go to new places, learn new skills. Referring to the suggestion above, sometimes, your compromise might be you do one of your things this time, and the next it'll be the other's turn. Or perhaps you'll all head off in an entirely new direction. Regardless, learning and discovering new things together is a bonding thing. And bonding over bonding things is a good thing.
Talk. Discuss. No monologueing. Communication is a two-way street; it is not a lecture, not an interview and most definitely it is not a filibuster. Remember this: sometimes you have to stop talking and listen, with your ears and with your heart. You are giving ideas, and getting ideas, and actively listening. You are open and receptive. You are not holding/reading/looking at an electronic device. In fact, best is if all devices are in another room entirely. Focus on who you are talking to. This is an important person! This is someone you want to spend time with, learn new things about, and share who you are with. Connections come from communication. You can learn new things even about people you've known a long time, and spent a good deal of time with. Beyond your adult relationships, open communication is essential for your relationship with your kids to continue to grow as they do; their interests, friends and other relations, and every-day occurrences vary so hugely that continued interactions are vital to knowing what is going on in their lives. Every day to them is so OMG!; you need to get in there and keep up or you will fall to the wayside. Especially as they grow, the more two-way it is, too, the more likely you will be able to avoid the dreaded ‘teenage angst’ and fights about privacy and intrusion and slamming door fits. (and, really, who doesn’t want to avoid that?!)
Every day, no matter what, show appreciation. By actively showing appreciation, you reaffirm – to yourself, to your person, to the world – the importance of the relationship. No, this doesn't have to be a physical gift. It can be an appreciative comment (not in a lewd construction-worker sort of a way, although a well-played wolf whistle can go a long way toward boosting another’s ego). It can be whatever you feel demonstrates best how you feel: a note, a touch, a hug, whatever. It can be as simple as a hand on the back to show how much you like that the person is there. My kids love when they get a one-arm hug when I pick them up after school. Full hug, they are too cool for, but they are usually really excited to see me and have news to share about their day. Best part is they still lean in when I do this; I know the days of their enthusiasm to see mom are probably numbered.
Fight well. Yes, relationships with others aren’t always complete bliss. You will undoubtedly argue, butt heads and mess up. You will undoubtedly be angry at one another. Fighting well doesn't mean you won't fight, but rather that you don’t use words to deliberately hurt your person, and though you may be angry, you make an effort to see their side of the situation as well. "You" statements typically don't make for good communication as they are accusatory and make whomever is receiving the statements feel defensive and attacked. Just because you are angry at something does not mean you don't like the person; it's important to remember that and to convey it. Making the effort to fight well is an important sign that you are carefully considering their feelings, and that you respect what they have to say. You can feel worried or angry and still not be inflammatory.
You can't be someone else's everything. One person cannot possibly fulfill every social need for another; it is impossible to fit into that mold. No parent, no spouse, no friend, can be another’s One and Only. Why? Because if you feel as though you are then you are trying too hard to fit into someone else’s mold of what is Ideal (capital I). This is why you are surrounded by so many amazing people; the more people you meet and befriend, the more you hopefully realize how much value each person brings to your life; each person contributes some many little things. One can never have too many friends.
Remember that taking care of your relationships also mean taking care of you (yes, I’ve said that before). Me-time is important, folks. Me time feeds YOU, and without you, there is no ‘us’ so … take time to take care of you, too, so that, in turn, you can give back to others.
Appreciate your people. Appreciate what they bring to your life. Appreciate your relationships. Make the most of your minutes. You’re not promised tomorrow.