Your Relationships: Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of year to spend time with your loved ones. But if your family life involves more fighting than laughing, your love life is nonexistent, and your friends are all busy with their own lives, you may find yourself with a lonely, awkward, or miserable holiday. How can you make it through?

Family
Hopefully, if you’ve been working on your relationships through the year, things may have gotten a little better. And the holidays can be the perfect time to make huge leaps forward as many people feel more generous and loving. When it comes to family, try talking to the people you have strained relationships with. Perhaps you can put the conflict aside for at least one day so everyone can enjoy themselves.

If that doesn’t work, you can also try simply making alternate plans. Just be careful not to slight the people you’re trying to reconcile with — that would set you back rather than move you forward. Have your alternate plans be an understandable choice: spending time with in-laws, volunteering to serve meals to the less fortunate, having a quiet day at home. If travel would have been involved, explain how you want to save money this year.

Love Life
Avoid sappy holiday movies! If you’re not in a relationship, they will likely only make you feel worse. Though if you’re in a strained relationship, they can perhaps remind you of the warm, fuzzy feelings you got in the beginning.

Either way, many associate this time of year with love, and if you’re not in a relationship, or in a strained relationship, that can be difficult to deal with. Try distracting yourself from your relationship status. Spend time with other family and friends, or volunteer to help the less fortunate. Focus on everything you do have, rather than how your life is lacking.

I would discourage you from setting up first dates for the holiday. In the event it goes badly, it will ruin your day. If you want to be with someone for the holiday, try having a couple of dates before the day hits first. See if you’re compatible before throwing them into the holiday mix.

Being Alone
If your primary concern is being alone — and lonely — for the holiday, the key is distraction. Look into local organizations who need volunteers for the holidays: soup kitchens, hospitals, etc. These places don’t close for the holiday, and may even be busier. Spread a little holiday cheer to those who need it even more than you, and you may just have a happy holiday yourself.

If volunteering isn’t your thing, line up things to do that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t gotten a chance to. Not everywhere is closed for Christmas, but even if you decide to stay home, you have plenty of options: movies or TV shows to watch, video games to play, manicures and pedicures to give yourself, baking to do — the possibilities are endless. By planning out a day for yourself, you’ll have something to look forward to rather than dread. Enjoy the day off!

While in a picture perfect world the holidays would be spent surround by those we love, you can still have a happy holiday by yourself or with others. It’s all in the preparations and expectations.

 

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Your Relationships: When to Move On

Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship – or even a working relationship – it can be difficult to determine when it’s time to cut your losses and say good-bye. Below are some general guidelines to consider if you’re trying to decide. Of course there will always be exceptions, especially in a relationship that is longstanding and means a lot to you, but if you’ve gotten to the points where you’re considering cutting ties, these guidelines can help.

It’s just too much work

All relationships require work. But if it seems as if you spend all your time trying to salvage the relationship, you have to ask yourself: what is it you’re trying to salvage? Is there still enough there that’s worth holding on to, or are you just fighting for it because that’s what you’re used to doing? Relationships should be some work — but a lot of good times, too.

All give and no take

Relationships are partnerships, regardless of who you’re in a relationship with. They are about give and take, with each partner holding up their end of both. If you’re constantly giving everything to the other person — time, love, energy, money, support, etc. — and aren’t getting anything in return, that’s not a partnership — it’s a parasitic relationship. Though there will be times, such as during crises or emergencies, that the relationship becomes more one-sided, overall relationships should be mutually beneficial. If you reach out to someone in a time of need, that person should be willing to return the favor when you’re the one in need.

You’re just not happy

If on the surface everything seems to be perfect, but underneath you’re miserable, that’s not good, either. Relationships are about more than what’s on the surface. They should bring you some kind of fulfillment – whatever that kind of relationship is designed to fill. A relationship should add value to your life, and bring you happiness. If it’s not doing that, you need to ask yourself why.

Abuse

Not all kinds of abuse are easily identifiable, though if you’re in a relationship that is obviously mentally or physically abusive – get out! You deserve better. If you’re not sure, think about how you feel when you’re with the other person. Are you afraid? Do you flinch when he or she approaches? Do you hesitate from doing things because you’re concerned how the other will react? Have you distanced yourself from your friends? Even if the “good” times make you happy, if the “bad” times outweigh them — especially if you answered “yes” to any of the questions I just asked — you should seriously consider getting out of the relationship. Seek professional help if you need it. There are many resources available to people in abusive relationships, and you shouldn’t have to live in fear. Your life is precious, and you deserve to be happy.

Your Relationships: Adoption

If you’re having difficulty conceiving, or you want to open your heart and home to one of the thousands of children looking for a family, adoption can be a wonderful way to add to your life.

Adoption is not to be taken lightly. If the child is older, he or she may have special needs or emotional scarring from previous experiences. And regardless of the age of the child, he or she needs love, support, and care — for life. Taking a child into your family means being there for him or her and providing for that child physically and emotionally. Adoption can also be expensive, and the wait time for a child can be lengthy, especially if you’re looking for a newborn.

That being said, adoption — like any other method of becoming a parent — can be a worthwhile, rewarding experience. But there’s a lot involved in the adoption process. Do a search on Google for “adoption resources” and you’ll be bombarded with websites full of information and support. Before getting overwhelmed, get started by asking yourself some questions:

  • Am I capable of raising a child?
  • Do I have the necessary income to support a child? Can I afford the adoption process fees?
  • What age child am I looking for? Race? Nationality?
  • Do I want to adopt from my own country or abroad?
  • Am I willing to adopt a child with special needs?
  • Am I willing to adopt siblings or do I just want a single child?
  • Do I want to be a foster parent with the intent to adopt, or do I only want to adopt directly?

And these are just the beginning. To really get you started, check out Adoption.com for more information and guidance in the adoption process. While it can be lengthy, if you’re willing to take on the time and expense involved, you can be matched with a child to love and welcome into your family.

 

Your Relationships: Pet Adoption

Humans aren’t the only ones we can have relationships with. Sometimes our four-legged friends can be prove to be just as valuable. Before you run out to the pet store, however, and dish out hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to purchase that precious pooch or kitty, considering opening your heart and home to a rescue.

Our dog was found in a vacated apartment, locked inside a bathroom with nothing to eat or drink except water from the toilet. If that doesn’t break your heart, his little face will. He is the most affectionate, loving dog I think I’ve ever met. All he wants is to curl up next to you and get tummy rubs. and yet he had been abandoned, starved, and was desperately in need of a loving home.

He was rescued by an organization in Canton, Connecticut known as Bully Breed Rescue. We found him through Petfinder.com, but that’s certainly not the only way to locate a pet in need of love and care. Check out your local animal shelter or Humane Society. Some pet supply stores will host pet adoption events. Browse your local newspaper for ads listing pets in need of homes. Even radio and television stations will at times host events for pet adoptions.

There are still costs associated with adoptions, which usually go toward the initial care of the animal  before you took over. The animal was likely treated by a vet, perhaps spayed or neutered, and vaccinated, plus there were boarding and feeding costs. Be prepared to dish out a couple hundred dollars to cover these expenses. And, of course, you will need supplies for the ongoing care of your pet.

Ready to open your heart and home to a rescue? Before you take that step, there a few things to keep in mind:

  • Our home was inspected before we were approved to adopt Oliver. His foster mommy visited us with him to make sure the home was suitable and appropriate. Check out your home from the viewpoint of a four-legged creature to make sure everything is as it should be.
  • There are costs associated with owning a pet, including food, vet bills, medications, and supplies. Be prepared to support that animal for as long as it may live.
  • In addition to material goods, animals need love. Don’t adopt a pet if you won’t be able to give it the attention it needs.
  • Understand that just as with human children, our furry friends can have problems. They can have health concerns, behavioral issues, and psychological scars — especially if they’re rescues. Make sure you an be patient and understanding enough to take on these issues.

And last but not least, understand that your new pet will come complete with his or her own personality. Be prepared to surrender your heart when you look into those little eyes.

 

Your Relationships: Forgiving

All relationships, whether they be between friends, family members, coworkers, or significant others, will encounter times of conflict. It’s simply human nature: two different people will not be in agreement 100 percent of the time. Some issues will, of course, be bigger than others, but the root of it all lies in the same realm. As such, you will find yourself faced with opportunities — opportunities to deal with this conflict and determine how you’d like to proceed.

A lot of conflict is easily dealt with. Slight differences in opinion, minor disagreements — easily let go, easily forgiven and forgotten. But you will definitely encounter more intense conflict, made all the more heated because it’s a matter of right and wrong – and of course you’re right.

At times like those, you have to decide: can the “wrongdoing” be forgiven? If not, can you move past it and keep your relationships intact?

The decision is ultimately yours. Depending on the severity of the wrongdoing, you may find it difficult to accept or forgive. You need to decide at that point if the relationship means more than the wrong.

If the relationship is strong, and means a great deal to you, attempting to move past it may be your preferred course of action. Perhaps having an honest conversation and trying to see things from the other person’s point of view can help. Knowing the other person’s reasoning and feelings can make it easier to forgive.

If the relationship was weak to begin with, or the severity of the wrong is very high, you need to decide if you want to put forth the effort required to salvage that relationship. With enough determination, chances are high that you can move past the conflict — as long as both parties are able to come to an agreement. But it won’t be easy.

A suggestion as you determine your course of action: don’t wait too long. The more time that passes, the harder it will be to put the past behind you. Time can leave a scar — and the effort required to salvage the relationship grows as time passes by. A hiccup in the course of a relationship — no matter how big a hiccup — is easier to move past than a days-, weeks-, months-, or even years-long span of time that ruptures the relationship completely.

And if you can’t forgive? Well, perhaps that relationship has run its course. Just make sure you’re moving on for the right reasons. Don’t let your pride interfere with a relationship worth saving. A bit of swallowed pride is easier to accept than the regrets that are sure to come.

Your Relationships: Quality Time

Now that I’ve gone back to work, the time I can spend with my son is very limited. When I get home from work, he’s already in bed. So our time together consists of nighttime feedings and a few hours in the morning before I drop him off at Nana’s house. I would love to take advantage of the time we have, but there are, of course, a million and one other things that need to be done in my “free” time as well. What’s a girl to do?

At the same time, since our son has been born, my husband and I haven’t exactly had a lot of time together either — at least not without the peanut tagging along! We’ve become parents, but we’re still a couple, too. How do we keep our relationship strong?

I recently spent a couple of hours with a friend whom I hadn’t seen more than twice in the last year and a half. Ever time we get together we comment on how long it’s been. How can I find more time for friends?

Any relationship, whether it’s mother/child, husband/wife, friends, etc. needs quality time to flourish. It’s not necessarily quantity; it’s quality. At least that’s what everyone says! But if the quality time is limited to tiny bits of time here and there, is that enough? How do we know?

I think it comes down to a feeling. Do you still feel connected with the person or do you feel like you’re drifting apart? If it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to make more time. Maybe you’re not making that relationship enough of a priority. Maybe something else can wait so you can have a little more quality time with that person who  matters.

I know my priorities need a little tweaking. I know my relationships need more of my attention. At the moment I feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions. But I don’t see that changing any time soon. So I need to make some changes. Looks like it’s time to add a new goal to the list!

Your Relationships: Communication

Every relationship we have uses communication to flourish, whether that communication is verbal or nonverbal. We communicate our wants and needs. We show how we care for those who are important to us.

A lack of communication, however, can tear down relationships in an instant. That’s why it’s important to keep those lines of communication open. If a relationship is already severed or damaged, reopening those lines can be the key to repairing the damage.

Evaluate your relationships, particular those that you want to change or repair. How are your lines of communication? Are you able to speak freely? Is there tension? Now think about the relationships you want to have with those people. Is it possible to sit down with them and discuss your concerns, your wishes, your hopes? Are there perhaps situations that may have been misread, or misunderstandings or miscommunications that caused a break in the relationship? Would discussing those situations help heal the damage?

Once you’ve made the decision to open lines of communication, think about your approach. Appearing too confrontational can cause additional strain. The purpose is to express your thoughts and emotions, but attacking the person you’re communicating with doesn’t solve anything. Instead, think about what you want to say, pause before saying anything, and try to stay calm.

On the flipside, holding back how you really feel can cause resentment or frustration. Just going along with whatever he or she says doesn’t solve anything, either – and may cause more damage as you keep your real emotions bottled up inside, ready to explode. Take a deep breath, formulate your thoughts, and express yourself. You might be surprised at the results.

Even in relationships that aren’t strained, having regular conversations to discuss your wants and needs can help keep those relationships healthy. It can also help move your relationship forward. For example, when I was anxious to start a family, I talked about it with my husband to see how he was feeling. I wanted to make sure he was ready to try, too. We discussed fears, concerns, desires, and ultimately decided to start trying. But if we hadn’t had that conversation (those conversations, actually), we never would have gotten to that point. We needed to communicate to know we were on the same page, that we wanted the same things. Even in less important matters, this is critical. Without communication, we would never know how the other person was thinking, feeling, or reading a situation. And that information is key to keeping your relationships healthy.

Your Relationships: Online Help

When you think of “online” and “relationships,” you probably think about online dating sites. They certainly put their names out there, and it’s hard to ignore them. If you’re looking for a new romantic relationships, this may be a good place to start. Heck, I met my husband online, so I can’t say they’re a bad thing! But the internet has many relationships resources beyond dating sites, from advice to quizzes to forums — for all kind of relationships, not just romantic. If you’re looking for help, there are plenty of places to find it.

General Information
When it comes to general relationship advice, tips, and ideas, articles abound. Below are some sites dedicated to relationships that can help guide you in your life.

Articles can inform you of the latest studies, offer suggestions and guidance, and encourage you in your quest to improve your relationships. There’s certainly no shortage of information! But keep in mind that every relationship is different, and that articles and advice are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining your course of action. What they can do, however, is offer valuable information that can help if you’re stuck or need some motivation.

Forums
Sometimes it can help to have objective people offer their insight on your current situation. This can help you get ideas or look at things from a different point of view. It can also help to weigh in on others’ situations — you can help others and possibly gain new perspective on your own relationships. Below are some places that can help get you started with connecting with others online:

You can also find forums by going to your favorite search engine and searching for “forum: topic” (obviously replace “topic” with the actual topic you want to discuss!).

Other Electronic Help
I think at this pint we’re all pretty familiar with electronic methods of communication: cell phones, texting, e-mails, social media. They can be great tools when it comes to keeping in touch and staying connected. But just remember that relationships are often about the human touch, and electronic methods will only get you so far. There’s a lot to be said for face-to-face interaction, and if you’re not getting enough, that can lead to its own set of problems. So get out there and see people!

Your Relationships: Meeting Your Match

If you’re ready to be in a romantic relationship, you’ll need to put yourself out there and meet people. It can be a scary idea, and there’s no guarantee you’ll end up with quality options. But I’ve come up with a list of suggestions of where to look to get you started. Just remember to be yourself! Pretending to be someone you’re not won’t lead you to “happily ever after.” And confidence will get you far: show you’re comfortable in your own skin, and you’ll appeal to that perfect person.

Online
Online dating sites are definitely growing in popularity. And the possibilities continue to grow. You’ve got paid services, like Match.com and eHarmoney.com, that promise to connect you with your life’s mate. You’ve got free services, like PlentyofFish (POF.com) and Singlesnet.com, that offer budget-conscious people a way to connect (but without much, if any, filtering). And you’ve got a plethora of sites that cater to specific groups, from religious affiliations to ethnic groups to specific ages. (Of course there are also sites that gear toward sexual, as opposed to romantic, relationships, or those looking for less ethical relationships, but I’m guessing that that’s not what you’re looking for.) To find sites, you can do an internet search or just look for ads that are sprawled just about everywhere you look.

Another online option, if dating sites are not your thing, is to connect with people in online forums and chat rooms. You can meet others with similar interests in a casual atmosphere. Just keep in mind that you may end up with more friends than romantic possibilities.

Public Places
They say a great place to meet people is at the grocery store. I can’t attest to this, but enough people have said it that there must be some truth to it! But you can also meet people at other stores that appeal to your tastes, such as bookstores. You may need to have a bit of confidence to chat someone up, but you never know who you might run into.

Of course there’s also the cliched bar scene, where you can find many singles looking to connect. Depending on the atmosphere you may find young singles just looking to “hook up,” or you may find more mature singles looking for a real relationships (and, of course, anywhere in between). Ask friends and coworkers for suggestions or do your homework before popping up at a bar that’s not what you’re looking for.

Beyond the bar, you can check out parks, cafes, the gym, and more. Open yourself up to the opportunity to meet others — just about anywhere!

Other Options
Sometimes love will appear when you’re not even looking for it. Or at least you can be doing something else while looking. Along these lines are options such as taking a class, volunteering, participating in a club or organization, and joining a sports team. The people you meet will likely have some similar interests, providing a great starting point for a relationship.

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can also ask friends to set you up on blind dates. Or you can check out speed-dating, in which you meet several members of the opposite (or same!) sex and interact for only a few minutes to see if you’re compatible. If money’s not an option, you can also look into hiring a professional matchmaker.

Think about the kind of person you’re looking to meet, and try to think of where that type of person would hang out. You never know where you’ll meet your perfect match.

Your Relationships: Starting With Yourself

You can blame the people around you for the problems in your relationships or even your lack of a relationship. It’s easy, and it might make you feel better for a little while. But it takes more than one person to be in a relationship. And guess who the other person involved is? You.
That’s why when it’s time to actually make progress in your relationships and move forward, it’s best to start with yourself and acknowledge your role in the whole shebang. Now I’m not saying other people haven’t done bad, horrible, or disruptive things, but if you’re trying to take charge of your life,  you need to start with you.
Relationship Problems
Maybe you’ll ultimately decide a relationship isn’t worth saving, or you’ll admit defeat when the other person involved doesn’t want to make the effort. Or maybe you’ll decide on a whole different course of action to find contentment. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, the changes you make to yourself and your role in your relationships will help you in the future. You’ll be stronger, more confident and capable. So look within.
OK, easy to say. But what does that mean?
  1. The first step is to stop assigning blame. Even if the initial break or current problem in a relationship was started by someone else, your reaction played just as much of a role in what resulted. And if you’ve decided that the relationship is worth salvaging, you need to adjust your reaction. Instead of just blaming the other person, think about what role you may have played.
  2. Make the first move. Don’t expect someone to make it for you. Be the bigger person and take that step. It may mean swallowing a little bit of pride, but it will also give you some control, too.
  3. Acknowledge your role — to the other person or people. Again, swallow your pride and accept some of the responsibility. Even if you’ve already admitted to yourself that you were part of it, saying it out loud will prove you’re serious.
  4. Start a dialogue. Open the lines of communication so you can really get somewhere in mending your relationship.

Ideally the person you’re communicating with will also acknowledge his or her role, and the relationship will be back on firmer footing. But let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen. The other people may not be willing to acknowledge their role in the problem. Keep trying. Anything worth having is worth fighting for.

Lack of a Relationship
Ever hear the phrase “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself”? Yes, it’s hard finding Mr. or Miss Right. Slim pickings and all that. But before you can even be in a relationship, you need to be ready. Are you happy with yourself? Do you like yourself? Do you consider yourself a worthwhile human being?

If your answer to any of those questions was “no,” then you’ve got to take care of that before you can start looking for your missing half. If you don’t consider yourself worthwhile, why should he or she?

Now if you truly have difficulty accepting your worth, then there are tons of books out there that can help you. I encourage you to pick some up and spend some time reading. I’m no expert on the human psyche. I just know that you are a worthwhile human being. You have a unique personality, and skills that are truly yours. No one else can be you. Isn’t that great? Rather than shy away from your unique traits, embrace them. Be you!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make a list of what you love about yourself
  • Make a list of areas in which you excel
  • Determine your favorites: part of your body, personality quirk, thing that makes you unique
  • Think about why you’re not happy with yourself — then find reasons they’re all lies

If there really is something you have a problem with, do something about it. A little overweight? Take charge and come up with a diet and exercise plan. Feel stupid? Read newspapers, magazines, websites, until you feel comfortable making small talk. Too shy? Put yourself out there: smile to strangers, chat with cashiers, call your friends.

It may feel awkward in the beginning, but once you’re comfortable in your own skin, then you can look outward. As your confidence builds, you can feel more comfortable making the first move, putting yourself out there, and being yourself on those ever-important dates. After all, being you is pretty great. And you should want to let everyone know it.

At the same time, make sure that what you’re talking about isn’t all about you. Just as a lack of confidence can discourage potential mates, so can an egotistical streak. Relationships are a two-way street, so make sure you balance you with the person you’re with. Don’t just talk about yourself. And don’t disregard his or her feelings. Reflect your personality, and let your date reflect his or her personality as well.