Take Charge of Your Relationships – Family

“Family” can encompass a lot of people: mother, father, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, children, even pets. Your relationships with some or all of them may be strained, whether it’s a personality conflict or they just did something that really ticked you off. Or maybe you’re looking to enhance your relationships, get closer to some of your family members. Maybe you want to add to your family by having a child or adopting a pet.

Your Relatives
They’re the people in your life you didn’t pick: your blood relations who may or may not bring you joy. If you’re content in your relationship with them, you likely don’t need this section. But if they drive you crazy (not in a good way!) and you find yourself avoiding them, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your relationship and see what to do about it.

There are different types of conflict, and you have to decide if you’re willing to deal with it or if you want to step back. If you want to have a close relationship with family members who have certain qualities or past actions that have hurt you, then you have to learn to let some things go. While you can never forget who they are or what they’ve done, you have to accept them for who they are — flaws and all. Can you do that? If not, the relationship may not be salvagable. If your interactions will constantly be tainted by memories and teeth-grinding, perhaps you should limit your interactions as much as possible. But if you truly want to build a relationship with them, look inside yourself and think about what you can accept. It’s not about forgetting what they did or who they are — it’s about accepting it and not letting it consume you and your relationship. Can you move past it?

Your spouse
All relationships require work, but these are perhaps the most crucial. You love your spouse (theoretically). You have chosen to spend your life with him or her. Where you live, what you do, how you act — chances are they’re all affected by your spouse and the decision to be together.

If you’re at the point of divorce, I won’t try to talk to you out of it. That’s none of my business. I believe you have to do what’s right for you. But I will ask this: are you sure? Have you looked at your relationship and determined there’s no way to fix what’s wrong? Only you can answer that question, and only you can make the ultimate decision. I would just encourage you to make sure that this is what you want.

That being said, what could use improving in your relationship? Chances are there’s something. I love my husband dearly, but there are still times he drives me nuts. And I know I do the same for him. It’s just human nature. But if there’s something that truly needs changing, sit down and talk about it. Talk about what’s missing, what’s not working, what needs help. Try not to get defensive or attack your spouse. This is supposed to bring you closer, not drive you farther apart. Do you need more affection? He or she won’t know unless you say something. Do you need help around the house? Support in a decision you’ve made? Feedback on a career change? No matter what it is, talk about it. Not only will it help you get what you need, but it can also bring you closer.

The conversation shouldn’t be one-sided though. If you’ve been feeling some tension, chances are your partner has as well. Listen to what he or she says, what he or she needs. And don’t brush off his or her concerns. Listen and respond accordingly. For your relationship to work, you need to be able to give as well as take. And don’t forget to thank your spouse for actions he or she has taken that address your needs. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.

Kids

For me, I was happy with my marriage, my friendships, my relatives, etc. The part I wanted to change was becoming a parent. My husband and I wanted to have a child, and we were already trying to conceive when I decided to make changes in my life. But we had been having some difficulty, and that was very discouraging and depressing, especially when combined with my general unhappiness.There are obviously medical issues that can delay or prevent you from conceiving a child. Some can be overcome; some cannot. I won’t say that simply deciding to take charge of your life will magically make these issues disappear. All I can say is that figuring out what’s going on, and determining what you can do about it, can give you the information you need to take the steps that will get you where you want to be. When we were having trouble, we talked about our options. If we hadn’t been able to conceive, we had considered adoption. We are fortunate in that we were able to get pregnant, but it’s a fact of life that it may not have happened. That doesn’t mean we would have had to give up our dream of becoming parents. If you’re having trouble conceiving, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your options. Then you can make the decisions that are right for you and your significant other.

Perhaps, however, you already have kids — and they’re driving you nuts. Hey, they’re kids, right? True, but some kids have issues that need addressing. Accept your kids as much as possible, then seek help for the concerns that really need taking care of, whether they be medical issues or behavioral issues. Books, doctors, counselors and support groups can all help you in your goals. Just make sure the problems are actually problems — and not you trying to make your children into people they’re not. Forcing your idea of what your child should be can not only cause your child to act out and rebel, it can also cause irreparable damage in the form of a strained relationship or repercussions from actions taken while acting out.

Pets
Animals can be welcome additions to any family. They offer love and affection and even have medical benefits. From what I’ve read they can help diminish the chance of allergies in children, reduce stress, and help the elderly in finding purpose and improving quality of life. Adopt a pet instead of purchase one, and you can also help an animal in need.

Just like kids, pets need love, attention, medical care and basic needs taken care of. If you want to welcome an animal into your home, make sure you’re able and willing to meet all these needs before taking a life into your hands.

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Take Charge of Your Relationships – Friends

I can be a bit of a loner. I enjoy my own company. That being said, there are still times I want a friend to talk to or someone to hang out with. For many of you, friends are an integral part of your life, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Then there are those who want those few confidantes or cluster of friends and yet are having trouble finding them. Perhaps you just moved to a new area. Perhaps you’ve been too busy to really nurture any friendships. Or perhaps you’re just really shy. No matter the reason, you can still meet new people and form lasting relationships.

Make New Friends
Meeting new friends can be much like meeting a new potential life partner. You want to find someone you “click” with, someone who shares some common interests while being different enough to keep things interesting. So where do you look? As with everything else, possibilities abound. You can check out the night scene. You can sign up for classes you’re interested in. You can go online and join forums and chat groups in topics that appeal to you. Talk to your neighbors. Join local organizations, such as the Junior Women’s Club or Kiwanis. Join a religious establishment and talk to the leaders there about social events.

Once you’ve found places to meet people, go. It can be very scary to put yourself out there, but sitting at home by yourself, too scared to talk to anybody, will ensure you remain by yourself. If you’re shy, start small. Chat with people online to build your confidence. Perhaps some of the forums and groups you chat in have local members. If you hit it off, arrange to meet for coffee. Once you’re comfortable with yourself and what you have to offer, expand your social circle to meet other people as well. Talk with others who share common interests. Participate in events that appeal to you and will give you the opportunity to meet others who share your passions. Give yourself the opportunity to connect with others who can be valuable additions to your life.

But Keep the Old
Relationships new and old need to be nurtured. It’s not just about meeting someone, chatting them up for a bit and then calling when you need something. Friendships, just like romantic relationships, are about give and take. Be the kind of friend you would want to have. Support your friends in their times of need. Lend an ear. Help with birthday parties, support their kids and offer to help them in a pinch. Be a comedian when he or she is down. Make chicken soup when he or she is sick.

Of course that doesn’t mean to let your friends’ lives consume your own. To be a worthwhile friend, you still need to be a worthwhile person. Nurture yourself, as well, so you still have something to offer yourself, your friends and the rest of the world. As I said, it’s about give and take. Just as you would help your friend in a time of need, look to your friends when you need help. Not only will your friend appreciate being needed, it will also strengthen your bond and help you get closer.

If you find that a “friend” is not the supportive, loving person that you need him or her to be, consider his or her role in your life. Is he or she just a friend you see or talk to occasionally, a peripheral member of your life? If so, then perhaps that’s OK. Not everyone will be a close, vital member of your circle of friends. Is he or she going through a difficult time right now? That’s OK, too. Cut him or her a little slack. There just may not be enough hours in the day at the moment for him or her to really be there for you. Offer support in the hope that once things get back on an even keel, your friend will be there for you, too. Is he or she the kind of person who will come to you only when they need something, borrow money without repaying it, constantly say they’re “too busy” when you need or want something? Then perhaps it’s time to cut your losses and look for friendship elsewhere. A friend that is just a drain on your mental and physical resources without any benefit to your life is simply not worth your time and effort. It may sound callous, but with billions of people in the world, why are you wasting your time with someone who makes your life worse?

Take Charge of Your Relationships – Romance Part 2

Not everyone needs help finding someone or forming a lasting relationship. But that doesn’t mean everything is hunky dory. Maybe your relationship isn’t satisfying you. Maybe something needs to change. Or maybe it needs to end.

Note: If you are in an abusive relationship and need help getting out of it, please seek help. I am certainly not an expert in this area and would not want to give you advice that would harm you. Just remember that you are a worthwhile human being, and no one deserves to be in a relationship that is mentally, emotionally or physically abusive. You deserve better.

Making Changes
Ideally, any relationship you’re in will meet your expectations, make you feel safe and happy and bring you fulfillment. In reality, it doesn’t really work like that. As humans, we’re all different, and it’s natural that we’ll have different expectations and different ways of looking at things. There will be conflict. There will be tension. And even if you’re overall happy with each other, there will be times you simply don’t see eye-to-eye.

If you find yourself constantly being defensive or not trusting your partner, take a good look at yourself. Are you giving your significant other a chance? Are you seeing him or her for who he or she really is or are you projecting your own insecurities onto him or her? Make sure the things you’re arguing about are real — not your interpretations of what’s taking place.

If, however, you’ve followed my recommendations from the previous post, you accept yourself for who you are, and you accept the person you’re with for who he or she is. As such, you should have a pretty good idea if you get along well.  If you’re constantly fighting (as it seemed I was with my ex-boyfriend), maybe you aren’t meant to be together. If you seem to bring out the worst in each other, maybe you would be better apart. Recognizing what you really want is the first step to determining how to proceed. If you’re unhappy, even miserable, most of the time, it’s time to part ways.

But even if you’re happy with someone, love him or her and want to be with him or her, it’s not a guarantee that your life together will be all you hope. Maybe you have different visions of what that life will entail — live together or separately? marriage or no marriage? kids or no kids? buy or rent a home? east coast or west coast? focus on career or focus on family? The possibilities for conflict are endless. And even if personalities mesh well, life goals may not.

If you find yourself butting heads on major issues, sit down with your significant other and discuss what you really want. Avoid attacking your partner. Instead, explain how certain things are important to you. Perhaps some things can be compromised on. But make sure you’re not compromising on something that truly is important to you. If you’ve always wanted kids and your significant other does not, will you be happy never being a parent? Will you end up resenting your partner because of it? As painful as it might be to have these discussions now, it’s a whole lot easier than dealing with the aftermath. Many issues can be worked out. But if they can’t be, it’s better to know now. Be careful when having these discussions, though. Issuing ultimatums can just build resentment.

Parting Ways
When conflicts become too much to bear, or you simply realize that this relationship is not the right one for you, it’s time to have the dreaded talk. With any luck the person you’ve been seeing feels the same way. If not, prepare for some defensiveness and backlash.

Just remember: there is a reason you’re at this point. It doesn’t help anyone to be in a relationship that makes you miserable. Dragging things out does just that — drag them out. It doesn’t make them better. It just makes them last longer. Be firm but gentle. There’s no need to attack and berate the person you’re breaking up with. Be civil and hopefully the experience will be as painfree as possible.

Take Charge of Your Relationships – Romance Part 1

Our relationships with others can define who we are and can determine how happy or unhappy we are with many aspects of our lives. This can encompass romantic relationships, but it also includes friendships, parent/child relationships, and more.
Change for you can be just about anything, from wanting to be in a relationship, to wanting to form lasting friendships, to having a child or pet become a part of your life. As with previous posts, this is not designed to be the be all and end all of the topic, but it will hopefully get the ball rolling on some positive changes. Since this category encompasses so much, I’ve divided it into a few different parts, one for each type of relationship. We’ll start with romantic relationships and move on from there.
Romance
Whether it’s starting a relationship, altering a current one, or ending one, making the decision to change your current romantic situation can affect many aspects of your life.
Starting a Relationship
Let’s face it, there are some things that you can’t control. You can’t make Mr. or Miss Right walk down the street and bump into you. And you can’t make someone fall in love with you. But you can put yourself out there and make yourself available for the right person to find you. Before you can be ready for someone else, though, you need to be ready for yourself. Being happy with who you are is the first step toward being in a worthwhile relationship. Know who you are, be comfortable with your self worth, and know that you deserve to be in the relationship you want. An added bonus? Confidence is sexy and will make you more appealing when the right person does come along.
That being said, when you’re ready to find your second half, continue being true for yourself. If you’re not one for bar-hopping or clubbing, don’t start hitting the town to try and find your match. The people you find won’t be in line with what you’re looking for. At the same time if you’re a social butterfly, don’t look for your mate in the science fiction section of the closest Barnes & Noble. Think about the kind of person you are, the kind of person you want to meet and the qualities you hope to share. The possibilities are endless when it comes to places to meet your soul mate, and knowing what you’re looking for should steer you in the right direction.
When I was ready to be in a relationship, I realized that I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to meet men. I wasn’t into the night club scene. I didn’t drink. And I was self-employed, so I didn’t even have coworkers who could fix me up. I was a bit of a homebody, so even my friends were few (by choice). I was in a pickle. My choice? I went online. (If you decide to pursue this avenue, be careful. Don’t give out too much personal information, and arrange to first meet in a public place with other people around. Unfortunately there are a lot of crazies out there, and you don’t want to take unnecessary risk.) That was about 8 years ago now, and while it’s become more popular recently, I was still a little nervous. But online I was able to be picky about who I was and what I was looking for. I communicated with a couple of people before I met my husband. Some of the people I talked to were a little strange; some just weren’t a good fit. It actually didn’t take long for me to connect with my husband, and while I can’t say that it was love at first sight, we meshed well and the rest is history. But I would never have met him if I didn’t put myself out there or if I had looked in all the wrong places.
Meeting him wasn’t the end, though. To form a lasting relationship, I knew I had to be myself and accept him for who he was, too. Pretending to be someone you’re not, or expecting the person you’re with to be someone he or she is not, will only set you up for disappointment. Even if it got all the way to “I do,” it’s unlikely you’d be able to continue the charade for the rest of your life. And would you really want to? I can’t imagine that that would make you very happy.
So: start with accepting yourself for who you are. Think about what you’re looking for. And put yourself in a position to meet people who meet your criteria. Then, be yourself. Continue accepting yourself for who you are, and extend the same courtesy to the people you’re trying to connect with.
Now what if you’re in a relationship that needs help? We’ll go into that next…