Spousal Relationships are Special

One of the most common mistakes couples make is forgetting that being a spouse comes with certain responsibilities, responsibilities that are not requisite in any other relationship. Spouses have a responsibility to revere each other above all others, to support each other and to accept imperfections. That doesn't mean that you are obligated to live with abusive or destructive behaviors but it does mean that you stop expecting more from your spouse than you do from yourself.

Your spouse is your most intimate relationship and all too often we take that closeness for granted. Instead of treating each other with respect and loving sensitivity, we often become critical and demanding. We can become so intent on trying to control or change our spouse that we neglect to look at how our own negativity and bossiness is the cancer eating away at a once happy marriage.

Those things that once attracted you to each other can become the focus of contention in a relationship where selfishness and a need for control are present. Perhaps you once admired his relaxed, non-judgmental nature but now you call him lazy and become irritated with his laid back life-style. Unconditional love cannot exist in a relationship where one or both partners are critical of the other.

Begin today to become your spouse's advocate instead of his/her critical parent. If you have differences, air them in private, never in public and never in front of your children. Voice your thoughts by using "I statements" instead of demeaning or criticizing each other. Remember, every word you speak and every action you make should be to benefit the relationship, not to gain control or dominance over one another.


Healing Difficult Relationships at Family Gatherings

"I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." -- John Wesely

Fences rest on borders, and are the responsibility of both parties. Mending a problematic relationship is much like mending a fence. Waiting for the other person to take responsibility for their share of the mending is to place yourself in the role of the victim and to deny yourself the joy that comes with taking the first step to heal a broken relationship. No bruised ego or hurt feeling is worth the pain of realizing that you have waited too long to mend your fence; and yes, it is your fence too.

Strained family relationships are easy to forget about the rest of the year but during the holidays they have a way of getting right in your face. Too often instead of doing what we can to improve or mend those relationships we put our energy into either avoidance or defensive behaviors; neither of which turns a negative situation into a positive one.

This holiday season make a commitment to do your part to mend a fence with a friend or family member. Take the high road and become the leader instead of a victim. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

• Recognize and acknowledge your part of the broken fence. How did you contribute to the negative outcome that you are experiencing now? When reconciling it is important to remember that both parties feel slighted and both feel relatively blameless. When you approach the other person approach with the attitude of acknowledging your role in the issue. Pointing out their role will only fuel the fire. No one likes another to point out their shortcomings.

• Apologize. This isn’t the time to rehash old feelings. It is the time to put old feelings and slights behind you and to do what it takes to make a fresh, positive start. Apologize for your part in the issue and apologize for not coming forward sooner to make amends. It doesn’t matter who started it. It matters how you end it.

• Listen. Remember that the other person didn’t come to the party with reconciliation in mind. They haven’t prepared ahead of time so they may begin to bring up the original issue. They may feel the need to express how hurt they have been over the issue or the estrangement. Just listen. Let them vent and realize that their feelings aren’t a reflection on you, they are just feelings. Be compassionate, forgiving and most of all, be patient. Then acknowledge their feelings by letting them know how sorry you are that everything happened the way it did. Don’t attempt to correct or change their feelings or memory of the original event.

• Share your feelings of love and forgiveness. Instead of rehashing old wounds, share your positive feelings about the relationship and the other person. Let them know how much you want to start fresh and to create a happier relationship. Remember that positive words promote positive outcomes and negative words will keep you stuck in the pain. Repairing old fences requires fresh timber. The old, broken timber is burned and forgotten.

• Be patient. Rome was burned in a day but it wasn’t rebuilt in a day. Hug and be pleasant during the family gathering but allow time to take its course and mend the relationship fully. Continue to do your part by staying in contact the rest of the year.

Don't let pride keep you from letting go of your self-righteous anger. Mend those fences today, because today will never pass by this way again.