This week, we take a closer look at what can be some of the most challenging, yet rewarding, relationships we ever experience in our lives: family, children and spousal relationships.
Like us, most of you tend to be ambitious and motivated individuals. And contrary to many perceptions, this means you are also desirous of having loving and caring relationships—and you usually do. In other words, the qualities you possess related to growing, improving and being your best in business are also great qualities to have in any relationship. Interestingly, a frequent occurrence for the entrepreneurial, self-motivated individual in relationships is the tendency for mates and family members to balance each other out. If you tend to get overly excited or have strong opinions, you might find those closest to you balance that by backing off a bit or being more conservative in their opinions. For example, this might come into play in regards to disciplining your children. When one parent is being especially strict, it might be the other parent’s inclination to feel the need to nurture more. Or if one is having an “anything goes” type of day with the kids, then the other parent may then desire more structure. The same can be true in how it relates to your work. When you really pour it on or are extremely focused, you might be met with less motivation or support from your family. This can be extremely frustrating for both sides—you feel unappreciated and they feel left out. The reality, though, is that you are appreciated and they are not left out, but sometimes things move too far out of balance and a reaction occurs.
So the key point for any of you driven, motivated types in regards to this scenario is to not let things get too far out of balance. Your heart might be at home, but you are at the office. So, in order for your significant relationships to truly be successful, you need to invest your heart, head and time into them. As you do this, you will receive the support and understanding that will help you create the results you are seeking in your business life.
Special Audio Bonus! John Gray, the author of 15 best-selling books, including Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, goes Beyond Mars and Venus and gives fresh advice for building lasting, loving relationships, and offers ways to effectively manage stress and improve relationships at all stages and ages.
Have a great week and enjoy the journey!
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The N.J.W Blog
Relationships, Part Two—Family and Spousal Relationships
This month, we are exploring the secrets of successful relationships and seeking to understand what the ingredients to healthy relationships are. Ultimately, one person caring about another represents life’s greatest value. We will look at four main areas:
Basics of Healthy Relationships. There are certain fundamentals that, if mastered, will take you down the road of healthy relationships. The key to understanding relationships is that relationships involve people. And while every person is different, there are general principles that make most people tick. If we understand these basics or fundamentals and operate accordingly, we can make our bad relationships good and our good relationships great. We covered these basics last week.
Family and Spousal Relationships. The primary relationships most people have are with their family. Yes, that wonderful enigma we call family, those deep and meaningful relationships that can bring the highlights—and the lowlights—of life. That group of people, many of whom we didn’t even get to choose, who will walk through this life with us. Your family relationships must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship growing and flourishing. We will discuss how to have great family and spousal relationships today.
Friendships. Second to family, friends are the most important relationships we have. Friendships are unique because they are the relationships we have that are almost entirely voluntary. You don’t get to choose your parents or your siblings, but you do get to choose your friends. So many times, we find these relationships provide matchless dynamics not found in our other relationships. These can, in their own special way, enhance our other relationships, making these friendships especially unique. We will take a deeper look into successful friendships next week.
Business Relationships. Many people don’t understand how powerful relationships are in business. You’ve heard me say it before, but you cannot succeed by yourself. It is hard to find a rich hermit. So many times, we underestimate this unique dynamic and the potential it has to take us to new levels in our businesses. We may understand that family and friends are about relationships, but mistakenly think “business is business.” The fact is, even in business, relationships rule. Think for a moment about two salespeople: one is a friend and one you’ve never met. When it comes right down to it, you are most likely to buy from the one you know. That is the foundation of relationships. In two weeks, we will look at how to have great business relationships.
Last week, I gave you some of the basics of healthy relationships. This week, I want to review five of the eight basics and apply them specifically to the relationships we have with our spouses and children. We will take love, a serving heart, honest communication, patience and fun and give you specific examples of how to apply them to these very important relationships.
First, however, a word about relationships. People are not perfect. I am certainly not perfect. As I mentioned in last week’s e-mail, relationships provide both the best times and the hardest times we experience in our lives. With that in mind, as I go through these, understand there is room for growth. If you have had broken relationships in your past, while unfortunate, it is OK. We can move forward. We can experience reconciliation and restoration. Life does not have to end for us. Hopefully what happens is that we learn and grow and make our next relationships healthier and more secure than those before. This week, as we look at these aspects of relationships, keep that in mind. It isn’t how perfect you have been in the past that counts, but how well you can do now and in the future that will provide you with the kind of relationships you are looking for.
In each of the following, I will make specific comments for both healthy relationships with your spouse and your children. My assumption for the sake of this lesson will be for children under 18 years of age. Later in this edition, though, I do have a note for those of you with adult children about how to make the most of those relationships. Now, let’s get started.
Spouse—You have probably heard the old joke about the man whose wife says to him, “Honey, how come you don’t tell me you love me anymore?” And he answers, “I told you I loved you when we got married and that has never changed.” Well, it doesn’t work that way! We can’t assume that our spouse knows—or feels—that we love them. Part of marriage is making sure we are continually expressing love to our spouse. Several years ago, a best-selling book discussed the idea that we all have our own unique “love” language. That is, people are more able to interpret your love better when you “speak” their love language. For example, your spouse may respond best when told verbally that you love him or her. Verbal affirmation may be their primary love language. Another love language is time spent with the other person. You may tell your spouse that you love her, but what she really wants is for you to spend time with her. I would encourage you to pursue this idea more. The book I’m referring to above is The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. I would encourage you to pick it up and read it.
Children—Love is the greatest gift you can give your children. This world we live in can be so mixed up at times, and with the tenuousness it often gives off, our children need the absolute, unconditional love of their parents. So much of what children grow up to become is based on the love they feel and experience from their parents. The love of a parent is foundational for developing healthy, well-rounded children who grow up to be healthy, well-rounded adults and productive members of society.
A Serving Heart
Spouse—As I begin to approach the later stages of life and look back not only on my own life but also at the lives of others with whom I am involved, I see more and more the need for a serving heart to be central in the life of anyone who is or is going to be married. Unfortunately, all too many people marry with the idea that the other person exists to make them happy. In reality, when we get married, we are making a commitment to serve the other person. Our hearts must be selflessly devoted to that principle if we are to make it work. Imagine what a powerful marriage it would be if each person made it their first commitment to serve the other. Now this only works if both make that commitment, otherwise one person feels taken advantage of. But when both people come from the perspective that they are going to devote their life to the other, watch out!
Now let me give you a word of caution here. When I say each person devotes their life to the other, I don’t mean that a person should lose their identity or compromise the essence of who they are to the other person for the “sake” of the relationship. We must each bring our wholeness, our talents, our uniqueness of personality and giftings, because that is vital to a healthy, successful relationship. You’ve heard me say , I’ll take care of me for you and you take care of you for me. It’s the subtle balance of respecting and loving myself enough to take care of me for the betterment of a relationship. When I’m a healthy individual, how much more can I bring to and invest in a relationship than if, as I said earlier, I am wrongly looking for someone else to make me happy? So take the time to invest in caring for yourself and bringing the best of you to a relationship so that you can pour all your joy, caring and uniqueness into the other person. What a miraculous process to engage in, and what an incredible gift to give to not only the other person, but also to yourself!
Children—One of the best examples we can give to our children is one of service. Are we willing to serve our children? When they are very young, the choice is an easy one—we feed them, change their diapers, etc., because they are completely dependent upon us. As they get older, though, imagine the impact we can have on them and the example we set for them when we are willing to serve them and look out for their needs. Now, here again, when I say serve them, I don’t mean that you should do everything for them, thus fostering helplessness in them. But when they ask for our help or the opportunity presents itself for us to selflessly serve them in ways that teach them to serve others, we should capitalize on these moments. You heard me say it last week, but I strongly believe that one person caring for another represents one of life’s greatest values.
Spouse—If you are married, you know how difficult communication can be (even if you aren’t married, you know this!). Life can get pretty busy, especially when you have children. Soon your communication is reduced to things like, “What’s for dinner?” and “Who’s picking the kids up from soccer?” If we aren’t careful, that becomes the bulk of our communication. In fact, the deepest conversation you may end up having is, “We should really sit down and communicate sometime.” No, a couple must make it a habit and a practice to spend time together regularly to communicate on a deeper level. Some good ideas I have seen work well include a “date night” where the couple gets a sitter if necessary and they go out every week—or two weeks, etc., it doesn’t matter as long as it is a regular occurrence. The key here is to schedule time when you can open up to your spouse and talk about all of the meaningful things that would otherwise slip away in a busy schedule. This is so important! Don’t neglect to connect with the person you love and invest the valuable time to continue cultivating potentially one of the most rewarding relationships in your life.
Children—Communication is key for children, too. Unfortunately, the status quo is often a caricature of a busy dad hiding behind his paper as his son asks to spend time with him. Kids need to talk. They need someone to listen. They need our time. They need honest communication. They need adults who will tell them the truth about life and how it works. Kids will learn about life one way or another. The question parents need to ask themselves is whether they want their kids to learn about life from them or from someone else. We need to do more than prepare our enterprises for the challenges of the future. More important, we need to equip our children to face the challenges of their future. If you talk to your children, you can help them keep their lives together. But even better than that, if you talk to them skillfully, you can help them build their future dreams. Taking the time to communicate with your kids is key, especially communicating love to them. Never underestimate this powerful foundation.
Spouse—As I mentioned in my opening comments, people are not perfect. They make mistakes; they blow it. Sometimes they might purposefully do wrong things. I don’t know why this is, but it happens. This is why we must have patience with people. If we can’t have patience with people, we are bound to be less able to develop long-lasting and healthy relationships. This is especially true with those in our families. Think about it. If a friend starts getting on your nerves, you would probably just wait until he goes home. But not so with your spouse! You live with them! This is why patience, combined with communication and love, is so important.
Children—As we all know, we need a lot of patience with children! They start out knowing virtually nothing about the world or how to do anything in it, and as parents, we are given the task of teaching them s-l-o-w-l-y, it seems, how to do things! Kids can ask a million questions, and just when you think they are through, they ask a million more. And the funny thing is, once they learn how to do things, all of a sudden, they act as though they were born with the knowledge and they don’t need us anymore. Yes, it requires a lot of patience, but let me assure you they are worth every ounce we can give them. They bring so much joy into our lives, and, yes, eventually they come to realize they aren’t smarter than us after all—though they don’t realize it until about age 25. So be patient, and know that all of your hard work will indeed pay off in the end.
Spouse—Do you remember how much fun you had when you were dating? Lots, wasn’t it? Then life happened—work to do, mortgages to pay, children to raise. It is easy to forget to have fun with your life partner, but this is so important! We should spend and create some fun times with our spouse in the midst of the work. One specific way I would encourage you, especially the men who read this, is to make your fun times just that—fun times. When you go on vacation, leave work at home. Make it fun. Spend time with your spouse and family. Have fun and relax. Enjoy yourself. Then, when you get back to work, you can work as hard as you want/need to.
Children—Kids are all about fun, aren’t they? They always want to play, or wrestle or do something fun. Unfortunately, sometimes we adults take ourselves too seriously, let the cares of the world weigh us down and find it hard to play with our children—to “let our hair down,” as the saying goes. Well, let me encourage you to spend some time just having fun with your children. There are times you must teach, and there are times you must discipline, but there is equal need for you to have some good old-fashioned fun with them as well. They will remember and cherish those memories for a long time.
A note for those of you with adult children: Here is my best advice for keeping your relationships with them healthy.
Don’t support them financially. You can support them emotionally, and you should, but eventually they need to go support themselves. The root of most dysfunction is often over-dependence on others. When someone is 28 years old, they should already have at least a few years on their own. Anything less, and you hinder their development as healthy, self-sustaining people.
Keep your nose out of their business unless asked. That’s right. They are adults now. They aren’t children. If you did your job right while they were growing up, they should be fully capable of living life out of the wisdom, knowledge and skills you taught them. It is their life to live. If they ask you for advice, then tender it in humility. The worst thing you can do in your relationships with your grown children is to try and control them and second-guess their decisions.
Love them and treat them as you would adult friends. They aren’t children anymore. They are not 8 years old. Your relationship has evolved. You should interact with them the same way you would with your best friends now. Yes, they are still your children, but the way we interact changes as they get older.
Reach out to help them with their children. You remember how hard it was raising kids, don’t you? Well, now you can not only help them, but you can involve yourself with your grandchildren and make a significant impact in their lives as well! Be a proactive grandparent. I guarantee that if you call your children and offer to watch their kids while they go away for the weekend, they will take you up on it. They will think you are the hero, and you will have another cherished opportunity with your grandkids!
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
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