NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS ON PURPOSE
10 Relationship Secrets You Can't Afford to Miss
Updated December, 2023
Whether you’re a spouse or a parent, building resilient and intimate relationships doesn’t work on autopilot the day after you say ‘I do,’ or give birth. It’s a garden that one should happily tend to, every day of ones life. Here’s my take on it:
- Stay vulnerable, open and honest – it starts with you
- Choose trust over fear
- Embrace change, it’s the only constant
- Don’t make anyone a hostage of your love and approval
- Put people first, then money, then things
- Celebrate and support each other’s wins and failures
- Carve out regular, quality time together
- Help instead of blame
- Reconnect with yourself, when you feel lost
- Choose to see and face things bravely
1. Stay Vulnerable, Open and Honest – It Starts with You
We all want to impress or make a good impression when we first meet someone. Like the peacock or the bird of paradise. Hey, I was no different.
But there’s a line in the sand that we must be aware not to cross. Like pretending to be more interested in someone than we truly are. Suppressing our intuition or down-playing callousness or cruelty when we see it…
…Because the restaurant was just too fancy
…The car was just to nice
…The wine just kept flowing
…or the confidence was just too appealing.
I get it, but at what cost? What are you willing to pay to live out a short-lived fantasy?
So trust your gut.
You’re the expert on you. Granted we all make mistakes. We all keep learning as we grow older.
Let your relationships challenge you to speak your truth openly and freely. The sooner you practice, the better you get at it – the easier it is to trust, love, laugh and live together.
I share my personal falling-in-love story in Episode #5 of Doing Things on Purpose.
2. Choose Trust Over Fear
When you experience stress or fear in your relationship with your spouse or your children, know that we all experience it at one time or another. You are not the only one!
Get curious. Entertain the thought that it might be here to wake you up. Inviting you to grow your relationship to deeper depths.
Often we fear the imagined future. Or we see the unquestioned past that we mistake as proof that something bad will happen.
…A spouse who leaves us to go out with friends while the kids are crying
…Or children who won’t stop yelling during an outburst
It makes us imagine all sort of terrible futures that have yet to take place, while reminding us of terrible stories or past experiences that we’ve hated but never really questioned (I share my personal story in the About page of this website).
But when we stop the spiral and choose compassion, we get to see that everyone feels frightened, overwhelmed, lost and out of control sometimes. We start to see the same-ness instead of the separate-ness between us.
We begin to connect again. We begin to trust again. And only then, we’re able to give comfort and consolation to our partners and children from a place of fullness, instead of a place of lack.
Your thoughts and what you say can become a kind of mantra – the soundtrack to your life. If you don’t like the tune, it might be worth it to try changing the track.
3. Embrace Change, it’s the Only Constant
As we move through life we are in constant change. It’s a natural thing that we must learn to embrace.
Wether consciously or not, our experiences, our conversations, and our internal dialogues about our life shape us, while being in relationships – the relationship with our spouse and the ones with our children, we change and grow all of us.
one with our children., and then building and our children.Reserve mornings for working deeply, thinking, making, writing and creating things. Put your phone on silent, and in another room. Online browsing and phone checking are our greatest time sucks. Tell your family, friends, and colleagues that you have this policy, so they know you’ll get back to them later. Most things are not an emergency. You’ll be surprised how panicked morning messages often solve themselves by the time afternoon rolls around.
4. Don’t Make Anyone a Hostage of Your Love and Approval
Shower your loved ones with ‘unconditional positive regard.’
This is a concept that has moved beyond therapy, and into today’s classrooms. Alex Venet explains it as a stance that communicates the following message:
“I care about you. You have value. You don’t have to do anything to prove it to me, and nothing’s going to change my mind.”
What a beautiful statement to take home to our children, our partners and into all of our meaningful relationships. Because we’ve all just conveniently forgotten the simple truth – that we all thrive better when we feel seen and encouraged.
So ask yourself, how often do you (and the people around you) habitualize asking those you care about, to earn your love, trust, respect and approval by proving themselves to you, over and over again?
If you can acknowledge that none of us are perfect – that what we ‘want’ to be, may not be the same as what we ‘are’, at any given moment. You can find more ease and compassion when faced with other people’s shortcomings.
Take it from me. How I often wish I were more energetic, more social and more disciplined… but sometimes (or often), I fall short of my own expectations. And I have to learn to be okay with that, and to still celebrate the me, that I am!
So be kind. Treat yourself well, so you can treat others the same.
5. Put People First, Then Money, Then Things
In a society that depicts success as money- and goods-driven; it’s hard to ‘sell’ the idea that people should come first. The problem is, marketers will never sell this concept because they can’t make money from it.
Or if they can, great! I’m all for growing profit, while building better and healthier relationships.
The point is, YOU are the person most invested in your relationships at home. YOU are one that will suffer the most when things go wrong, but YOU will also receive the most satisfaction from it, when your relationships thrive.
So remember that although it’s tempting to get into arguments about money, responsibilities and rewards – if you put your relationships first, you always feel like a winner, either way.
6. Celebrate and Support Each Other’s Wins and Failures
Life isn’t life, if it doesn’t have some bitter thrown into it, along with the sweet. We’ve been taught that failure = bad. Because it sure feels uncomfortable.
But the truth is, every time we fail or think we’ve failed, we get to learn something new. We have a bit more experience. We get a little bit better at it. We learn that we can survive. And we learn that we can always get up again.
Isn’t it much easier though, to go through all this heartache, with a steadfast cheerleader by our side? Someone to brush our scraped knees, and help to pull us up when we fall? Someone who can celebrate our wins with us, wholeheartedly?
I think it’s an absolute service to humanity if we can all practice celebrating each other’s wins and failures, even when we have nothing to gain.
That to me, is ultimate unselfing.
7. Carve Out Regular, Quality Time Together
I get it, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or a working woman – you just never have enough time to do ALL the things. Parkinson’s Law tells us that work always expands to fill the time we set for it.
So unless work or vacuuming is your highest priority in this season of your life, start allocating your time differently!
☝️ Try monotasking. This means doing. one. thing. at. a. time.
Check out my Time Management Tips for Busy Parents for ideas on how I organize my time. No, I’m not perfect at it – and your system can look completely different.
Take some time to think about the types of activities that nourish the quality your relationships the most. Then, build in those activities into your daily routine or weekly schedule. If you need the structure, write it down in your calendar, or at least block out a non-negotiable time or day for it.
The consistency of rhythms and rituals in the home, can help ground us and our kids in the security of the familiar.
It helps us decompress and balance out whatever stresses we might be experiencing in the ‘outside world’ – whether it’s at work, in school or on the playground.
Some rituals to try:
- Nightly bedtime story
- Monthly date nights
- Bi-weekly cinema-style movie nights
- Family dinners
- Board game weekends
- Screen-free Sundays
- Day out hiking or biking
- Annual treat to the circus or theatre
- or simply… regular ‘wants nothing time’ with each other.
8. Help Instead of Blame
A profound lesson I’ve learned as a mother, and a keen observer of grand parents (they’re often kinder to kids than parents, and don’t sweat the small stuff) – is that it’s always more effective to get up, and help get things movin’ along, rather than to instruct, blame and shame our kids and spouse into getting what we want.
- Instead of telling the kids to stop hitting. I get up and stop the fist that’s about to fly.
- Instead of getting angry at our kids when they have trouble stopping play and starting clean-up, I spend five minutes before cooking dinner to help them get started with putting things away.
- Instead of mentioning to your spouse that, “We need to get organized for tomorrow’s early morning trip to the zoo.” I go to the fridge, cut some fruits and prepare a few sandwiches before heading in to bed.
Sometimes we’re just too lazy or too stubborn to help – sure. Which is exactly how our kids or spouse might be feeling.
But let’s just make a pinky promise to ourselves to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. Sound good?
9. Reconnect with Yourself, when You Feel Lost
As we go about our day, adding and subtracting activities and responsibilities from our to-do list, we can sometimes find ourselves overcome by a feeling of overwhelm and disconnectedness.
If we have small children or are addicted to activities like endless internet scrolling, we can often put the blame on sleep deprivation. But is it just a convenient excuse?
Because even when we have the best practices and habits set in place, it’s still normal to experience seasons of struggle, between our seasons of ease (watch Adriene Mishler share how she struggled with anxiety despite all the ground work that she’s put in place in her life).
Maybe it’s just the natural ebb and flow of life. Maybe it signals us to slow down – to pay attention to the part of us that’s been too long neglected. Maybe it signifies a change, or a shift.
Sometimes this feeling only lasts for a fleeting moment, then passes through. Other times, it sits heavy on our chest for weeks and weeks.
So we notice it. We pay attention to it. We write, contemplate, or reach out to someone. We return to ourselves through the things that fill our cup.
We learn to give ourselves what we need. And teach our children to do the same.
10. Choose to See and Face Things Bravely
Byron Katie said it best by saying that, “I love you, until I don’t.”
She questions long-held universal beliefs like:
- …parents should love their children.
- …children should love / respect their parents.
- …people shouldn’t lie.
These are beliefs that we ‘think’ we ought to have. And then, there’s the truth.
- …I love my children or I don’t.
- …my children love / respect me or they don’t.
- …people lie or they don’t.
Often, we confuse ourselves with the things that we want to hear and believe, whilst forgetting to actually see people and things, as they are.
The only thing you really have control over is yourself. Everything else is an illusion.
You might know that you love your partner all the way to the moon and back. But you’ll also never really know if, how much more, or how much less your partner actually loves you back. Is it even necessary to know?
You can always be brave and ask. But then, you would need to listen. And then, you would need to choose – to believe what is being said, or not.
Or you can choose to be happy in your bliss of loving someone simply, with no strings attached.