It was an awesome time in Franklin, Tennessee with new friends who traveled there from across the United States and Canada. It was my first face-to-face group event from Dan Miller’s Eaglepreneur group. Not only did we experience camaraderie, but it spurred a question we all need to ask. “Are you hanging out with the right friends?”
As we develop relationships with others, there are three qualities to look for: courage, curiosity, and calling.
The right friends are courageous
Since writing “Beyond Messy Relationships” I’ve been more aware of what resonates. I’ve been encouraged by most acquaintances, family, and friends. But there are a few who’ve left me feeling discouraged.
Of course, not all who’ve known me over the years are target readers for my book, Beyond Messy Relationships. Yet, it was a message I had to write. It was risky to be vulnerable. To practice what I’ve written motivates me to take deep breaths of AIR: Awareness, Intentionality, and Risks.
The group I met with in Franklin are not perfect people. But they are courageous friends. Our being together and hearing each other’s stories encouraged us all to be courageous.
The right friends are curious
We met at The Sanctuary, what Dan and Joanne Miller have named their dwelling. I was compelled to read Joanne’s book, “Creating a Haven of Peace.” Of course, I was curious about her’s and Dan’s 51+ year marriage. How did they create magnetic peace in their home? Why did others gravitate to this couple?
Everyone has a story. And it’s easy to make assumptions and make up stories in our minds about others. But when we take the time to be curious, we connect. And we become more aware of ourselves. We allow others into our lives and create sacred space between us.When we take the time to be curious, we connect. Click To Tweet
Curiosity is the opposite of judgments and assumptions. It’s a remarkable gift to ourselves and others when we take deep breaths of AIR with attitudes of curiosity.
The right friends tune in to their calling
My new friend, Teresa McCloy is an Enneagram expert. After our Eaglepreneur group event, I participated in her Real Life Process Retreat. When I heard her story, I was touched by her clear calling. Figuratively, she breathes life into others and helps business owners tune into their purpose and calling.
Are you hanging out with the right friends? Or a better question might be this. Are you the right friend with attitudes of courage, curiosity, and calling?Be aware, intentional and risk growing toward curiosity, courage, and calling. Click To Tweet
Your friendships may not be from across the United States and Canada. It doesn’t matter whether our friends are local or long-distance. But it does matter that we are aware, intentional, and take risks of growth. (Notice the acronym AIR?)
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Maya Angelou
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It’s a continual process to balance how to be a soulmate without losing your soul. It takes attitude changes and pressurized reality to learn how to balance between “we” and “me.”
When we travel by plane, we’re used to hearing the flight attendant’s safety instructions. He or she usually says something like this.
“If there’s a loss of cabin pressure, the panels above your seat will open, and oxygen masks will drop down. . . Be sure to adjust your own mask before helping others.”
If we attempt to help others before adjusting our own mask, we may end up passing out. Then we can’t help anyone. We need to take that same advice for our relationships.We need to care for our own soul-needs before attempting to care for others. Click To Tweet
It takes attitude changes to be a soulmate
Marriages are like a pressurized cabin at various times. They are not so even-keeled. We experience turbulence and high altitudes. Storms and fair weather affect our differences. Our ears pop. The ride gets rough. We’re required to stay in our seats with seatbelt securely fastened at times.
Early on in romance, our differences are exciting, novel, and energizing. After marriage, and sometimes before, our differences can become outright annoying. That’s when they can escalate into major conflicts.
Other life transitions expose the soul storms of a marriage. Raising children, career development, loss, and core differences create turbulence in life. But we can get beyond messy marriages.
Many Christian couples vow, “The two of us are one.” It doesn’t take long to realize one or both are subconsciously saying things like this.
We two are one. And yes, I’m the one.
Or, in a patriarchal or what some consider a “biblical” marriage, a bride may live her life like this.
We two are one. And, yes, he’s the one.
As years go by, both lose opportunities to develop their character. They lose their individual selves as well as the relationship. One of them becomes invisible. The other one gets caught up in self-delusions. Neither has insights into their own souls.
Neither one attempts to adjust their own oxygen mask. They’re too busy trying to improve, fix, or help the other. They become bitter, resentful, angry and resistant. Their world gets smaller. They become stuck. Or, figuratively, they pass out.Life transitions expose the soul storms of a marriage. Raising children, career development, loss, and core differences create turbulence in life. Click To Tweet
It takes pressurized reality to be a soulmate
It takes two to honor each other and respect one another’s differences. And it still takes two to do that in a relationship. Here’s points to consider.
- Conflict is necessary for personal and relationship awareness.
- Don’t avoid it or run from it.
- Don’t criticize your partner or try to win them over to your side.
- Instead, be open. Listen to understand. There are more than two ways to resolve a conflict.
- Seek counseling or outside help to resolve resolvable conflicts. And to adjust to unresolvable conflicts.
World-renown researcher, Dr. John Gottman, gives us clarity. Sixty-nine percent of happily married couples have unresolved conflict. The difference between the “masters” and the “disasters” are this. The “masters” are the ones who adjust and accept their partner’s differences. The “disasters” allow perpetual resentment and negativity to grow.
Here are ideas on how to adjust our own soul mask
- Do breathe deeply when you feel reactive, irritable, angry, or triggered by your spouse. Slow down. You’ll get clarity when you do.
- Be curious about what’s going on inside of you. Ask yourself, “What’s unfinished in my life? Why did this situation or comment make me feel this way? What is the meaning I created from that interaction?”
- To increase self-awareness, reflect on this question: “How is my spouse experiencing me?”
- See your spouse as a gift from God. When you do, you can develop an attitude of thankfulness. You’ll nurture your soul and grow your character. Be willing to accept your spouses’ issues as helping yoube more understanding.
The cabin pressure of your marriage will change. Those oxygen masks will drop. Always adjust yours first. Balance the “we” and “me” in romance and marriage. Your beautiful life is worth keeping your soul intact.
I’m writing more on the steps for balancing the “we” and “me” in romance and marriage. So, let’s stay in touch in the meantime.
For now, sign up for updates and preview on my new book
One thing you must know about marital growth is this. There’s a difference between closeness and intimacy.
We’re all designed for relationships. We may be single, married, widowed or divorced. But when it comes to marriage, there’s one thing you must know about marital growth – the difference between closeness and intimacy.
We desire to be loved by another human being in spite of our flaws. Yet we balk at knowing and being known. It’s risky because our spouse may not accept us. As a result, we keep an emotional distance to hide our vulnerability. Or we’ve been authentic in the past and it wasn’t worth it.We desire to be loved by another human being in spite of our flaws. Click To Tweet
Marital Growth Can Heal Our Childhood Pain
It’s during our early experiences that we learn how to protect ourselves from pain. We learn ways to hide our real selves. The ways we hide keep us from being intimate in our marriages. Here’s an example.
I learned to hide my vulnerability when I was “held back” in the second grade. Our family moved in the middle of the school year. I had difficulty reading at grade level. A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder didn’t exist then, and while I was diagnosed as an adult, it didn’t stop me as a child from believing something was wrong with me.
“You’re eight and only in the second grade?” kids would say.
“Yes,” I said trying to make light of it. “I was held back.”
“You flunked,” they laughed at me and pointed their fingers. “You flunked,” they said over and over again. I wanted to hide. And I learned to keep my past a secret. Instead, I pretended to be a year younger than I was. It was too painful to admit I “flunked.” As most children do, I chose to hide. I learned to keep my distance from people who would cause me pain.
We all need to grow beyond our childhood pain. A growing and partnered marriage is the way to do it. Otherwise, we fall into stagnation and mediocrity. But we long for energy and vibrancy.
Marital Growth Needs a Healthy Dose of “Closeness”
An example of being close is cuddling up on the couch with your loved one. As a couple, you’re watching a Netflix movie or an episode of your favorite TV show. You share a bowl of buttered popcorn. Physical touch between the two of you adds warm fuzzy feelings. It doesn’t take effort for either of you. It’s easy and comfortable.
To clarify, closeness could be:
- Enjoying time on vacation together, whether it’s a cruise or a camping trip.
- Having fun during a shared activity.
- Comfortable silence between husband and wife.
- Predictability of routines.
- Finishing the sentences of another.
- Knowing what the other wants on their pizza.
Being close because of shared experiences is a vital feature of marital growth. Yet, every marriage needs to be intimate. And I’m not talking about sex. Here’s what I mean.
Marital Growth Needs a Healthy Dose of “Intimate”
Most people think of intimacy as sex. But that’s not all it is. In some cases, sex is the opposite of intimacy. It can be a facade for real intimacy. Close physical connection through sex can be like super-glue for married couples. But it’s not enough. Authentic knowing of another comes through vulnerable conversations.
Here are examples that can apply to either spouse.
When a wife tells her husband she’s attracted to a male co-worker, she’s being vulnerable. As partners, they could be stronger by breaking the power of secret attraction. But she also bears the risk of rejection, insecurity or judgment. The husband could accuse, misunderstand or resent his wife. Even though she chooses integrity, he may reject her vulnerability.
But when her husband welcomes her internal struggles, they can strengthen their union. They can show up as partners for each other. And it takes two to do it.
Vulnerability plus acceptance equals intimacy. Trustworthiness increases. The marriage grows a stronger bond. They know each other’s weaknesses and have each other’s back. Intimacy invites partnership between the two. They both fertilize their unconditional love for each other. They grow through intimacy.
Intimacy in dating is seeing the other person as worthy of dignity and respect. It’s honoring the other’s differences. Resist the attitude of “what can my girlfriend do for me” to “how can I honor her?” Choose to nurture a friendship before a romance. Be willing to grow through relationship.
Intimacy requires two people in the relationship to choose to be real. One may pave the way for the other, but both are willing. Reciprocity is key.Intimacy requires two people in the relationship to choose to be real. Click To Tweet
Marital Intimacy Is:
- Leaning into giving and receiving love when you’d rather run away.
- The confession of a shameful past to allow the other to forgive.
- Saying a heartfelt, “I’m sorry” without the “but” or “if” words.
- Letting go of bitterness, resentment, or cynicism.
- Being willing to risk comfort and choosing to live in truth.
Remember, a growing and partnered marriage needs both comfort and intimacy. Our risk of intimacy and acceptance by our spouse helps us overcome the pain of childhood. When we reciprocate, we can grow our marriages with energy and vibrancy.
Questions to Ponder about Marital Growth
How are your relationships close?
What does the word “intimacy” mean to you?
What do you think of with the word “vulnerability?”
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Some of us dread gathering with extended family on Thanksgiving Day. Rather than focus on gratitude and enjoying the meal, we end up feeling like roasted turkey. But it doesn’t have to be that way when we learn how not to be a turkey on Thanksgiving.
Holidays are strong reminders of the way things used to be. We gather with those who know our quirks, history, and points of irritation. Relationship patterns are so automatic that we don’t realize our part in creating the mess.
Even the anticipation can be stressful. We’re uncomfortable with reminders of loss. Divorce, death, or manipulative relationships can make the tradition of gratitude difficult for some and unbearable for others. We think thoughts like, I wished we could just skip these next six weeks.Relationship patterns are so automatic that we don't realize our part in creating the mess. Click To Tweet
Thanksgiving can trigger our grief and negative thoughts. Emotional and mental energy depletes us from the warm fuzzies of gratitude.
Here are six practices you can do to make Thanksgiving a time of gratitude.
1. Practice adequate rest
Most of us disregard the basic foundation of our mental, emotional, and relational health. We push ourselves to make things just right to impress our guests. Our ability to handle stress is depleted without a consistent habit of seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Adequate cycles of sleep provide our brains the fresh charge of energy for clarity and awareness. Without proper sleep, we’re not able to cope well in stressful situations.
2. Practice deep belly breaths
Slow deep belly breaths help calm impulsive words and actions. It only takes ninety seconds of deep breathing to slow the fight/flight/freeze area of the brain that lights up when we’re triggered. We’re able to access rational thoughts when someone says a mean or hurtful comment. Ancient wisdom teaches us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. (New Testament – James 1:19)
Most people unintentionally harm others because of their own unhealed emotional wounds. With rest and deep breathing, you can control your reactions. You can stop your part of a charged incident.
Deep belly breaths give you ability to reason beyond reactivity. You create neuropathways in your brain that opens up awareness. You’ll be aware of your own body reactions. Emotional triggers affect both our bodies and our minds.
Quiet the racing thoughts and stories in your head that may not be true. Even if they are true, deep belly breaths slow you down enough to gain insight into yourself, the other person, and the incident.
Make it a point to process later through journal-writing or an appointment with your therapist. Your well-being depends on you keeping resentment from building.Deep belly breaths give you ability to reason beyond reactivity. Click To Tweet
3. Practice your smile
We have mirror neurons in our brains that aid our social connections. When we interact with others, we reflect their gestures, tone, body posture, and behaviors. They reflect us. We smile back when they smile at us. It’s like looking in a mirror.
A smile has the power to disarm another’s frown. Some of us were born smiling while others naturally have stoic faces. A person who looks grumpy might really be concentrating. Or they may be unaware of how they appear to others. Be conscious of how others see you. Practice smiling around those who frown. See if their frown softens with your smile.A smile has the power to disarm another's frown. Click To Tweet
4. Practice accepting change
Any change is difficult as we thrive on comfort and security. When our loved one has died, or we’ve experienced divorce, or we’ve moved our family across the country, it’s important to grieve. How we accept change is unique to each of us.
We are meant to grow and change throughout our lives. People, relationships, and circumstances are continually changing. Welcome the reality that our lives will never be stagnant. They’re not suppose to be. It’s part of our humanity to grieve the loss of a loved one and celebrate the birth of new life.
5. Practice what belongs to you
It’s important to know what’s yours and what belongs to another. Your emotions are yours alone. All of us are responsible for our own resilience, emotions, and decisions.
- Avoid fighting another person’s emotional battles.
- Let go of another person’s loneliness, anxiety, or uncomfortable feelings.
- Recognize when others take on the victim role expecting you to be their savior.
- Spend less time with those who drain you.
Give yourself permission to let go of others’ expectations of you. You were only meant to handle your own emotions. Others are responsible for themselves.
6. Practice the present moment
When you practice the present moment, you’re living that moment to it’s fullest capacity. This could be the single most empowering advice for us all. Hyperfocus on the unfinished business of the past or continuous worry of the future steals away the only time we have in the moment.
Imagine yourself standing still in the middle of a stream. You’re aware of the past like the water flowing toward you from upstream. You’re aware of the future like water flowing beyond you downstream. You feel the cool stream flow around you. Yet, you’re standing still in the present moment.
Don’t be the turkey
You now know how not to be a turkey on Thanksgiving. Begin your six practices of gratitude.
1. Practice rest
2. Practice belly breaths
3. Practice smiles
4. Practice accepting change
5. Practice what belongs to you
6. Practice the present moment
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