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Love, Listening and Lenses

How are the relationships in your life going? You know the ones with your partner, siblings, kids, parents, co-workers, etc. 
 
Most people that come in for counseling are often struggling with relationships which at times are disappointing and frustrating, and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to walk away, at least for the time being. However, what about the relationships that you don’t want to walk away from: the relationships that although they are difficult are important to you.

 Although there are many ways of working with relationships, and volumes of books have been written about this topic, I have two quick suggestions that I hope will be helpful.  My suggestions are simple, and I believe that if you practice them often you will get good results.  For the sake of time and space, whenever I write partner, insert any other description that works for you (i.e. parent, kids, friend, sibling, co-worker, etc.).

My first suggestion s is that you put into the relationship what you most want out of it. By this I mean, first, notice what you would like in this relationship. Would you like your partner to listen to you more…. Then try listening to them more. Would you like your partner to understand you more, then try to understand them more. Would you like your partner to be more helpful to you, then try to be more helpful to them.  This is not easy work. I am sure that some of you are thinking “Are you kidding, why should I help him/her out when they never help me out?” Answer – because you want to have a relationship with them and on some level you know that he/she is a good person, and you may even love them very much.  If complaining, begging, being stubborn and having to be right is where you are (believe me I’ve been there so I know this territory very well) check to see how all this is working. If it isn’t working, than what do you have to lose by trying something different?

My second suggestion is that you change your lenses. By this I mean, instead of seeing where your partner falls short, begin to notice where they don’t fall short. At first this may seem like an almost impossible endeavor. But, I think if you keep an open mind, and aren’t stuck in seeing how awful they are, you may actually notice that they show they care in different ways than you have previously noticed. And, if possible breathe and take in the little ways that they show they care. This may be as simple as going to work everyday so that the family can have a home to live in.
 
Finally, you will not be able to do either of these two suggestions even 50% of the time. That is to be expected. So instead of berating yourself, or saying that this is impossible, give yourself credit for the times you are able to put loving kindnesses into your relationship and the times that you are able to notice how your partner, friend, co-worker, etc. does do even the littlest thing that shows that they also value the relationship.

These practices aren’t necessarily to strengthen your relationships, although I believe that they will if you practice them. These practices will benefit you. When you are able to put loving kindness into your relationships and notice how your partner shows that they care (in their own way), these practices will allow your heart to keep opening.  And perhaps, in the big picture, opening our hearts is what life is all about after all.

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