BY SUSAN B. B. SCHABACKER
Some of the most important things in life are not things at all, but people and relationships. Valentine’s Day, a heartful holiday, reminds us of how fulfilling our lives are with better relationships.
Make the most of your time with the ones you love. What would we do without faith, family, and friends by our side to love and help us through life? The Beatles were right. When it comes down to it, all we need is love. The more we treasure and nurture our relationships, the better off we will be, and the more meaningful our lives will be.
BE THE TRUE YOU
Shakespeare said it perfectly, “To thine own self be true.” You are not a carbon copy. Even if you’re an identical twin, you’re still one-of-a-kind, uniquely you. So, don’t try to be someone else. The natural you, who you are on the inside, is exactly who God created you to be, so don’t try to be someone you’re not. The truer you can be, the more you can share of your true self in a relationship. Encourage those you love to be true to themselves, too. Recognize and appreciate qualities that make them who they are. Acknowledging that we are all flawed and imperfect – but that not one mistake was made in creating us and that we are who we are for a reason – can help you cultivate more genuine relationships.
GIVING CULTIVATES GROWTH
Think of the many ways you can give to your loved ones and also think about what you want from them. There are many ways to give, rich or not. Can’t treat your loved one to a 5-star restaurant? Cook a 5-star meal at home instead. No funds for a fancy spa? Try a DIY home spa instead. Rather than florist flowers, pick a beautiful bouquet from your garden or meadow. Forgo generic greeting cards and exercise your creative side with heartfelt handmade cards with special messages. Feeling poetic or musical? Include a custom created poem or song. Poetry is a memorable and romantic way to let someone know how special they are to you – and who doesn’t love to be sonnet-afied and serenaded?
BE A GIVER, NOT JUST A TAKER
Give generously, but not to the point of burn out. Remember that often the more you give, the more you will receive. Be generous and give a lot, but be mindful of not over-giving. It’s important to assess the give and take in relationships. The key is equality, balance, and harmony. If you sense you or your loved ones are asking for or giving too much to an unhealthy degree, don’t let it go unsaid.
COMMUNICATING, BOUNCING THE BALL BACK
Share how you feel, communicating your honest feelings, understandingly. Instead of angrily calling someone out, calmly point out your observations, sharing how you feel. Upset? Wait until you simmer down, so you can communicate more effectively. Think of this communication like bouncing a ball back. If you throw it forcefully, as hard as you can, out of anger, you are likely to receive a similar response. A heavy-handed (and heavy-hearted) approach may elicit a negative response, which can easily escalate. So, be considerate of everyone’s feelings, including your own, and wait until you can respectfully communicate (or bounce the ball back).
Reflect and share what you value most in your relationships. Start with the most important people in your life and think about what they mean to you. What makes them unique? How do they enhance your life? What have you learned from them and your relationships? Think about what you want out of this relationship and where you are headed long-term. Think about what you can contribute. How can you improve your relationship, strengthen your bonds, improve communication, and increase loyalty?
GROW A HEALTHIER GARDEN OF REAL-ATIONSHIPS
Even if your relationships are anything but real, in the shambles, having hit rock bottom, there’s good news! Like a cultivated garden, relationships require weeding, fertilizing, and watering to be successful. So, with all that care and attention, here’s to a better you and better, more meaningful relationships!