Tag: friendship

Shedding Toxic Friends in the New Year

Life happens in seasons. The New Year tends to be a time when we evaluate our lives and make big decisions or changes. While this is a positive thing, it can also be confusing when the things we decide need changing are our friends.

Sometimes the people who have stayed in our life as friends become toxic over time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they themselves are toxic individuals – just that they no longer serve a positive purpose in our life. Just as life happens in seasons, friendships happen in seasons, too.

A friend who may have been very close to you in a season when you needed them and they needed you is someone to cherish. But that relationship can sour for any number of reasons. Maybe you two just aren’t in the same place anymore. Maybe they aren’t being supportive as you try to make positive changes in your life or to break bad habits. Maybe they feel intimidated by you as you move forward with other positive, supportive friendships and romantic relationships.

Whatever your reason for feeling that a person may not be the friend they once were, “breaking up” with them is never going to be easy. Still, it’s important to remember there is only one you, and YOU, are the only one in charge of taking care of yourself. It may seem as though these friends need you, or you may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for distancing yourself from the relationship. If you’ve carefully evaluated the relationship and deemed it hurtful or unhealthy, there is no reason to continue feel guilty.

A few symptoms of a toxic friend are:

  • They regularly and repeatedly tear you down with actions or words.
  • They don’t support the positive changes you’re making.
  • They encourage negative or destructive behavior.
  • They lack empathy.
  • They take advantage of your kindness.
  • They lie or act in an untrustworthy manner.

If you feel your friend fits these characteristics, or if the relationship is consistently one-sided, it’s okay to act in your best interest and shed the relationship. By doing this you give yourself permission to start fresh this year. You give yourself time to grow valuable relationships that positively contribute to your life. You never know when you’re going to find a wonderful new friendship in someone who is kind, encouraging, and supportive.


Friends and Relationships – Making It Work

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You’ve met someone and decide to start dating. You have been telling your best friend about this person and can’t wait for these two special people in your life to meet. The highly anticipated day comes, and it doesn’t go as planned. Their interaction is lukewarm, or one person is friendly while the other is not. How do you balance your two relationships and keep the peace?

Consider all sides.

The first thing to do is to consider each side’s perspective. Being the new person trying to fit into a relationship triangle can be challenging, as can being the long-time friend who has to make room for someone new.

Examine how you might be adding to the fray.

Without being aware of it, you could be making the situation more complicated. Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Do you want them to interact with each other in a certain way, and are disappointed because they aren’t? Be prepared for the possibility that they may never interact the way you’d hoped. However, it is also possible that in time, they will grow closer, or at least more cordial to each other.

Also, consider your dating history and how it may be impacting your friend’s perspective. If you’ve introduced a number of boyfriends or girlfriends to your best friend, your friend may just be staying cautious until s/he knows this new person is here to stay. You might not be the only one who gets broken hearted by breakups…friends who have invested their feelings on your behalf can also experience a loss.

Have an honest conversation with your best friend and romantic interest, separately.

Your friend may be worried that your new relationship will change the status quo or even jeopardize what you’ve had together. Your friend may be protective, wanting to make sure this new person is “good enough” for you.

Ask your friend what it is about the person you are dating that they don’t like: Is it the person’s personality? Does s/he think you’re incompatible with this new person? Do they see a change in you? Does your friend feel neglected or are they worried that you will no longer have time for them? Getting to the core issue can clear up misunderstandings and clarify expectations.

It may help to let your friend know that s/he is still valuable to you, and that you will make a concerted effort to spend quality time with him or her.

In your sit-down with your significant other, communicate why your best friend is important to you. He or she may not understand your friend, the type of friendship you have, or your history together. If your friend is overtly expressing dislike, it can be understandable that your boyfriend or girlfriend might react to the animosity, or be overly protective of you because of misconstrued interaction between friends.

Some more points to keep in mind:

  • If you are having a disagreement with one of them, be aware that telling the other one about it can reinforce the wedge already between them.
  • Invite your best friend and romantic partner to events you would normally invite both of them to. Give them the chance to get to know each other.
  • Allow them to have the feelings they have, which may or may not change with time.
  • Try to have a positive attitude about the interactions. Expressing anxiety will not promote harmony.
  • These two people you care about don’t have to be best friends with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. However, what will work is for each of them to respect your decision to have the other person in your life and for you to accept their relationship as it is.

While it is can be initially painful to see discord between your friend and significant other, the situation can be successfully managed, and even repaired, with everyone’s best efforts.

 


8 Loving Tips To Improve Your Relationship

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Do you feel a little distant from your romantic partner? Could your relationship with a family member be closer? Are you experiencing some friction with a friend? Here are some Loving Tips on boosting contentment and happiness in your relationships with a loved one:

Accept the person for all that they are, and all that they aren’t. To truly love someone is to do so for who the person is right now, not for their potential or who you want them to be.

Resist keeping score. Keeping track of what you’ve done for him or her and comparing it to what you’ve received in return puts the focus on competition, judgment and may lead to resentment. Instead place your focus on love, kindness and gratitude. When you give or are kind to a person, do so because you truly want to rather than thinking that they will then give to you or be kind to you. If you do something nice for them and then expect a certain level of gratitude from them, you are not coming from your heart but from your ego. When we come from our egos, all that we do is unconsciously or consciously self-serving. When we come from our hearts, all that we do both consciously and unconsciously is purely from love. On an energy level, people know when affection or help comes with strings attached, which will create tension, distance and resentment in your relationship.

Keep your mind open instead of “knowing” their next move. When you predict someone’s actions based on your imagination or past experiences, you might be setting the relationship up to fail. If they do what you expect, there is the possibility that you have now cemented your negative prediction, which may close off possible positive future outcomes. And of course, if they don’t do what you expect, you may not fully accept it because your ego wants to be right. There is a saying, you can be right or you can be in a relationship, but you cannot have both. It is best to consider this if you find your ego wanting to be right and blinding you to the positive change that your partner or friend has made.

Offer the benefit of doubt. Remember that they are human and things happen. Some are within their control and some are completely outside of it. When a loved one falls short of their promises—or our expectations—and disappoint us, allow them the opportunity to have their side heard. Instead of jumping to conclusions based on what you think you “know” about them, ask him or her what happened. Be honest with your feelings of how their actions affected you. When the conversation has reached a resolution, even if that means to agree to disagree, let it go.

Listen. This simple tip is often overlooked. We sometimes go on “listening autopilot” when a loved one speaks, either because we “think” we’ve heard it before, are preparing our answer, or just daydreaming about other things. Think of a time you knew someone wasn’t listening to you and how that felt. It probably didn’t encourage a closer relationship with that person. Now think of a time someone really listened to what you had to say, and how that made you feel. For more on the skill of listening: How to be an Active Listener.

Get permission before unloading your day. When you have the urge to vent to your loved one about all the “crap” that happened in your day, first ask if they are willing to hear it. This shows that you respect their time and their choice to take on the energy you will be passing along to them. You will be expressing to them that you are aware that they are emotionally separate from you and that you know they may have other things on their mind. Often when one person shows this kind of consideration and respect, the other person learns how to show it as well.

Make distraction-free time for them. It’s not the amount of time you spend with someone that brings you closer; it’s the quality of that time. Set aside regular time with them that is “distraction-free,” which means silencing and putting away the cell phone and putting all your energy and attention on being in the moment with them.

Let them know how much you care. Friends, family, and romantic partners are sometimes the last people to hear how much we love them. Although you might consider it a given that the person knows your feelings, everyone appreciates hearing a reminder. At least 10 years after my grandfather had passed on, a much older cousin of mine told me how my grandfather used to tell everyone how proud he was of me. I had no idea as he never told me. It was nice to find that out. I would have appreciated knowing this when he was alive.


Lessons from Animals on Love and Life

P1020737Although animals can’t walk, talk, or think quite like us, that doesn’t mean they can’t teach us a thing or two! Here are some life lessons that we can learn from animals:

Listen to your inner wisdom. No matter how trained a pet is, all rules and focus on treats go out the window when instincts kick in. If there is a threat of danger, they do everything in their power to protect themselves. They don’t care how they look or what others may think of them. So if your instincts tell you that doing something isn’t safe to your physical, mental, or emotional well-being…don’t do it. That could be anything from not taking on more responsibilities to declining an invitation to a party. In the same way, if there is something your inner guide is telling you to do to promote your well-being—taking some time out to recharge, calling up a good friend, getting outside for a long walk—listen to that voice too.

Let those you love and care about know how you feel. If you’ve ever witnessed a dog’s happy reaction to seeing his or her owner after time away, you know what unrestrained joy looks like. No amount of training can stop that dog from expressing gratitude, love, and excitement. Sometimes we humans restrain ourselves from expressing warm, fuzzy thoughts to others. Let the joy out! Think of how good you feel when someone shows they care about you. So if you experience feelings of love, affection, or any happy feelings for people in your life…don’t keep them to yourself!

Be present. Animals live in the moment. They don’t hang onto stories or emotions such as anger, guilt, hurt, despair, and fear that we humans can replay for a lifetime. They also don’t give themselves ulcers worrying about the future. Most of the painful thoughts we have don’t have anything to do with the present moment. Let go of the stories, limiting thoughts, and unsupportive beliefs that cause you upset, and strive to live in the only moment we really have…the now.

Figure out what you want and then take action. Often, when we humans decide we want some wonderful dream or goal for ourselves, we get stopped before we even start by unsupportive self-talk. When a squirrel decides to collect food for the winter, he doesn’t let worry, doubt, or fear stymie him. He doesn’t think: I’m not prepared for this. What if I fail? What if people think my goal is ridiculous? The squirrel just goes out and gets the job done. He knows what he wants and takes all the action he can in that moment. If an obstacle gets in the way, he doesn’t give up…he changes tactics, and then continues to focus on the goal. Focus on your desired outcomes, not the “what ifs” that may never even happen.

Be YOU and only YOU. Animals don’t try to be someone they aren’t. They are unabashedly and unapologetically authentic. Isn’t that one of the reasons we love them? There’s only one you. Be proud of your uniqueness!


How to be an Active Listener

jackrabbit-673965_1280Hearing and listening are different things. Hearing is passive; sounds come to us through our ears and we notice them. Listening, however, requires the brain to get involved. It’s a learned skill because it requires concentration, interpretation, and interaction. To really listen, we have to be present in the moment.

In our busy world and with so much on our minds, it can be challenging to actively listen when a friend, co-worker, or family member wants to have a conversation with us. We are often thinking about or doing other things while someone else is talking—ever realize you’ve been asked a question and you have no idea what was said to make a response? We may pay more attention to conversations we deem “important,” but for everyday conversations we have with family, friends, co-workers, it’s easy to “check out.” If we’d like to be more active listeners, it’s a good idea to practice being aware and present for those people in our lives.

Here are some ways to facilitate conscious, active listening:

  • Determine whether you are able to give your full attention when someone wants to have a talk. If not, let them know. For example, “Can I call you back in 10 minutes? I’m finishing up this task and then I can give you my full attention.” If the conversation is going to take more time than you have, or you are not able to be there for them because of your mood/business, it is ok to say: “This is a rough day for me. I want to be able to give you the time you need. How about we chat over coffee tomorrow?” In this way, the other person feels valued but also understands that right now is not a good time for you.
  • Focus your energy on the speaker. If you are speaking face-to-face, maintain eye contact, have an open body posture (uncross your arms, turn your body toward them), and either lean slightly forward or imagine doing so.
  • Put aside your own troubles and thoughts. You will have time to deal with those later.
  • Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person to speak to completion. We often interrupt out of a need or desire to connect (“I’ve had that happen too!”) or show we’re listening (“Really? Why would he/she do that?! That’s terrible!”), but we can do the same thing without interrupting by facial expressions, nodding, or simple comments (such as saying wow, yes, right, uh-huh). Instead, imagine sending them energy that corresponds with how you would respond verbally. For example, imagine your heart open and radiating love, care, or empathy to someone who is upset.
  • Resist mentally rehearsing what advice you will give or how you’ll respond. You will end up distracted, miss what is said, and may telegraph to the person you’re not with them. If you listen fully, you will be ready to speak when it’s time.

If you put these tips into practice, you will not only strengthen your ability to actively listen, but others will most likely notice the difference and feel positive about your conversations. Whether we are aware of it or not, we can sense when someone is really listening to us, and we respond more favorably to them because of it. By practicing active listening with the people in your life, you might find they are more present with their attention and energy when it’s your turn to speak.

 


Thoughts About Friendship

Friendship, what is it, what does it mean, what kind of expectations do we have about it?

What I have observed is that many people call acquaintances friends. For many years this confused me as my definition of friendship went deeper. A friend to me was someone that could be counted upon to hold my stories privately, to lend an ear if there were a crisis, to be available and emotionally supportive if such an occasion arose. As well as someone to enjoy a film or ocean view with.

Another form of acquaintanceship that I have noticed is the bond formed between co-workers, neighbors, board members. People will refer to each other, if they have been in close contact, as friends but what does it really mean?

So what is an acquaintance? Perhaps it is someone you love spending time with or go to dinner with occasionally. It could be someone you visit in another country or state that if they lived closer you would spend much more time with and give and get emotional support from. Closeness can and does exist despite geographical distance. Proximity allows for spontaneity and the opportunity to grow relationships.

Then there are the friends that we have stayed in touch with from our childhood. The bond of nostalgia exists here. Childhood friends can be really close because of a shared history. With some we share only the past; to be close in the present we need to have shared interests.

Understanding the complexities of the word friendship makes me wish I had many more words to express these relationships, the way the Eskimos have many words for snow. It took me years to grasp the differences and sometimes to let go of any expectations I might have had on what friendship means. I can be the best friend I know how to be and treat people in my circles the way I want them to treat me, without expecting them to respond as I do. How about you?


Growing an Intimate Relationship

Are you married now? Have you thought about being married? Do you ever wonder how you can have a lasting marriage? Do you want to re-marry but are unsure it’s right?

Think about how much work you put into preparing for a career. Weddings as well often take a large amount of planning and preparation. Think about what happens after the honeymoon, though. Have you simply planned your wedding, or have you prepared for your future? Isn’t it interesting that when it comes to your marriage, preparation is often not part of the picture.

Preparation and education are vital to a lasting marriage. Here are some important steps to explore and share with your partner before and after your wedding:

Increasing Intimacy

  • Understand your own values, qualities. Explore each other’s values and qualities, such as truthfulness, trustworthiness, integrity etc.
  • Be responsible for your words and actions. Communicate clearly and often with each other. This will help you develop great communication skills which are vital to a happy marriage.
  • Develop a deep and caring friendship with your partner. Learn each other’s likes and dislikes, such as foods, entertainment, sports, recreation etc. Know that it is okay that not every interest includes both partners.
  • Ask yourself if you have the ability to be a compatible and harmonious couple. Can you laugh at yourself and each other’s foibles or quirks?
  • Consider if you both have the same values around family. Communicate your expectations. Do you want to build connections with each other’s family? Do you want to have children together? Discuss this in advance and decide a strategy.
  • Explore and discuss how you will manage money. Many couples do not discuss this and later have challenges around how to spend, how to save, etc. If you work this out in advance you will be true friends and your marriage can be a happy one. Money is the #1 reason for arguments in a marriage.
  • What are your sex role expectations? Become clear about them and communicate them to your partner.
  • As you establish a strong spiritual and emotional bond, the happier your marriage will be. By communicating clearly you will feel heard and understood and your relationship will grow.