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Demands. Ultimatums. Being in Control.

What Goes on Under Your Roof?

Demands. Ultimatums. Insisting. Dictating. Are these a norm in your relationship?

If so one of you is attempting to control the other? Do you think this is acceptable? God himself grants mankind the freedom to have their own will and to make their own choices.  Should we be above him and attempt to take this will away from someone?

Don’t hear me the wrong way. I’m not saying decisions should be made without consultation and discussion. It just means you recognize each other as an individual and grant them the freedom to have their own desires and opinions, even if they differ from yours.

Sadly, in relationships many force the other to comply with what they want. Force? Really? That’s extreme don’t you think? Sure, no one’s arm is being twisted but a great deal of effort, energy and coercion is taking place to ensure that someone in particular gets their way.  Ahem, that is the definition of force BTW.

What’s Getting Dished Out?

What happens if things don’t go as this forceful individual wants? Does the condescending tone get whipped out? How about belittling remarks or an irritated disposition? If this person doesn’t get their way do they make the other suffer?

In relationships opinions should be heard, considered and understood and if at all possible negotiations should be made. But what happens when nothing more needs to be said and all is talked through? Both individuals need to be released to make their own decisions. No one should be verbally or emotionally beat up whether their decision is good, bad, foolish or otherwise.

  • If there is a disagreement over the decision. They are still free to choose.
  • If you are upset about their choice. They are still free to choose.
  • If their decision is foolish or unfair. They are still free to choose.

Let’s get real, some decisions bring a natural consequences but everyone must be free to make mistakes. If it harms the marriage or violates values then boundaries will likely need to be laid. This doesn’t take away the fact that they still should be free to choose.

Bondage Doesn’t Breed Connection

This is an area many need to understand. Individuals think they are serving the relationship well by preventing behaviour that is uncomfortable or has consequences. Actually, they are harming the relationship because love cannot flourish when someone is kept in bondage.

“A man convinced against their will is of the same opinion still” Zig Ziglar.  

To get lasting results and truly get on the same page, both must make that move out of choice, not force.  If dictation stops, demands come to an end and harsh attitudes are laid to rest then choices can be made without the fear of being mistreated. This attitude towards one another will cause an openness to sprout as you come together out of a desire to do so, not out of force.

I hear ya’ll thinking….  If freedom is granted, HOW should one respond during disagreements?

Clear the Clutter

Besides granting freedom to make choices you must also know how to act (and how not to act) when disagreements arise, which they inevitably will.

Many people clutter their day-to-day dealings with disrespectful comments.  Whether it’s annoyance behind their statements, a tone that delivers disapproval, or an overall harshness in their demeanour.  Speaking this way is not fitting for leaders, lovers or anyone who desires to be an individual with integrity. Many may not realize how disrespectful they sound across until it’s pointed out.  Even then this new reality may get rejected because they do not want to admit this is how they are. Being mindful of how you come across is the first step towards change in this area.   

Let’s take a closer look at disrespect.

  • Acting like someone is worthless
  • Feeling like someone is beneath considering
  • To pay no attention to
  • To overlook
  • To have inconsiderate behaviour
  • Impolite remarks
  • To be brash, bold and harsh in tone

The Flip Side

Let’s examine the other side of this scenario…. Respect is an attitude that has an overall demeanour that is KIND.  Oh boy, here we go again… not another post on respect. Don’t worry I have a different take, let me bring it home.

You may have heard the phrase I respectfully disagree but what does that look like in real life? Simply put, it’s remaining kind in your words, tone and body language. If you need to confront an issue remain respectful by keeping kindness close.

Being kind means you are….

  • Hospitable
  • Considerate
  • Thoughtful
  • Warmhearted
  • Affectionate
  • good-natured
  • Neighbourly
  • Well meaning
  • Attentive
  • Warm
  • Unselfish
  • Thoughtful
  • Helpful
  • Sympathetic

What are You Radiating?

As you deliver kindness you are showing respect and for goodness sake, add a smile to it.  A smile says, “I like you and I am happy with you.” But even if you are not happy with or even like them a smile says, “I choose to treat your with respect and show you kindness.” A person of integrity will do this for no other reason then it’s the right thing to do. Consider this weight training as you gain inner-strength along the way.  A smile is the fastest and easiest way to show kindness to those around you. Even in the midst of troubling situations be mindful of the shape your face is making, much of your communication radiates from it.  

When we are unhappy with someone are we able to be kind or is disrespect the only option? Are we impolite, brash and inconsiderate or warm, thoughtful and hospitable? I understand how difficult this seems to tackle but let me explain the benefits and why I believe everyone should put in the effort.

Get In the Gym

First and foremost, you should want to treat people with respect because it challenges you as an individual. As your character grows reputation develops your self-worth will increase and you’ll be  proud of who you are becoming.

It’s easy to be kind when others are kind to you but it shows true inner-strength to be kind to those who are not.  

Developing inner-strength is similar to gaining muscle. When you pick up a weight you choose a mass that is uncomfortable and exert your muscles until they are fatigued.  Some call this working out until failure. You may start at 50 lbs but after so many reps you won’t even be able to lift 5lbs.  This rips the fibres in your muscles until they no longer functional but as they rebuild they become stronger.

In Weakness Strength Develops

Relationships are like heavy weights, they apply pressure and make you uncomfortable under it.  When you respond positively with a warm, sympathetic heart you get stronger because you’ve endured. If you are rude, brash and impolite during the pressure then you need to try again and keep at it. Do whatever you can to remain kind, start where you are at.

By the way, it you haven’t heard the term yet this kind of training is called Emotional Intelligence. Gaining strength in this area is imperative to your overall success. You can read more about it here.  

Detour – Too cool not to point out

2 Corinthians 12:10 says “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

How does this verse even begin to make sense? If you understand the process of bringing your muscles to a place of weakness before they build up strong, you will understand inner growth happens when you feel weak but endure anyways.

During relationship difficulty you need to hold onto kindness when it’s hard.  Hold on when you feel like you’ve failed, because you will experience failure.  

I know this doesn’t sound very encouraging but look at it this way. Any great skill has failure along the way to mastery. No one learns to ride a bike without falling. No child walks without a few tumbles. No mucisian gets great without hitting the wrong notes and no one always hits it perfect in every sport.

Failure is inevitable so don’t let it derail you. Handle it well and keep going. This is where persistence pays off and the great get separated from the mediocre.  Just think, in your apparent failure you are growing.

Consistency breeds results. Consistency causes growth. Consistency demands practice.

How to Change Your Spouse

The next benefit to having a kind disposition is that it softens a hard heart.

If a women remains kind in her behaviour and words this quiet dignity will make a man see where he has been wrong and she win him over. You may not agree with this statement but I didn’t come up with this concept God did, so take it up with him.

1 Peter 3:1 A man can be won not by words but by a pure, respectful demeanour.

A man can also win the heart of a hard, calloused women if he would respect her by displaying kindness. He can do this by showing thoughtfulness, affection, hospitality and having an overall warm, good-nature.

I’m trying…

It’s important to realize most men and women are good natured who desire to do right and build a healthy relationship. Sometimes certain issues continue because they have been simply been permitted to do so. Perhaps it’s time to confront what’s been bugging you and pick it apart so it’s no longer a sore spot.  

Here are three areas many couples trip on and if you can agree here then you are off to a great start.

1: Deal out tasks and duties and come to an agreement on who does what.

Be fair, reasonable and don’t expect perfection if they don’t consistently follow through. Extend grace as you would want it extended unto you.  

2: Identify who is in charge of which areas and which decisions.

Make a quick list of all the important things that need to get decided. Negotiate who will make which choices based on who has the time to do so and knowledge or skill in each area.  Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so this is very specific for each relationship. Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer. Talk things through until you both agree and are happy with the outcome.

I once heard of a couple who allows the women to make all the minor decisions while he makes all the major ones. Apparently in all the years of operating like this there have been no major decision to make. Ha!

If most things are working well then just bring up the areas you want to discuss. Where you would like to see change? Go from there and see if you can reach an agreement. No need to unroll everything if most areas are already running smooth.

3: Outline relationship values.

This is a biggie. It’s important to be on the same page with your values or this will cause a lot of tension. This is perhaps the most important area relationships need agreement in. Let’s examine values a closer so we can better understand our own.

Values….

  • … are the standards that govern your behaviour.
  • … govern the decency of your conduct.
  • … determine your pride of dignity.
  • … outline what’s important.
  • … create the standards to calculate what is acceptable and what isn’t.

You don’t want to live in violation of your conscious but if you are extremely rigid and endlessly unyielding you will need to stretch and become flexible so you can live in harmony. Core values tend to stay in place throughout the different seasons of life and make you uncomfortable if step on. Here are a few.

  • A simple lifestyle or a life of luxury?
  • Is faith important or do you detest it?
  • Perhaps one of you is hot and the other is cold when it comes to faith.
  • Children or no children?  
  • Career orientated or family orientated?
  • Time together or solitude?

Secondary values are ones that are open to change. It’s nice to live by them but not imperative.  

Here are a few example.

  • A wife should cook dinner.
  • A husband should cut the grass.
  • Date night is once a week.
  • Protein is eaten at least during supper.
  • I need to work out 3x a week.

The list could go on.

Shared values are far more important than shared interests. Amos 3:3 asks the question…  Can two walk together if they don’t agree on the direction?  Uncover the core and secondary values you hold and work towards heading in the same direction.

Which Hill Will You Die On?

When outlining values it’s important to know which are core and which are next in line to take priority.  When faced with opposition ask yourself “is this a hill I want to die on?” The military have used this term to ask “will you hold this position at all costs?” In other words, is this a battle you will choose to fight?

No one can get their way in a relationship 100% of the time. This we know. Yet when we come to a fork in a road and a decision must be made you have to assess how strongly you feel about the issue at hand.

Relationship Rule 15 talks about being flexible.  The more flexible you are the less pain you will experience when you are required to stretch. The more rigid you are the more you expect others to bend to your wants, needs and wishes. As pressure is applied on you to bend you fight, squabble and do everything in your power not to feel discomfort.

If you can relate then my advice to you is to let yourself get stretched. The more you practise being flexible the easier it becomes. In time pain and discomfort disappear and you will be left as a tolerable, cooperative, easy going individual.  

The Standoff

If you come to a situation where you are both holding your position then you must be in agreement to bring in a third party to hear your case. Bring in an unbiased outsider who can speak wisdom over the situation and see things from a different perspective.

Your Relationship Song

Are there too many demands and ultimatums taking place in your relationship? Perhaps there is too much disrespect and not enough kindness?  Has this way of living been permitted to continue? Would you like to put an end to it? It’s time to exercise, it’s time to stretch, it’s time to implementing change. It all starts with you.

Perhaps your relationship has a song that never ends? Maybe it goes on and on my friend? Maybe you started singing it not know what it was, but you keep singing it forever just because.…. This is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friend…

If you discuss situations over and over and an agreement cannot get reached then grant one another the freedom to make a decision without the fear of getting verbally attacked. Identify your unwavering values but don’t hold fast on every issue or your spouse will feel they live in jail.

Alternatively be unwavering in kindness, hospitality and thoughtfulness. Hold fast to a warm heart and sympathetic disposition.  This stand point will cause ugly attitudes to be drawn to you which will spur on change.  Then you can come together willingly to examine situations and reach agreements.

You can do it, I know you will. I am cheering you on.

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Your Weakest Moments Displayed on a Billboard

 

 

 

 

 

Are you Caught in a Relationship Tug of War?

  • What do you value?
  • What do you believe?
  • What is important to you?

The root to most relationship tension comes from differences in these areas.

We view life, jump to conclusions, and make decisions based on what we value and believe. If you and your spouse have different beliefs and values you will be headed in different directions, caught in a tug of war. This will not bring about relationship fulfillment.

  • One wants to save the other wants to spend, this causes tension = different values.
  • A women’s job is THIS, the other feels it’s a shared task, this will cause disagreements = different beliefs.
  • One is needy, the other wants space and freedom, this will bring trouble = different values and beliefs.
  • One swings angry words around like it’s normal, the other wants to rid this from the home = different values.
  • One isn’t comfortable watching certain things, the other isn’t bothered = different values.

I could go on but you get the picture. If you don’t value the same things you will think differently about everyday situations and this will cause tension, stress and disagreements.

Relationship Rule #16: Work towards holding the same values and beliefs

May I Beat You Now?

Most would agree that physical violence isn’t acceptable. Many would quickly put their foot down and make their opinion known that it’s not okay, even taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen.  This is because your inner belief system tells you it’s inappropriate, that a line has been crossed. But….

  • What are your thoughts around verbal abuse?
  • Will you tolerate manipulation?
  • How about a control freak?
  • Where do you draw the line?
  • Where do your values begin and end?
  • What will you tolerate?
  • When will you stand up for change and for what you believe is right?

If you value something you will work to have it present in your relationship. You will also rid your life from things that harm and hurt this value.  

Get on the Same Page

In an ideal world values and beliefs should be discussed before a relationships begins.  But since very few do this many of you are finding yourselves living alongside someone thinking wildly different than you. 

It is in your best interest to focus your relationship effort towards holding the same values and beliefs. In fact, it is imperative for the health of the relationship that you do so.  Dig deep and be willing to have difficult conversations. Then you can work towards the same goals and enjoy life alongside one another, instead of growing apart.

Understandably it’s not comfortable to go here. We would rather keep the peace and not bring up points of tension. However, it is necessary to address the underlying if you want your relationship to thrive.

Back to School

If you had to grade your relationship like a school paper and give it an A, B, C, D or F based on how you feel its going, how well would you do? Do you feel good about your relationship? Would you give it a B+? Perhaps you feel it’s just OK and it only deserves a C.

What would it take to bring that C or B up to an A? What would you have to work through to get there?

Your relationship will be unable to reach its full potential and you will be stuck with a “lower grade” if you cannot work through things that trouble your heart. However, working on things brings a B marriage down to a D, or an A marriage down to a C…. but take heart, it’s only for a while. Every strong marriage will go through seasons of working through difficulties. If you ignore troublesome situations and avoid them, you will inevitably stunt your growth.

It’s like a doctor that sets a broken arm. The pain of setting a limb is temporary but necessary to heal straight. Your relationship cannot heal or grow properly until some things have been made straight. So do the work, put in the time, go where you’d rather not so you can someday grade your relationship an A+.

Are you Focused on the Fruit or Root?

Behaviour and attitude can be compared to fruit on a tree. You may not want certain attitudes in your relationship so you reason, argue and plead for them to stop. You may even succeed…. but it will only be temporarily.

This would be like pulling the fruit off a tree because you don’t that kind of fruit. How successful would you be? You may find temporary satisfaction but unless you are constantly on top of it, the fruit will come back, just like annoying behaviours that keep popping up.

The problem is you are focusing on removing the fruit instead of dealing with why the fruit is there in the first place. Until the root is changed the fruit will remain.

The root to every issue boils down to a belief system. Your belief system is responsible for how you think and act. Coincidentally, what you value and cherish will determine what you do and say.

What are Your Personal Values and Beliefs?

It is important that my children grow up learning healthy communication patters and witness positive ways to handle conflict.  Even though no one sees what goes on inside our home I am mindful of the lifestyle my children are observing and learning. What they see is what they will view as normal, therefore they will accept nothing less than this.

Children learn more by being immersed in a lifestyle than by being merely told something.  This causes me to be very aware of how we conduct ourselves and how we handle conflict.  My family values dictate my actions.

The Death of a Friendship

Sadly, I went though a situation where a long standing friend of mind became irrational and belligerent which resulted in her treating me horribly and ending our friendship.  Despite our conversations remaining private I was aware of what I said, how I said it and how I came across. I was mindful of my personal integrity and how I carried myself. As much as I was bothered by the whole situation I can say I’m proud of how I conducted myself during this time. I was able to keep my cool in the heat of an argument because I value stability, tact and self control.

Your Life on a Billboard

What if your life was streamed live online?  Would you be proud of who you are? What if your weakest moments were displayed on a billboard? Would you be ashamed?

Work towards becoming the kind of person you can be proud of, not only in your greatest victories but also in your deepest darkest moments.

Do you desire to be someone who has great inner-strength or are you satisfied to be jerked around by your emotions?  Do you desire to manage conflict wisely and with discretion?  Do you want to carry yourself with integrity?

If you’ve never thought much about who you are becoming then now is a good time to start because without being intentional you will fail to the lowest level. If you don’t stand for something you could fall for anything. 

What is Healthy?  Are there Guidelines?

My Relationship Rules reveal what healthy conflict looks and sounds like. I make it clear:

  • HOW you should act during confrontation
  • HOW to approach someone who breaks a rule
  • WHEN you must speak up and
  • WHEN you should keep the peace

But how do you know WHAT requests are acceptable and which are not? Where is the standard? How does one know what is reasonable?

You can Cheat off my Notes

Don’t fret…. I did the homework already and I will let you cheat my reading my notes.

I will release a guide for you to follow. It’s a framework for you to reference when determining if a request is reasonable, fair or appropriate.

This guide alongside the rules will help you build a healthy relationship but if you still find yourself without an answer then heed the advice in Rule # 11 and seek wise council. Additionally, you can always take advantage of my Marriage S.O.S course, after all it’s free… and only 5 days long.

Till then…. Get on the same page with your values and beliefs while you work to become someone you are proud of.

Get More by Giving Up

Fight Against The Heat

Are you a team player or a one man show? Team players help bear the load, they assist and work together. In life there are many responsibilities. Work, family, chores, cooking, parenting, marriage just to name a few. Do you expect the other to do it all, or do too much? Are you being a team player?

Rule #14: Be a team player

In many relationships one will carry too much responsibility and feel unappreciated or taken advantage of.  Relationship Rule # 1 talked about owning your feelings and emotions, how it’s your responsibility to voice how you are feeling and what your concerns are. If you don’t like how the team is operating you must speak up.  Don’t expect someone to read your mind, honestly now that’s just silly. Additionally, don’t jump to conclusions about their motives. You can’t assume they’re aware of how their action are affecting you if you haven’t brought them to their attention. Too many relationships get themselves into trouble by doing this, don’t follow suit.

Each individual should carry his own load, Galatians 6:5. This means you have responsibilities only you should be taking care of.  Discuss the shared responsibilities and delegate. Be in agreement and be willing to negotiate until you are both satisfied. This doesn’t have to be a heated discussion, but you’ll have to be intentional to not let it go there.

Don’t Be a Bitter Breeding Ground

When discussing situations don’t reluctantly agree only to secretly harbour bitterness and anger. This negativity will breed in your heart and corrupt the relationship from the inside out.

You’ve heard it said, team has no “I” in it. This means stop making decisions solo, you both should have a say.  This isn’t asking permission, per-se, you are not giving them final authority to say “yes” or “no.” Seeking their opinion is a sign of honour and loudly states “I respect your opinion and want to hear what your thoughts are.”

This action shows you value them and care how this decision will affect their life because remember, you are a team and must operate as one.

On the flip side, making decisions without consulting or discussing says, “what you think doesn’t matter. What you feel I don’t value I will disregard it and do what I want anyways.” Yikes, I KNOW that’s not your intention so be sure that’s not what your actions are saying.

We vs. Me

Relationships get into trouble because people fail to see the “we” in team and life becomes cluttered with, “me, me, me.”

Simply put, be considerate.  Love is considerate and last I checked you’re suppose to love one another. Thinking only about yourself is a fast track to relationship sabotage.  You can have opinions and state your desires but are you willing to accommodate others and love on them? Don’t live for what’s “fair” or for everyone “doing-you-right.” That is not the path to relationship fulfillment.

Doing the Splits for your Relationship

Those who are flexible can easily bend and not be in pain when they do. If you are flexible you can do the splits, bend over backwards, and move in all sorts of ways a body must be trained to move in.

Relationships are the same. If you are flexible you can give up your desires to let someone else have theirs. You can lay down your demands and bend to what’s important for someone else.  Some call this being a people pleaser.  This is a fantastic quality as long as you know your values are what you stand for. Be willing to bend when you can but be willing to stand up for what is right and healthy when necessary.

Being flexible not only makes you easier to be around but it reduces your own personal pain. It’s inevitable, things don’t always go as planned, you will need to compromise, you won’t always be happy with outcomes. The question remains, will you hurt and experience pain for your lack of flexibility?  If you are unwilling to bend you will put up a fight, and (figuratively) cry-up-a-storm about it?

Inflexible individuals are the most miserable, argumentative, stress out people around. Their lives are littered with discord, frustration and pain, don’t be like them, increase your flexibility and die to yourself…. seriously. STOP BEING SELFISH.

Rule #15: Be flexible 

Don’t Rot Your Bones

Negotiate until both parties are satisfied and remember to talk in terms of what will interest them. This is the only way to get lasting change because you cannot convince someone against their will or they will have the same opinion still.  I spoke about this in more depth HERE in Relationship Rule #3 and 4. 

  • Why would they want to do such and such?
  • Why would they want to let you go to such and such a place?
  • How will YOU be better off because of it?
  • How will THEY be better off?
  • How will this positively affect the relationship?

Don’t think of ways to convince them for your sake, convince them for THEIR sake.

This next point is VITALLY IMPORTANT, be sure it gets to the core of your being….. When you reach a conclusion that didn’t go as you would have liked, be sure you don’t move over into the realm of bitterness and resentment. This is a relationship destroyer, it rots your bones, eats you from the inside out and causes nothing but discord and destruction.

But that leads into the next point…….What if you absolutely cannot come to an agreement?

It’s Time to Die

If you cannot come to an agreement and there seems to be no way either of you are bending. Then it’s time to step up to the plate and be the bigger individual. It’s time for you to sacrifice yourself and lay down your desires and wants. This is called dying to self or you can call it being flexible.

Now if someone continually running you over you will want to find a wise advisor or mentor to help you place healthy boundaries. I speak about this is Rule #11: When Waging war… Seek Guidance.  But if you are talking about minor relationship disagreements then don’t fight for your way ALL THE TIME, be flexible.

It’s a noble and respectable thing to say “if I don’t have your blessing I am not doing it.” “If you don’t want me to do such and such, then I will not do it.” “If this is going to destroy our relationships then I won’t continue.”

This is selflessness. This is sacrifice. This is love.

“There is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone else,” John 15:13.

This stance is not popular in our world these days but you can literally love the “hell” out of someone.  Love all those hell-ish emotions out of them and watch them melt in front of your eyes. By demonstrating your willingness to be selfless you will make huge leaps and bounds in eventually getting what you want.  Hold one, back up… beep, beep… did you catch that?

By demonstrating your willingness to be selfless, you will make HUGE leaps and bounds in eventually getting what you want.

You will be surprised at how open and willing someone becomes when you stop fighting with all your might. People come back to reality and are willing to reason with you. It’s true, I’ve seen this happen countless times. Are you ready to give it a shot? Can I hear a big yippie?!?!

Reserved Inner-Strength Building

This stance isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s reserved only for those who want to be the strongest. This is heavy lifting. At first this will be difficult but as you remain consistent it will become easier and eventually second nature.  You will not only see an overall improvement in your life and relationships but also in yourself.

Crybabies will remain crybabies and fight for their selfish desires. Only the mature step up to the plate, build inner-strength, grow up by selflessly laying down themselves.

The Path To Having It All

Let me spell out a healthy relationship…..

You are both free to have a life, have hobbies and to pursue your passions. There is no holding one another back out of fear, insecurity or selfishness. You make decisions and choices being mindful and considerate of one another. You are free to disagree and state your thoughts in a loving, respectful manner.  You talk things through while remaining calm and speaking in terms of the other mans interests. You tactfully negotiating until you reach an agreement you can both live with.

If you are less than satisfied you make the best of the situation and not let it create a rift in the relationship.  You operate with grace and mercy.  You are flexible and willing to lay down your desires so the other can receive theirs. This doesn’t hurt because you’ve grown and are no longer rigid.   You also don’t expect perfection, you make room for growth.

In tough times you seek wise council. If blind spots are revealed you accept input and see it as a challenge to grow and mature. Not just for the betterment of your relationship but also for the betterment of yourself.

Climb to New Heights

As you succeed at accurately handling struggles you find yourself hanging onto joy. This inner-strength brings you to new heights of personal fulfillment as you love on others and have a positive influence on them.

When operating from this love stance you create a desire in the other to grow and mature alongside you. In giving up what you thought was important, you will receive more than you ever imagined.

If this the kind of relationship you would like? Are you challenged to operate in this way?

Sustain Your Relationship During Difficulties

You must do THIS if you Want Your Relationship to Stand the Test of Time

We’ve talked about how to handle you own emotions when you approach conflict. We discussed when it’s appropriate to engage and when it’s wise to cool down first.  We also looked at how to appropriately handle ourselves during conflict. Today we will take a look at how to end conflict well.

Rule #13 Forgive and extend grace

Do you expect perfection or do you make room for growth?  You want people to treat you how you feel they should. You want them to control their tone of voice and act in a loving, respectful way 100% of the time but common now, that’s unrealistic.

Unless you’ve been in this personal development space for many years, acutely aware of your emotions and intentional about relationship growth you will be hard pressed to find someone fully developed in these areas.

My prayer for you is that you become the rarity.

It’s imperative to extend grace in a relationship. Early in my marriage I asked a couple married 25+ years what the most important advice they could give a younger couple, they said forgiveness. I couldn’t agree with them more. Even though this is the end of our relationship rules it very well could be the first rule because if you mess up all the other ones, this one can sustain you.  I know it has done my marriage wonders and Peter as I grew in the other rules.

Whose Stronger?

There is a super neat little tool I learned that Peter and I use to this day. It has sustained us during times of conflict and helped us make it though each season as we grow and mature.

After you’ve gone though conflict and the situation subsides, or if it hasn’t subsided and you’re both aroused in emotion, approach the other with an attitude of forgiveness and grace. Approach with softness, kindness and compassion, seeking and extending forgiveness.

His Strength Stretches Me

I’ll be honest (what else would you want)? Throughout the years Peter has been stronger in this area, he’s been the one to approach me first and make amends. This is a humble, noble thing to do and when he comes to me, I’m relieved and my anger plug is pulled. In that instant, whatever we are facing becomes just a tad it easier to mange.

Seeing his apologetic, forgiving heart, a soft touch and gently voice encourages me to increase my own inner-strength and extend the same grace towards him.

This has -kinda- become an unspoken challenge for us. Which one of us will be the “bigger person”? Which one of us will do the right thing and approach the other to end this conflict? Who will be the first to make things right between us?

Truth is… if you don’t make amends the relationship is over. Yikes, that’s a stark reality you may want to accept but think about it for a sec. If there’s division the relationship is halted, growth stops as you’ve mentally, emotionally and maybe even physically separate from one another.

This is not a rule you can omit, you must, must, must forgive, extend grace, put the issue down (for now) and work on it again, later.

The Secret Code

During a time of peace, talk about times of conflict and how you two will handle it.  Create a secret code that will signal the end of conflict.  Create a gesture that signals “I’m sorry, I forgive you and we can get though this.”  It can be difficult to say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” during heated moments yet it’s imperative to close conflict. Let this tool be the bridge to bring you back together.

Note: Bringing the argument to a close DOES NOT MEAN the problem at hand is solved. More often than not, it’s NOT solved. This can be frustrating because the problem is important to work through. But you cannot let an unsolved problems to put a rift between you two.

Bringing an argument to a close may mean a number of different things depending on the specific situation. Here are a few of the different meanings:

  • I’m sorry for the way I’ve handled this situation.
  • I’m sorry we are going through this.
  • I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you.
  • I’m sorry this is bothering.
  • We can get thought this – I haven’t given up on us.

Justified and Indignant

I get it, you are justified in your actions and don’t see the need to seek reconciliation. Whatever happened is their fault, they’e done wrong, they’ve acted out, they are stepping over the limits. At least this I how you feel.  I need to tell you this….at this point in the conflict, it doesn’t matter. Not that the conflict isn’t important to work though, but rather the relationship requires reconciliation.

A relationship consists of two individuals and you are both equally responsible for taking steps to repair it if it’s broken.  If the other involved is not taking steps towards repair, then the responsibility falls on you. I’m sorry to bear it to you but I must tell you how it is.

Whether you are right, wrong, justified or full of indignation, you must reconcile. At this point we are not taking about solving the issue at hand (put that aside for now).  Its not about you, or them, but it’s about the relationships.

This is a time of “for better or worse.”

You Look Different Than Me

This will look different for every couple depending on the individual but here are a few examples of what it may look like:

  • Walk unto them and wrap your arms around them.
  • Sit next to them and put one arm around them.
  • Maybe you look at them with a look of softness and you eyebrows crinkle in compassion and mouth the words “I’m sorry.
  • Take their hand or put your hand on top of theirs.

Remember, you are doing this after you’ve gone through a heated discussion. This will not be natural or easy. This will require intentionality. Your may be fighting ugly emotions, but don’t listen to them.

The Fork

It is during these difficult moments – at this fork in the road you are faced with a choice. To follow your unstable, ever changing emotions or to do what you know -deep down- you should do? At this moment you will need to decide which path you will take. The path towards life or death for your relationship?

There was a scenario I found myself in shortly after Peter and I had a heated discussion. I wanted to flee the home and go out with a friend but as I was about to leave a nudging within me told me to approach Peter, to give him a hug and apologize.

This was NOT what I wanted to do. It was not easy, it was not comfortable. I sat on the couch considering my options and this verse come to me, “If you sow to the flesh you will reap destruction, if you sow to the spirit you reap life,” Galatians 6:8.

For those who share the same faith you understand God leads us by speaking to our spirit. That little “inner-knowing” of what we should do is God. I had to decide if I would do what I (little ol’ selfish, justified me) wanted or if I would do what I knew was right and listen to God speaking to me.

I listened to the voice of wisdom and our relationship saw reconciliation because of it.

The Calm After the Storm

As you face your own relationship forks, I know you will take the higher road and choose wisdom.  You will take the path of forgiveness and reconciliation instead of remaining bitter and resentful. You will stop expecting perfection and you will make allowance for growth. I know you are challenged to do what’s right for the sake of your relationship and I have faith you will do it.

Not only will this principle breathe new life into your relationship but as you are strengthened you’ll be pleased with the person you are becoming.

Will you step up your game and extend grace even further? I challenge you to comment below with a “yes.”

What Can Improv Teach Us About Relationships?

Healthy Home = Healthy Life

Why do I spend my time discovering relationship principles? Well that’s easy, I want the best relationships this life can offer. 

Additionally, studies show that the healthier your home life is, the healthier the rest of your life will be.  I hope you are challenged to refocus your priorities and add in time for personal and relational development.  Think about it, when it comes to your time where does it go? Do you spend it, waste it awn or invest it into your future? Of the following examples, one lives in the moment and one invests in the future?

  • Does it benefit you more to watch a TV show or read a chapter on an important subject?
  • Do you think you would be better off watching silly You Tube videos or value packed You Tube videos. (Yes, they exist)
  • Should you set up your Facebook feed to show foolishness or inspirational posts?
  • Are you better off staying home for the evening or attending a local course?
  • Spend money on a concert or a conference?
  • Listening to music while you drive or a podcast?

Every decision you make is either bringing you close or farther from your goal. Of course if you don’t identify your goal you won’t know what decisions to make to bring you closer. Is your family and personal development a priority for you?

Invest Before You Spend

I’m not saying to never entertain yourself. I can’t say that, I do these things myself. But not before I invest into my mind, heart and relationships. Sadly, many people live for entertainment while the rest of their lifers.  Entertainment should be your reward after investing.

Want some Jim Rohn wisdom? He’ll gladly add..

“Work hard at your job and you’ll make a living, work hard on yourself and you will make you a life.”

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems or less challenges, wish for more wisdom.”

Do you want to merely make a living or do you want to make a life? How important are your relationships? How important is your peace, joy and personal fulfillment?  How much time do you spend vs how much time do you invest?  Have you been spending too much -wasting- while investing very little, if at all?

Why not do some investing right now.

Nugget, Nugget, Nugget

Relationship Rule #3 encouraged you to speak up against injustice, not to let issues go undone and to deal with concerns as they arise.  Rule #4 mentioned not to address issues when anger is flying because no one is in the right state of mind to hear the heart of the matter.

What I didn’t mention yet is …

Relationship Rule #9: Address one issue at a time, for a period of time.

When you do discuss important issues, show restraint and only cover one concern at a time. You may also want to set a limit on the conversation, don’t expect someone to endlessly discuss topics of tension. One person will be more sensitive to this than the other so respect that.

This was certainly something I found myself guilty of. I wanted to lay everything on the table all in one shot.  I mean, why not get it over with? After all it’s not every day I get long periods of undivided attention? But… what I’ve learned (ahem, I mean am learning) is that we get more accomplished when stay on topic and have focused discussion. Take practise but it’s doable.

A Lesson From Improv

Have you ever watched Improv? So funny.  Remember Whose Line Is It Anyway… any others hands up on that?

Apparently there are improv rules.  One popped into my memory as I write an it happens to work as a relationship rule. (Go figure) It goes like this. “Denial destroys or stops the addition of new information or worse negates what has already been established.”  Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for that, it came straight off of pantheatre.com.

Take a sec and re-read that. Who am I kidding who goes back to re-read? I’ll re-state. “Denial destroys or stops the addition of new information or worse negates what has already been established.”  

Relationship Rule #10 is: If they say it’s so, it is. 

Many people will squirm at this, #10 is difficult to accept (I speak from experience).

Negative Emotions Are Blind

Negative emotions are often blind, they deceive and you won’t see them as they are.  Someone may say you are treating them disrespectfully but you don’t think so. Someone thinks you are angry but you don’t feel it.

What emotions are you denying? What information are you wanting to cancel out?

  • Is someone feeling unimportant? Do they feel a cell takes higher priority than them?
  • Does someone feel insignificant when you go behind their back to make important decisions?
  • Is friendliness interpreted as being flirty?
  • Does a cold shoulder make you feel invisible?
  • Do they feel work comes before the relationship?

What are they experiencing? How do they interpret your actions, behaviour or emotions? How are you interpreting theirs?

My Experience

Should I share one of my stories?  Hope ya’ll don’t mind me gettin’ a bit personal now. (Thought I’d add some southern flare since I’ve been hanging out down south lately)

Amongst the hustle and bustle of life, especially on busier days my mind is focused on productivity.  During these times my family would ask what is bothering me.  Nothing was. I apparently sounded upset, so naturally some thought I was.  I did not like this!  I did not like how I was coming across.  Not at all.

I wanted my family to see me as a fun, happy person to be around. I didn’t want them to perceive me as upset or angry.  I didn’t feel angry or upset so it troubled me that I was coming cross this way. Learning their perspective was huge motivation for growth. I made considerable effort towards changing the tone of my voice and the expression on my face so I could appear as pleasant as I felt.

What’s interesting is, as I changed the rest of the family did as well.  Where mom goes the family follows. As I improved my disposition, the family atmosphere shifted and things were overall more pleasant.  I did not realize the influence I had in this area.  I am still changing, still growing and so is my family.  Together we are improving and we hold one another accountable in this area. It’s beautiful to watch and rewarding to experience.

Get Another Opinion

How someone experiences you is their truth and they have a right to their truth. If you care about them (which you do or you wouldn’t be in the relationship) then consider how your actions and behaviours are affecting them. Bring in another opinion if you must, like a relative or friend. Grant this person permission to tell you how it REALLY is and use this as an opportunity for personal growth.

Get two people staring at your blind spot and let them tell you where this is. 

  • Honest wounds from a friend is better than a kiss from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
  • Correct a wise man and he will love you for it. Proverbs 9:8

What should you do if a person refuses to accept unhealthy behaviour patterns? What should you do if you try and try and still cannot agree?

Seek council.

Relationship Rule #11: When waging war, seek guidance. 

Dealign with Dirty Laundry is Necessary

Airing your dirty laundry to another individual is never comfortable. This isn’t something many people are excited to jump into but may be necessary to getting over that stubborn relationship hurdle.

Do yourself a favour and stop keeping your relationship concerns hidden. Connect with a counsellor, pastor or even just a trusted friend, family or wise advisor. Who do you know who has a strong relationship? You would be surprised how responsive they may just be if you approach them for guidance.

  • With many advisors plans will succeed. Proverbs 15:22
  • In the abundance of councillors there is victory. Proverbs 11:14
  • If you are going to war, make sure you seek guidance. Proverbs 20:18

Often we cannot see what we cannot see. We try to fix situations from our viewpoint while the other is looking from a different perspective. A councillor can bring incredibly stability to a situation while breathing wisdom into the relationship.

Is Ugly Hidden Or Revealed?

Relationship Rule #11: Make sure your beliefs and values are clearly stated.  

Many people get into a relationship for all the wrong reasons which is why so many relationships fail. Maybe are emotionally moved and overtaken by these sudden desires. This is a beautiful God-given emotion and one to enjoy on this journey but we must not throw away wisdom and counsel to make an emotionally charged decision, that would be foolish.

Most people fall in love because of how someone else makes them feel. Suddenly they experience a sense of feeling important, valued, needed, cherished, desired or attractive.  We are naturally drawn to people who make us feel good about ourselves.  In fact, you could be manipulated, lied to, fooled and still experience euphoric emotions for someone. This does not mean a relationship is healthy, or that a relationship should be built at all.

Maybe you fell in love because you became infatuated. This doesn’t always have to do with looks, it could be their personality and charm. Maybe you love how they make you feel or you love who you are when you’re around them.  This is all fine and dandy but it’s superficial, you don’t have enough information to decide whether you should spend the rest of your life with them.

What is Under the Mask?

Think about this. If two strangers went out for coffee they would both have their game face on. They would be aware of their words and actions, show manners, tell jokes and display a side of them they feel will make the other person like them. They may succeed at drawing the other person in, but this is only one side of that individual, their best side. It would be silly to create a relationship with someone predominantly for these reasons.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when determining whether this individual is someone you want to spend the rest of you life with but nothing is more important than making sure your morals, values and beliefs jive.

If two people are vastly different in what they believe and value then they are headed for heartache. Sadly, many couples find themselves here today. They get together because they are drawn into someones personality and fall in love with how this individual makes them feel.

Truthfully, many people fall in love for selfish reasons and the deeper, more important issues of a relationship aren’t looked at or discussed. Out of all the important things a couple should be doing before marriage there is one that trumps them all. Identifying their inner values and beliefs.

Which Path Are They On?

Our inner values and beliefs drive all of our actions and decisions.  When we identify what one values, we are also identifying their boundaries. Almost all relationship difficulties arise because couples have differences in this area. 

Think about it like two paths. One path leads to one city, the other path leads to another city. If you are “doing life” with someone you are doing so with the intention of going in the same direction. If the two of you are heading in different directions then you will constantly be pulling on them to “go somewhere” they don’t want to go.

This can pose incredible difficulty in a marriage. It’s imperative for you two to get on the same page if you want relationship harmony. That doesn’t mean you share the same hobbies and do everything together, but rather your values, goals and beliefs are the same.

This or That

  • One wants to run things one way the other wants to do it another way.
  • One believes in this, the other believes in that.
  • One has television boundaries, the other has none.
  • One speaks words around the kids that the other doesn’t approve of.

These become BIG deals inside a relationship.  Let’s not forget their beliefs on managing relationship disputes.

  • One thinks yelling during conflict is normal, the other wants to learn heathy communication.
  • One wants to invest into the relationships the other has no interest in growing and improving.
  • One of them thinks the other should bend to their lifestyle, the other feels their desires,  thoughts and feelings are constantly getting denied.

These are vitally important issues to discuss.

As you look over my relationship rules consider how different you two are in handling conflict. What do you find acceptable? What do you identify as non negotiable? What lines will you place in the sand that you agree you will not cross?

Agreeing on these relationship rules will set you on a new course and as you work towards mastery in these areas it will prevent bitterness and resentment in the relationship.

Hoards of Value

I hope you see the value of investing into your future instead of spending all the time you’ve got.  Turn off the TV and turn on a podcast. Put down the phone and pic up a book. Be mindful how your actions are affecting your future and stop filling your life with mindless activities.  Don’t feel the need to read a whole book in one sitting (as some look at it).  Start with one page a day and stick with it. A little seed produces an impressive harvest, try it with your relationships.

Make a point to address the difficult issues but set limits on how long you’ll discuss these. If your actions are affecting their feelings, validate them. Do what I did and use this knowledge to motivate you towards growth. Don’t deny their experience with you, be mindful of their opinion.

If you’ve followed these relationship rules to the best of your ability and still have not seen the progress you desire it’s time to air your dirty laundry to a wise, trusted advisor. Find someone who will reveal your blind spots and speak truth into your life. Additional accountability may be what’s required to initiate and motivate change.

If you are a brave soul I’d love to hear which nugget you found most valuable. Please post in the comments below.