Relationships make life worth living…but sometimes they can make life a little too, shall we say, complicated.
Relationships are not easy, but they can be simple. In other words, all good relationships need work, but they do not need to be complicated to be effective and enjoyable. Take the time to simplify the complicated (and even the uncomplicated) relationships in your life, and you’ll find yourself with more time, energy, and joy on your hands.
10 Tips for Simplifying Complicated Relationships
1 – Be honest. Tell your spouse, your mother, your siblings that you don’t want to be called Shnooky-Pookums, Cheeks, or Stinky in public. Tell your co-workers or playdate moms that you won’t participate in the spouse bashing and to not go there around you. Tell your husband that you are just as exhausted as he is at the end of the day and really really really really really need help with the dishes so you can both sit down together and rest. Be nice, but be honest.
2 – Don’t be too honest. Don’t tell your mother-in-law that her hair is a nasty shade of putrid green if your relationship can’t take that sort of honesty. Don’t pat your wife’s (or husband’s) tummy and say, “When’s the next one due, Mama?” (My husband does not do this, by the way.) Don’t tell the Sunday School teacher that you think her dog stinks like dead fish unless the two of you are best friends and she specifically asks. These are obvious examples, but understand that some things don’t need to be said…so don’t say them. It’s just not worth it and will only end in tears…not the good kind.
3 – Limit your close relationships. Don’t try to be buddy-buddy with everybody who strolls past your front door. You do not need to be best friends with all your co-workers or homeschool group moms. It’s okay to have church acquaintances who will never move into the friend category. Limit your close relationships to those you can manage, and those who build you up instead of drag you down with negativity and perpetual neediness. (Everyone is needy sometimes, which is understandable, but you can’t hold everyone’s hand at once. You. just. can’t.)
4 – Don’t jump to conclusions about other people’s reactionary behavior. Understand that everyone has baggage. Everyone is hurting. Sometimes the way they respond to you comes from pain caused by someone else. It might not even have anything to do with you. Of course, you may have been a big ol’ butthead or eaten the last cookie, and therefore owe that person a whole-hearted apology, which brings us to…
5 – Apologize and mean it. Choke down your pride and say you’re sorry, but not like this: “I’m sorry that you’re offended.” You’re not sorry! You’re just trying to appease someone and save your hinder. Be sorry. Put the relationship ahead of your desire to be right.
6 – Set limits. Tell your extended family and friends not to call during homeschool hours or the baby’s nap time. Tell your parents and in-laws that you don’t necessarily want them to try to fix your life. Tell your wife not to bring the kids into the office without calling ahead, or your husband to try not to interrupt (too much) during a homeschool history lesson. Tell those well-meaning people at church that you like being home with your kids and don’t need anybody to rescue you…but they can bring you cookies…and pie.
7 – Don’t be easily offended. Don’t make people walk on eggshells. Oftentimes people are in no way attempting to offend, but an overly-sensitive person launches a crisis situation. Don’t be that person!
8 – Don’t talk. Listen. I think my brother taught me this. Before you open your mouth, ask yourself W.A.I.T., which means “Why am I talking?” Seriously, you don’t need a parallel story, you don’t need to one-up someone, you don’t need to fix everything, you don’t need to talk about yourself all. the. time. Really. You don’t. Stuff a cookie in your mouth if that’s the only way you can keep it closed.
9 – Understand that people will probably never change. The one-upper, the boaster, the tactless uncle, the cheesy blog writer (a-hem), the crazy aunt, the easily offended in-law, the straaaaaaaaaange cousin…chances are they’ll never change. Accept that. Besides, they’re probably saying the same thing about you right now. Wink. (If this last remark offends you, please re-read and take to heart number 7.)
10 – Keep it in perspective. So your husband forgets your anniversary. Big stinkin’ deal! He still loves you!* So your mother-in-law sends your kids a plastic toy from China that you told her was not allowed in your house. Big whap-diddly-doo! Just pass it on. Its three-day presence in your home is not going to cause your children to grow a third arm out of their right nostrils (despite what you read in the blogosphere). (Exceptions would include harmful or inappropriate behavior–use your brain.) So your 90-year-old grandmother telephones in the middle of your homeschool day. So what?! It’s your 90-year-old grandma! Turn on Liberty’s Kids for your students, get yourself a cup of tea and a slice of pie, and chat with Grandma! And say “hi” from me! If whatever-it-is still bugs ya, say your complaint out loud. Do you hear yourself? Kinda whiny and petty, eh? Yup…without the “kinda.” Put people over dates, self-imposed principles, and schedules.
Give these 10 tips a try and your relationships will thrive…or at least not suck out your lifeblood, which, in some cases, is an improvement.
What are your tips for simplifying relationships?
*This obviously does not apply to husbands who are abusive, negligent, or unfaithful. If that is your situation, please seek help from a professional. It is more than can be dealt with in a 10-tip blog post.