Love is not an emotion. (Joy is an emotion and many people do experience joy as a result of love.)
Love is an action - a decision to "will the good of another." Because love is an action, that also means that love (and consequently any and all relationships) require work. But... family life is busy. Between the constant needs of children, the demands of work, the unending household chores... how can you maintain the relationships you cherish? Of course, you show love to you family when do you things like feed them nourishing food or clean their clothes, but sometimes you need a little bit more than that to really keep those connections strong. Here are four tips to strengthen any relationship - spouse, child, or even a friend.
Always tell the truth
This one might seem obvious, but there's no quicker relationship damper than a lie. It's not always easy nor pleasant but having an open line of communication with your spouse is a guaranteed way to strengthen the relationship. Working through difficult situations can actually become a source of renewal in a relationship but only if the journey is not dotted with lies.
For children, reassuring them of your love can help keep lying at bay. Telling lies can become a self-preservation mechanism if s/he thinks love will be withdrawn. A few weeks ago, I noticed my son had an accident but hid the evidence. I found the evidence and questioned him. He looked into my eyes and denied it - despite the fact that it was obvious. I told him I knew the truth and he looked flustered. "I didn't want to get in trouble," he explained. Of course, who would want to get in trouble? No one. I reminded him that no matter what, I always love him. Even if he does something wrong, I do not love him less. He immediately relaxed and confessed. The next day, he spilled some milk and came running to me. "Mama, I made a mess. I'm telling you the truth." At least for now, he no longer feels the need to lie about messes because he knows my love is unconditional.
Wait for the right moment to give correction
I recently read an article about a father who defines his parenting style as "Mary Poppins" - for every medicine (correction or discipline) he gives, he first makes sure to lay on the sugar (love). I found this to be such a brilliant way to look at parenting and how true it is!
How often have you been corrected and, instead of allowing the advice to better yourself, felt only bitterness at having been corrected? Have you ever done 10 things right and received criticism on the one thing you did wrong? It doesn't feel good, does it? In any relationship, there will be a time where one person offers constructive (hopefully, it's constructive) criticism. The key to offering the advice without damaging the relationship or crushing the spirit is to be careful attention to when you offer the criticism. Whether it's a spouse or child, how you to choose to give criticism or correction can really affect your relationship. No one wants to be corrected in front of a whole group of people; if you can, pull aside your partner or child and speak privately. Don't add embarrassment to the issue at hand.
Set them up to win
Setting up your spouse/friend/child to win is a great way to strengthen your relationship. Why does this work? When you support someone, they feel encouraged, motivated, and loved by you which in turn creates a stronger bond between the two of you. This doesn't have to be anything extravagant; support can be something as simple as making their day easier.
Learn their love language (and yours too while you're at it)
One of my favorite family-oriented books is the Love Language series by Gary Chapman. The premise of these books is that every experiences love in difference "languages." Learning the love language of your son, daughter, or spouse can dramatically affect your relationship.
My older son's love language is quality time, and I see instantly how he is transformed by some good ol' one-on-one time. It doesn't matter if I buy him a boatload of new toys or spend 5 hours in the kitchen making him his favorite food or praising him for an hour, nothing says "I love you" (to him) like getting on the floor and playing trains or puzzles or building with Lincoln Logs.
What are ways that you implement these four tips? Comment below!
Wife & Mama with a passion for peaceful parenting, natural living, homeschooling... and my daily café au lait.