Daily Tip: Start with just one or two goals; if you have too many, you will be less likely to keep up with them.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post called Lose the Mommy Guilt: Your Feelings Matter Too. This is all about relationships, specifically a mother’s relationship with her children, and how her feelings — positive or negative — are equally as valid as her children’s feelings. If you haven’t read it, go back and read it now.
I think this is a good starting place for this discussion: why you might make it your goal this year to improve your family relationships. What do feelings have to do with it?
Feelings Matter in Relationships
The thing is, relationships are messy. They’re not rational, they can’t be improved by being “fair.” It’s not possible to sit down and decide what you or they are ‘owed’ and make it happen. It’s even hard to say “I will treat this person better” if there are no guidelines for how that will work or what that will look like.
It’s all about feelings, and accepting that others have them (and that you do too). It’s about accepting that it’s okay to feel frustrated, scared, angry, hurt, excited, joyful, celebratory, and everything else. It’s about understanding that:
- Anger doesn’t mean the person no longer wants to be close to you
- Excitement doesn’t mean they’re bragging
- Joy doesn’t mean they’re delusional (i.e. someone who appears “always joyful” has chosen it deliberately!)
- Scared doesn’t mean they aren’t brave or strong
There are many more examples. But we all have human emotions and it’s okay. If we vow to accept others’ feelings this year instead of reacting to them, our relationships will improve.
What Accepting Feelings Looks Like in Practice
It sounds good in theory, but what does it mean in practice?
Many of us tend to take feelings personally. We feel overwhelmed, happy, offended, etc. by someone else’s feelings — and we focus on how their behavior or feelings are making us feel instead of focusing on how they are really feeling and why.
If your husband comes home from work in an unhappy or angry mood, instead of saying “Well, that’s a nice greeting. I haven’t seen you all day and you come home like that? I’m not the one who caused the problems.” Try saying, “What happened at work today that upset you? That must have been hard.” Listen if he wants to talk about it.
If he snaps at you, instead of saying “Don’t talk to me like that!” say “Why are you so upset?” There is probably a reason (mine does this if the kids have been bugging him a lot or going crazy!).
If your child is scared, instead of saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of, stop it,” try “Why are you scared?” Don’t be impatient — listen.
Are you noticing a theme? Ask about the feeling, then listen to the answer. Don’t comment on whether they should or shouldn’t feel the way they do — it won’t change anything. Don’t let yourself get caught up in your own feelings about the situation, even when it’s hard. (For example, if your husband comes home from the office in a bad mood and you’ve had a really hard day too, don’t let his misery compound yours, don’t snap back at him, don’t make it worse for both of you.)
What Happens When Feelings Are Accepted
How do you feel if you come home after a long day and sigh because you are tired and frustrated and just want to relax…and someone says, “What are you so unhappy about?” sarcastically? Probably angrier and more frustrated.
But what happens if you come home like that and someone says, “What happened today? How can I help?” It probably seems like the day really wasn’t so bad after all…and that definitely the unhappy parts are done. It’s easy to get past the frustration of the day when someone’s there to listen and help you forget.
If your husband comes home and you ask him why he’s frustrated, chances are he’ll tell you, feel better, then ask you how your day was…and be ready to emotionally support you and help you feel better. If you snap at him, both of you end up frustrated and angry and have no opportunity to relax and calm down.
If your child is angry and crying and you say “Are you feeling sad? Why are you sad?” instead of “Stop crying! Sometimes we all have to do things we don’t like” then the child will often tell you what s/he is feeling and calm down — because his/her feelings have been heard. (That doesn’t change, for example, that the child still has to pick up toys/go to bed/etc., but at least the child knows you understand how s/he feels.) Then you both feel better, it’s win-win instead of lose-lose.
When you’re there for someone and you accept them, they are more likely to accept you. Husbands become more aware of your feelings and listen to you more. Children become more cooperative. Everyone becomes happier! That is why accepting feelings is so important.
If Your Goal is Improving Relationships…
…make it your goal to accept others’ feelings this year. Ask. Listen. Understand. Accept for what it is. Be a safe person for those you love to come to and talk to. Your relationships will thrive.
Are you working on relationships this year? What is hardest for you?
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