Share the Love: 7 Tips to Strengthen Your Relationships

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘good morning’ at total strangers. ~ Maya Angelou

February. the Love Month. Cupid … Valentine’s Day.  Flowers and romance.

OK. So maybe your life – or your love life – aren’t really as ‘lovely’ as you’d like. Maybe, your marriage or relationships are … well, strained? Tense? Non-existent? If so, it’s time for a relationship make-over.

Don’t you love those shows on HGTV that take a bland, depressing space and make it new and wonderful! It’s exciting to watch the transformation take place. You know there’s a lot more behind-the-scenes work than you see on TV, but the result is worth all the time and effort.

That’s also true of your relationships. With a bit of your time and effort, and some ‘tips’ from HGTV’s playbook, you can revitalize and restore the relationships in your life. Here is a seven-step process for your relationship make-overs. They will work in any relationship – spouse, co-workers, family, neighbors or whomever. It’s time for a Relationship Re-do.

Commit to the project. – If you’ve ever re-done a kitchen, you knew it was not going to be quick or easy. ‘Kitchen Crashers’ might show a three day make-over, but you don’t see the 150 or so people involved or the hours of pre-planning needed to make that happen! Restoration work takes t-i-m-e. Don’t expect instant results. You didn’t get into the mess overnight, and it will take a lot of effort and energy to undo the wear and tear caused by years of negligence or neglect.

Get creative. – How would you really like your relationships to function? What needs to move out, so something better can move in? Take some time to ‘design’ new traffic patterns (communication), seating arrangements (time commitments) and storage needs (what needs to be set aside for now … or forever?). It’s too easy for relationships to settle into patterns that are no longer desirable. Change is good. You just have to decide what you want and be willing to make the effort to change.

Try some color. – My mother loved white walls. Blah. Bland. Boring. If you’ve learned anything from HGTV, it’s that color is good! Step out of those old habits and explore new activities to do together. Plan a date night or weekend get-away. Regularly! Give yourselves something to look forward to. I have a group of girlfriends who meet once a month for brunch or lunch. It keeps us connected despite busy lifestyles and family commitments. Ed and I try to spend a day together once a week, even if it’s grocery shopping and lunch out. Relationships need excitement. Splash on some color. Variety really is the spice of life.

Be flexible. – If you’ve watched ‘Love It or List it’, the re-do always runs into snags. Wiring, plumbing, structural problems that have been ignored for decades. Yet the family isn’t willing to adjust their ‘wish list’ to compensate for what needs done. Relationships need constant maintenance. And sometimes the problems are bigger than you think. It might take more time and effort, more patience and love. If you’ve learned anything about life, it’s the need to adapt to changes, not get mad at them.

Re-arrange some things.  – When I was a kid, Mom re-arranged the living room furniture every few months. Dad never knew where his chair would be when he came home late at night! I asked her why she did that. She said it made her feel like she had a new room! What needs re-arranged in your relationships? More time for the people involved? Less time spent (or wasted) on something else? Do you need to declare a computer/app-free day’ or turn off the TV in favor of board games? Whatever your choices might be, the more time you put into a positive experience together, the better your relationships will be.

Allow for mistakes. – Yours and others’. In other words, forgive. Forgiveness is powerful. It chases resentment and anger out the door. It’s like spring cleaning for your mind. Nobody is perfect. You know that. So give some latitude (God calls it mercy). It doesn’t matter what happened. It’s in the past. If the wiring or plumbing was done wrong all those years ago, don’t just complain. Find ways to fix it and move forward.

Don’t quit in the middle. – Changing relationships is a long-term commitment. You wouldn’t stop a re-do in the middle of the project. Don’t quit on your family and friends. I do believe that every relationship is heal-able, but most folks aren’t willing to undo the damage from years of wear and tear, resentment and frustration. It will take a serious commitment on your part to keep working toward a better future. At least one of you needs to see past the anger, bitterness, and apathy to what can be and be willing to give up selfishness and pride. After all, love never fails, God said so!

Cupid aside, Love with a capital ‘L’ is every ready to forgive, forget and believe the best about everyone. Love exemplifies kindness and mercy. It shows favor and appreciation. Love offers grace and peace, without expecting (or demanding) a response. Love is patient, always believing the best of every person. The Bible tells us to be ‘rooted and grounded in love’. If you’ll commit to that make-over project, your relationships will turn out just fine.

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