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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Something’s happened. Something big, and you have to talk to someone about it. You have to make a decision. You need advice, but of a specific kind. You scroll through a list of names in your mind, deciding. Which of your friends would be best to talk to about this particular issue? Who will help most in this situation?

These are questions we ask ourselves all the time, whether or not we’re conscious of it. When we’re dealing with something big, we eventually need to talk options over with a friend. We can internalize a lot of the struggle, but at some point we need an outside opinion. We want to be sure we’re getting the best and most level-headed opinion we can, so we’re careful about who we choose to talk with about it.

This is not a bad thing. You have a unique relationship with each and every person you know, and each one of those people will have a different perspective on whatever situation you need help with. As you get to know someone, you learn what areas of life they have great insight on, and from there you know what kinds of situations they’d be able to help you the most with. Sometimes, though, we go to the person we know the best, or the one we’ve known longer. When we’re dealing with a situation that’s important to us, we go to the people we trust the most because we’re more comfortable with them. We’re able to express ourselves better. We know we don’t have to hold back. And we know that those people will take the matter seriously and give us the best advice they can.

I must offer a disclaimer here, though. Just because we choose one friend to go to over another doesn’t mean that we don’t trust that other friend. And the same goes if one of our friends goes to someone else over us. We have to remember that there are lots of factors that go into a decision like that. We shouldn’t be hurt that they didn’t come to us, because there were reasons for that, and there’s no way for us to know what those were. Instead, we should be happy that our friend got good advice on the situation, whoever that advice ended up coming from.

Every relationship is different and is built on a different foundation. Every relationship will have a different structure and will include different things. And that’s the beauty of unique relationships.

 

Do you have certain friends you ask for advice over others? Share your thoughts or story in the comments!

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Fun and crazy expressions are always good for a laugh. As a reader, I’m very expressive, which can be entertaining for those in the room with me. But when it comes to personal struggles, I’m not very expressive at all. There are so many different expressions out there, and yet only a few make us worry. As a society that places a lot of value on outward appearance, we learn what faces to show to the world and which ones to keep hidden until we’re alone. We show these faces in many ways: through expressions, words, and body language.

But it’s often the expressions we never show, the words we never use, and the tiniest hints from our body language that show others what we’re truly feeling. And if we’re lucky, we’ll have those friends that we can show those faces. We’ll have friends who will pick up on the unspoken words and body language. We all want that kind of friend, because then we can share with them what we’re truly feeling. We don’t have to keep silent.

Yet there’s so much of the time we don’t know what’s really going on in a friend’s life until they decide to open up to us.

Recently I was chatting with a close friend via the Internet and I was told of some deep, internal struggles in my friend’s heart. I was slightly surprised, because while we’ve often had serious conversations, the bulk of our interaction involves banter and light-hearted conversation. But this friend and I also happen to be in the same group chat, and my friend’s happy and excited responses to the group contrasted drastically to our one-on-one conversation. Seeing both ends of the spectrum at the same time like that really hit me. It made me think of the many faces we each hold, and how we pull out the “correct” face for the situation.

How many of us hide what we’re truly feeling from the majority of the world–including those who care about us? Especially via the Internet, it’s so easy to hide what we’re truly feeling. It’s simple to type a happy sentence, even if we’re falling apart inside. I’ve done that, too. I still do.

Yet when we do express our true feelings and things we’re struggling with, we apologize for it, for being a burden. But our friends should never feel that they’re inconveniencing us by telling us these kinds of things. The only way for us to get through life is to help each other out. We must help carry each others’ burdens. If we confide in someone, then we must also be willing to let them confide in us.

 

We can hide what we’re going through, but only for so long. We must learn to be unapologetic in sharing with the people who want to know. In order to survive, we all need this.

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Flight is one of those technological feats that still amazes me. I don’t get to fly often, but when I do I love to look out the window and watch the world below shrink and change. The earth’s topography becomes apparent and the clouds are a new kind of sea. As you fly high above the earth and among the clouds, it can seem that you’re hardly moving although you’re travelling at much faster speeds than the toy cars below.

Relationships can be similar to a flight spent watching out the window. There will be times when it seems as though a relationship has stalled, isn’t moving forward, or deepening as quickly as we’d expect. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but deep relationships are not instantaneous. They’re built over time. Sometimes they deepen quicker than we realize, and other times we realize just how quickly they’re deepening. It depends solely on the two people in the relationship and your perception of it.

On a flight, looking out a window can reveal three degrees of thickness within the clouds–the thin, nearly-transparent layer that allows glimpses of the earth below; the smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white; and the completely opaque, fluffy peaks of hand-whipped cream. We all have these three degrees of thickness within us, whether as clouds or walls or something else. The degrees will vary from person to person, as will how careful we are about which layers of ourselves we allow others to see.

The thin, nearly-transparent layer of clouds are the parts of who you are that you show right away. It’s usually not a lot, but it gives those you’re meeting for the first time or don’t know well that first taste of your personality. They’re hints of that true person deep inside you. Through these layers, glimpses of the roots of who you are can be seen, though never clearly. The roots of who we are permeate our lives, and others are able to catch glimpses of that, like glimpsing the earth through the clouds on a flight.

The smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white clouds usually sit lower in the sky. When we start to trust someone, we allow them to see this layer of ourselves. At this point, we are starting to trust that new friend with who we are, beginning to open up to them. It’s just enough of a taste that we can make a better decision on who to pull closer and who to keep at an arm’s length. At this point, we learn who is accepting of who we are and who might be skeptical or likely to use those things against us.

The opaque, fluffy peaks are the highest and thickest walls we build. We use these walls to keep most people from glimpsing who we truly are, keeping them at bay because we don’t know for sure we can trust them. We all have layers upon layers of these walls, building up as the peaks of the fluffy clouds do. One cluster of these walls we use to hide our deepest secrets, keeping them tucked away. Only a very select, privileged few get to see beyond these walls, to the heart of our fears.

Yet like a flight, like watching those clouds drift slowly by, relationships take time to develop and deepen. We must continue through regardless of the pace it seems things are going, because things we can’t see are always happening under the surface. We must take the time to get to know another person. The patience and time spent will be rewarded when you finally see the true person behind the mask. But relationships are not always smooth. They will hit some turbulence. You must expect both that and a little trouble throughout the flight, although these should not be long-winded. If you endure, it is truly all worth it in the end.

 

Yes, the world may tilt out of shape, may become first closer and then farther away or even disappear altogether, but beneath the trouble and those layers of clouds is something truly beautiful to behold and explore.

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Hello, friends. Sorry I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, but it’s been a little crazy here in my mind. I haven’t had many coherent thoughts regarding relationships due to some recent changes in some of my own close relationships. It’s been a bit of an emotional struggle, and may continue to be, but I have found that I can at least have coherent thoughts on relationships again. Thanks for your understanding!

 

As my brief silence has demonstrated, relationships are hard. Sometimes you have to choose between different relationships, which one needs the most nurturing. It’s not necessarily putting one above the other indefinitely, but rather putting one above the other for a moment in time. It’s putting one above the other(s) based on your own personal needs, and sometimes your friends’ needs, at that point in time.

Balancing relationships takes time, effort, and trial and error. It’s complicated because there can be a lot of people and emotions involved, on both your part and your friends’ part. We are people constantly in different kinds of relationships, and with so many personalities in the world we have to remember to think of both ourselves and those we care about.

The hardest part about having different relationships with different people is all the different needs we each have. You have all of these people outside of you that have different relationship needs from each other and from you. One close friend may need you, while you need a different friend at the moment. The trick is to balance the two, not focusing solely on those outside of yourself, but not focusing solely on yourself either. It keeps your relationships healthy and without bitter feelings.

Relationships take sacrifice, even if it’s only the amount of time we spend on them. And many times relationships require emotional sacrifice as well. We have to sacrifice what our wants and needs are for our friends’, and sometimes we need them to do the same for us. But the thing to remember is that it’s a give and take between you and your friend. If it’s all on one side, someone will start to feel slighted.

One way to avoid problems when it comes to these types of things is to develop a relationship that’s open, where you and your friend both feel comfortable sharing those types of thoughts and feelings with each other. Much of the time, this is all it takes to remedy the problem. If your friend comes to you and says she feels you’re not spending enough time with her, you can fix that and make her more of a priority. But if that friend doesn’t say anything to you, you may not notice, and bitterness can enter that relationship, bogging it down and creating even more problems.

Some of the hardest work in this aspect I have dealt with has been in recognizing the balance I’m holding onto with my relationships. Often, I see it more within my friends as they spend time with one another but not me. But at the same time, I know that it’s a two-way street. Both parties have to make an effort. Luckily, my relationships with these friends are open enough that they know they can tell me if they want me to spend more time with them, and vice versa. It’s a way to be honest and trust one another, and these are some of the closest friends I’ve ever had.

So if you’re struggling to balance relationships, don’t sweat it too much. We all struggle with it, and will continue to for the rest of our lives. Relationships aren’t supposed to be easy; they’re supposed to challenge you and help you grow into a better person. Learning to balance those relationships is an essential part of that process.

 

Have you ever had trouble balancing relationships? Were you able to work it out?

Feel free to ask me questions, and I’d love to hear your stories as well!

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We’ve talked about a lot of aspects of relationships throughout this series, but this may be the hardest one to breach. Letting go of a friendship that’s toxic or just no longer there is hard–harder than trying to make a new relationship work.

I’ve been there. Twice I’ve had to really think about letting go of a relationship, and it’s a hard thing to do. When you have a relationship, it’s a hard thing to question, because you love that person. But when it’s no longer healthy and it’s sapping you of energy, there’s something wrong. And maybe it’s time to let go.

 

One-Sided

One relationship I held onto for years before realizing it just wasn’t there anymore. I did everything I could to keep it going, initiating conversations, happy when he actually responded. Of course, he was the only childhood friend I wanted to keep in contact with, so it was hard to let go of that friendship.

But I had to let it go. It became a one-sided friendship, all of the effort coming from me to keep the relationship going. When a friendship becomes so one-sided that the only time you hear from that person is when you contact them, and you’re generating the entirety of the conversation as you’re having it, then it’s no longer a healthy relationship. You’re putting much more effort into it, and honestly, that other person may not even be thinking about you until you contact them.

This isn’t to say that those friends who you always have to contact are like that–I am in no way saying that. There are many people out there who just struggle with making initial contact, as we talked about here. The difference is in whether or not they even seem interested in keeping up with your life. If so, then they’re just not the type to reach out. If not, you might want to consider letting go of a potentially one-sided relationship.

 

Nothing You’ve Done

There are other reasons to let go of a friendship with someone, though. Another reason I’ve encountered is when it’s just not the same relationship anymore. Two of my friends in college dated, and I was close to both of them. But their relationship didn’t last, and neither could all the relationships that surrounded them. The relationship I had with one friend stayed, because it was very outside of the relationship we had as a group. And although the other one was outside of the group as well, I was too connected to my other friend. Keeping our relationship alive hurt him, so I had to let it go.

Sometimes, letting go isn’t for your own good, but for the other person’s. If your relationship is causing them pain, they’re not going to pursue that relationship, no matter how badly you don’t want to lose it. Sometimes, to help them out, you have to let go. Because you care too much about them to hold on and hurt them.

 

There are many other reasons to let go of a relationship; maybe it’s become toxic in some way, or maybe you’ve just grown apart and it’s hard to let go. I won’t go into detail about other reasons here, because I don’t have the experience with them. I’ve not seen them in action, and I would rather not talk about something I’m not sure about.

If you have an experience you’d be willing to share, or you want to add to something I’ve said here, feel free to join in. I’d love to hear your stories and start a discussion on this topic. It’s hard to let go of a relationship, no matter what kind of a relationship it is.

 

Communications Series

1 – Communication with Life’s Stresses

2 – Reaching Out and Being Intentional

3 – Reaching a Deeper Level – Big Talks

4 – Your Friend but Not Theirs

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So far in this series, we’ve talked about communication when life is stressful, reaching out to others intentionally, and taking a relationship to a deeper level. This week is a little different, but still relevant to what we’ve been discussing.

Picture this: You have two different friends, both of whom you’re very close to. With each you’ve reached some of the deeper levels of friendship and companionship. They’re both very dear friends of yours. But they hardly know each other. They’ve met a couple of times, but haven’t really had the conversations or time together that you’ve had with each of them. And soon you find out there’s some misunderstanding between them, some tension that you only notice after it’s been voiced to you. But they’re not good friends, so how do they work it out? How do they get together to talk when they’ve not done so before? Do you have to be the go-between?

This is something that can happen often in life, whether when we’re in school, work, or another large place we’re at for a while. And when this scenario comes up, you can feel the tension on both sides. Conversations with each person about the other and what’s going on seem strained and heavy. Almost too heavy for you to bear the weight of both.

Each person is your friend, but not theirs–not the other’s friend. This can easily put a strain on both of your relationships because you don’t want to lose either of them. You don’t want to be prioritizing one over the other, and you start worrying that you will or that you are.

Yet the best thing you can do in this situation is stay calm. Try to get both sides of the story if both friends are forthcoming about it. Then help them get in touch to set up a time to talk it out among themselves, and step back from the situation. There’s not much more you can do.

But what if they don’t want to try to work it out? In my experience, if they’re both close friends of yours, they’ll want to work it out. If they’re close friends, they’ll worry about the strain it’s putting on you and make it a priority to talk about whatever problem there is. But you can’t force them into it. And if they won’t take the time, question why. Ask them what it is that’s holding them back, and hope that they’re honest with you.

This can be a very hard thing to deal with because there’s really nothing you can do. And that’s hard. But you can’t control others’ feelings, thoughts, actions, or desires. It has to be completely up to them. And if they won’t, talk to them about it. Let them know how much it would mean to you if they did. And if they still won’t, then you may have a legitimate reason to question your friendship.

Your friends should be able to make sacrifices for you if they care about you, just as you would make sacrifices for them. This is a problem that’s bothering you because you care about them, because you care about how they’re hurt or whatever it is they’re feeling. In my experience, a deep, lasting friendship is one where there’s mutual sacrifice. And there’s no way to get around that.

So if you ever have this kind of an issue, or even sense something like it, take the time to figure out what it is. Ask those involved about what’s going on, and do what you can to facilitate conversation between your two friends. But don’t keep yourself in the middle or run yourself down with worry. Do what you can, then step back and let them take it the rest of the way. It has to be up to them.

 

What do you think? Do you have any experiences similar to this? What are your suggestions? We all have relational problems in life. Let’s help each other through them.

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