Friday, December 21, 2012

Is there HOPE in Your Relationship?

Is there HOPE in your relationship? I can imagine that my question may seem too easy to answer. In fact, it may even seem too simplistic to solicit a response.  But it is a very necessary question especially as we consider our friendships, relationships, and partnerships. In the Christian faith, there is a scripture that says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick”.  And not only can deferred hope make your heart sick, but the lack of hope or deferred  hope in your relationship can make your relationship sick. Deferred hope, littler hope or no hope often gets in the way of CREATing Love that is supporting, sustaining and satisfying.  So how can you ensure that your relationship is infused with H.O.P.E?

H: The first way to ensure that your relationship is filled with H.O.P.E. is to give HONOR and act honorably.  Giving honor and acting honorably means treating yourself and others with consideration, holding yourself and others in high regard, and treating yourself and others with dignity. It means functioning and navigating in your relationship and in the world with integrity and authenticity. Being honorable demands that you are honest with yourself and with others. In many ways, treating someone with honor says I love you, I value you, I recognize you and I appreciate you.  Bestowing and/or showing honor is a sign of great admiration and respect.

Even though conferring honor and acting honorably are vital to our relationships, at times we all struggle to show and give it, especially to ourselves. We sometimes allow people to treat us in ways that don’t support, serve or satisfy us. We sometimes give untrustworthy, unpredictable and unworthy people access to us and to our spirits. We sometimes stay in relationships and in situations that are degrading, demeaning, draining and depressing. We sometimes evade, avoid and/or carefully obfuscate the truth. If we are honest with ourselves, we all can admit that we all don’t always treat ourselves and others with honor. Nor do we always act honorably or demand that we are treated with honor. At times we all fall short.

The good news is that we can choose to be different. How do you do that? First, by making sure you honor yourself by truly loving yourself.  Treat yourself like you are important and valuable.  Do what you need to do to stay physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially healthy. That may mean journaling, going to the movies, getting a massage, working out or seeing a therapist. Whatever it is, be sure that you are making you and your needs paramount. Why? Because when you are loving yourself and treating yourself with honor, you are less likely to accept or tolerate anything less for someone else. You must honor you!
 Secondly, honor yourself by getting to know yourself. Spend time alone and reflect on your life. I know that self-reflection is a simple concept, but in my experience, it is an under-utilized practice. Self-reflection not only benefits you, but it benefits your relationship. Just think about it - the better you know yourself, the easier it is to be in relationship with somebody else. So spend time with yourself and asks yourself questions like: Who am I? What do I like? What do I need? Am I happy? Am I healthy? Am I behaving in a way that supports me? Easy questions right?  Once you are clear about who you are and what you desire, it will be easier for you and others to honor you.

And after you are clear about what you need, be sure to check in with your partner to better understand what honor means to her.  Showing honor and acting honorably means different things to different people so be sure to communicate with her to get clarity. The more you understand and appreciate her definition of honor, the easier it will be for you to give it on her.

O: The second way to infuse H.O.P.E.  into your relationship is to practice Optimism. Believe it or not, being optimistic is important to the health of your relationship. Optimism helps you and partner positively deal with challenges, changes, adversity and problems. Optimism gives you strength to cope with all life’s troubles; it helps you remain positive even in the face of dejection, difficulty and defeat. Optimism also injects vibrancy, enthusiasm and joy into your relationship. Simply put, optimism gives you happiness, a true happiness in your life.
Optimism is a critical component of a healthy relationship. In fact, your relationship can not survive without it. Just loving and living with another person requires a degree of optimism.  Just the acts of caring and sharing require a certain degree of confidence. Just trusting your partner to love and cherish you requires a modicum of positivity. Optimism is important! And without it, loving, compromising and negotiating are difficult.  So ask yourself: Do I expect the best or the worst? Do I always see the bad in my partner and in my relationship or do I also see good? If you desire to have a relationship infused with H.O.P.E., you must be optimistic.

P: The third way to infuse hope into your relationship is to recognize Potential. Most people are comfortable discussing potential when it comes to their jobs, careers, investments and other opportunities. However, most people are usually uncomfortable and or reluctant to discuss potential when it comes to relationships. But, potential is important. And assessing the potential to grow and the willingness to grow with a prospective partner is critical. Why?  Because people are constantly changing and growing. As a result, the relationship must grow to accommodate and adjust to the changes. Remember….A healthy relationship must always be flexible, adaptable and malleable enough to allow for changes, modifications, new learnings and growth. If there is no room for evolution, transformation, advancement or newness, there is little potential for a lifelong partnership. Potential is a necessity and without it your relationship will become limiting, stagnant and suffocating.

Many couples have difficulty with the concepts of growth and self-discovery.  Some partners even complain that their partner is not the same person they dated or married. In some ways, that may be true. But it is also true that when people feel emotionally safe in relationships, they are more willing to explore new sides of themselves. In the safety of a committed relationship, they may discover aspects of themselves that they never knew existed. Believe me, it happens. Remember, love is liberating and your partner may and will need space to grow. If you are in a relationship that does not offer or allow space for growth or self-expression, an honest discussion is long over-due. Talk with your partner and together evaluate if there is potential for you, her and the relationship to flourish.  Determine if there is room for self-development, self-discovery and self-actualization. You owe it yourself because H.O.P.E. can not exist without potential.

 The last way to infuse hope into your relationship is to Enjoy your partner - to really celebrate her and not just tolerate her. Just think about when you first started dating. You really enjoyed each other. You laughed at her jokes, you enjoyed attending events together, and you relished your time together. You thought she was adorable and fun.  But under the strain of life, something happened and you stop spending time together. Maybe you even stopped liking each other. You even started living separate lives. If that is currently happening in your relationship, don’t be alarmed. It does not mean that your relationship is doomed. It may mean however, that your relationship is not being nurtured. Or, it may mean that you and your partner have unresolved issues that are affecting your connection. Or, it may mean that you and your partner need time to re-connect and get re-acquainted. Enjoying your partner should bring joy. And joy and happiness both promote hope. So the question is – are you enjoying your partner? If yes, keep doing what you are doing. If no, identify why and make changes so that you can enjoy the love of your life.

H.O.P.E – Honor, Optimism, Potential and Enjoyment – are important building blocks for a healthy relationship. H.O.P.E. gives you staying power and it gives your relationship holding power. Some say that H.O.P.E. is the emotional glue that helps couples stick together in good times and bad times. If you don’t have H.O.P.E. in yourself or in relationship, H.O.P.E. enough to get help. They are many resources available to help you. And remember that “hope is not a dream but a way of making dreams become reality.” So if CREATing Love is your dream, I recommend infusing a little H.O.P.E.

I look forward to continuing this discussion at the CREATE LOVE conference. Imani Evans and I hope to see you there. More info

Create Love, Co-Founder
(Book: I Can Depend On Me)

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