Tag Archive for: Relationships

Just say something about boundaries and watch what happens. Some immediately become suspicious and negative. Others believe it’s a good thing that’s necessary for healthy relationships. Why does the idea of setting good boundaries elicit such opposing responses?

Are boundaries good or bad?

“Many people view boundaries as a way to restrain them,” says relationship coach, Dr. David Banks. “They say they want to be free to do whatever, whenever they want to do it. This is not a healthy way of thinking. Living with no boundaries may sound exciting, but it can actually destroy you. The sad thing is, most of the time people don’t experience the negative impact of ‘no boundaries’ until after the fact, and then it is often too late.”

For example, take the person whose goal is to make a million dollars in a year. He basically puts his marriage and children on hold while putting his nose to the grindstone to make his million. At year’s end, he realizes he reached his monetary goal but sacrificed his relationship with his family in the process.

“Setting boundaries starts early,” Banks says. “As parents, we model this for our children. Consider the fact that when children are born, parents usually place the child between the two of them and the marriage takes a back seat to childrearing. In reality, the child should be positioned in front with the parents standing firmly behind the child. The boundary is set from an early age that you don’t come between mom and dad. As parents, your job is to receive your child, raise your child, and release your child.”

Without firm boundaries in place, life can be a bit more complicated, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

If you’ve never had any boundaries, it’s not too late to take some steps toward setting good boundaries. Though it may be hard in the beginning, it can be really helpful in the long run.

“Many people are afraid of the backlash of setting boundaries,” Banks shares. “While it is true that things could be a little challenging for a while, keep your eyes on the goal. Ultimately, people are looking for healthy relationships—at work, in their marriage, with their children, and in friendships. Healthy boundaries help you establish priorities, manage your time better, and have fulfilling relationships with people.

“When you are spending time with your spouse and your phone rings or your teenager comes in wanting to talk about changing curfew, you see these for what they are—distractions from your priority at the moment. The phone can wait and so can your teen. Boundaries are actually very freeing.”

The following steps can be helpful for setting good boundaries:

  • Understand your purpose. Who are you? What is important to you? What are your priorities in life?
  • Focus on yourself, not on others. The only person you can change is you. You can’t control other people’s behavior. If your goal is to stay healthy and connected, boundaries help with that.
  • Stay strong. If you’ve operated without boundaries, suddenly putting them in place could initially create chaos in your relationships. Stay the course.
  • Surround yourself with a strong support system. These aren’t necessarily your best friends, but they will speak the truth to you, encourage you, and hold you accountable for the change you seek to create.

Ultimately, boundaries set the standard for expectations in relationships at home, at work and in the community. They protect you and allow you to function at your highest level of productivity.

We’ve got more great stuff about boundaries!

Help! My Spouse Hates to Talk About Boundaries!

8 Tips for Setting Technology Boundaries in Your Family

How Boundaries Can Protect Your Marriage

Setting Boundaries with Adult Children

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Kindness: The Superpower Everyone Can Use

Being kind has the power to transform every relationship.

“What if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse?”

That’s the question a woman asked social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn after she spoke at a conference on the topic of kindness.

Feldhahn encouraged her to take a 30-day Kindness Challenge. The steps are:

  • Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them.
  • Each day, find one positive thing to praise or affirm about that person. Then tell them and tell someone else. 
  • Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
  • You may or may not choose to tell the person you chose about the challenge.

Three years later, the same woman approached Feldhahn and said, “You won’t remember me, but I asked you a question three years ago about what to do if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse. I decided to take you up on the Kindness Challenge and I learned a lot about myself. I had no idea how unkind I was to my husband, and I thought it was all him. As I was kind to him, his defenses lowered. Three years later, we have a great marriage.”

“What I have found based on my research is that when kindness starts to flow, it is really incredible,” says Feldhahn. “It’s actually a real-life superpower. For years, I’ve been studying what makes people thrive. And I’ve seen that whether or not we thrive in relationships is far more related to how we treat others than how we ourselves are treated.”

Feldhahn believes kindness is the answer in any difficult situation.

“This means being kind when you are super-irritated and you really don’t want to be,” Feldhahn shares. “Even in situations where you need boundaries, that is usually the kindest thing you can do. If someone is being abusive, for example, it is not kind to allow that person to continue to destroy their own emotional state by being that way.”

For her book, The Kindness Challenge, Feldhahn surveyed study participants extensively before and after the 30-day period.

After completing the challenge, 89 percent of all relationships had improved, 74 percent felt more love and affection for their romantic partner, and 66 percent felt more love and appreciation by their romantic partner.

“One of the biggest surprises from the research was that most of us already think we are kind,” Feldhahn says. “In fact, most of us are totally delusional. We have no idea how often we are unkind without even realizing it. In the book, we identify seven patterns of unkindness and negativity – and every one of us has at least one of them! We encourage everyone to identify their own pattern of negativity – because in most cases it is a pattern across all relationships, not just that one.”

The Challenge opened participants’ eyes very quickly to that reality, and it showed them that they also weren’t as affirming to the other person as they thought. It also changed their feelings, to appreciate the person more.

As Feldhahn put it, “That only makes sense, right? After all, if you’re irritated with someone, and you tell them that you’re irritated, and you tell someone else that you’re irritated, are you doing to be more or less irritated?”

We all know the answer to that. Just as we know that we’ll simply notice the positive more if we’re looking for it. And while being kind doesn’t take away problems, it often makes them easier to solve.

Feldhahn wants the Challenge to transform relationships.

“It’s really life-changing,” Feldhahn suggests. “It is a training ground to become a truly kind person. You have to designate one person to do the challenge for. But it can be anyone – your spouse, child, friend, in-law, co-worker, anybody.”

Like the woman who didn’t respect or appreciate her spouse, the outcome is a pleasant surprise for many Challenge-takers after 30 days.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can find out more at jointhekindnesschallenge.com. The outcome just might surprise you, too.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Relationships are Key to Happiness

Connections can improve your quality of life.

What’s the secret to a happy life? Many might say that money is a big part of the equation. But intrigued with discovering the secrets to a meaningful and happy life, a group of Harvard researchers launched a study in 1938. Then, they followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates – for 75 years.

The unique Harvard Grant Study collected data on the men’s lives through surveys and interviews. They looked at all aspects, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies and alcohol use. What they found may surprise you.

Perhaps one of the biggest revelations was that love really does matter when it comes to living a fulfilled life.

In his book about the study, Triumphs of Experience, Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, study director from 1972 to 2004, writes: “There are two pillars of happiness. One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

The study’s most important finding?

Relationships are the only things that matter in life. You could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, you’d be unhappy. The ability to take in love is a great human skill.

Interestingly, Vaillant says that so many of the things people thought mattered when it comes to happiness don’t. For example, many believe money and social class are vital to success. These two things were at the bottom of the list.

Even our earliest relationships are important to long-term happiness, especially the mother-child relationship. Men who had a warm mother-child bond were less likely to develop dementia later in life. They were also more likely to have professional success.

Avoiding smoking and not abusing alcohol were by far the most important things to increase longevity. The study found that alcohol abuse was the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects. Alcoholism was the leading cause of divorce among the 268 men and their wives. Plus, a strong correlation existed between alcohol abuse, neurosis and depression. Interestingly, the mental illness followed the alcohol abuse rather than preceding it.

More money, power and intelligence do not mean more happiness.

Vaillant found that men with IQs between 110 and 115 were no more or less happy than men with IQs higher than 150. Furthermore, the only thing that really matters when it comes to achievement is contentment at work. Having a meaningful connection to our work is more important than achieving traditional success.

Additionally, Vaillant found that early success did not necessarily mean future success. Conversely, failure early in life did not necessarily mean ultimate failure. In fact, some who seemed they would not end up doing well actually became successful. Vaillant shares that the journey from immaturity to maturity is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection. Moreover, a big part of this shift has to do with the way challenges are handled.

In the end, it all comes back to relationships, connection and love. Are you on a pathway to happiness and a meaningful life or a dead-end road?

Imagine walking down the street and hearing laughter and hollering coming from around the corner. Assuming it is a group of children, you turn the corner and see blindfolded adults being led around by other adults. Balls fly through the air as the blindfolded people attempt to tag other blindfolded people. In the midst of it all you see that these people are clearly having fun.

Most parents know about the importance of play for their children, but what about the importance and benefits of play for grown-ups?

The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children, and the capacity of our corporations to innovate.

Perhaps you have heard the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” There is probably more truth to the saying than most realize. Research indicates that without play, it is hard to give your best at work or at home.

What do you do on a regular basis for fun? When did you last go down a slide, play hide and go seek or join a good game of wiffle ball? Many adults have the mindset that they are too old to be playful. There is actually strong evidence that this could not be further from the truth. Play may be the very thing that keeps you young and healthier. In fact, studies show that a life lived without play is at increased risk for stress-related diseases, mental health issues, addiction and interpersonal violence.

Are there more benefits of play for adults?

  • According to the NIP, play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature, it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding.

  • Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. Additionally, it gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these byproducts are indications of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.

  • It also enhances relationships. The NIP cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.

  • Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are humor, the enjoyment of novelty, and the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies. Other hallmarks are the enjoyment of mutual storytelling and the capacity to divulge imagination and fantasies openly.

  • Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and a deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy. Who wouldn’t want this in a relationship?

Believe it or not, the blindfolded adults were actually working. This playfulness was part of the work activity. When finished, almost without exception, each person commented on how good it felt to play and how energized they felt. When they began to work on a project, many said they could feel high energy levels in the room.

Just as children need play to help them de-stress, play has so many benefits for adults! It can help them be at their best when it comes to career, parenting, and marriage. Instead of looking at play as a waste of precious time, consider it a great investment in well-being.