Relationships with everyone other than our kids are not unconditional in my viewpoint. My kids could literally whip out a knife and stab me to death and my love for them would not even lessen one iota. There’s not another living soul on the planet I can say the same about.
So I don’t have to work at loving my kids or trying to be my best for them. They are my world. With everyone else – friends, family, and even my spouse, I have to work at being a better person and accepting them for what they are, too.
That can be very hard – especially when everyone has a different way of communicating. Some people are sarcastic, some dorky, some a little serious, and so on…
I never thought about how to make relationships work from my perspective until I had trouble in my own marriage. Because the marriage was precious to me, I had two choices – quit (not an option) or find a way to make it work.
I had tried things before, but what I now know is that what I was looking for a way to make my husband be what I wanted him to be. I wasn’t looking for a solution – I was looking for a way we could both change. I knew I had to change some things for him, and I wanted him to change some things for me.
I won’t get into specifics, because that’s a personal thing and it’s not just me it’s about, but I will tell you what I learned. Some of my wonderful blog readers who I was close to knew something was up – and they suggested this book here to the right.
I bought it (and got him the man’s version) but I didn’t hope for much because neither of us are the “self help” kinda person. But something in it hit both of us HARD.
We both had a healthy mutual respect for the other person. He said I was a great woman, I said he was a great man. But together we seemed toxic.
This book changed our lives (and we’d done every counseling or whatever strategy you can imagine). It’s all about learning what language the other person speaks. If I walk up speaking JISGAIO and he walks up speaking SITHYA we’re both going to get frustrated because we don’t understand what the other person wants and needs.
And human needs are NOT universal.
It made so much sense – but not just about romantic relationships – this applies for EVERYONE!.
I didn’t buy it, but he has a book about the love languages for children, too. And one for the workplace! What I noticed is that we have a different love language for the various people in our lives. And sometimes they’re the same. For instance, I need people to speak nicely to me. If not, if I encounter someone who snaps at me or is sarcastic, I turn into not-so-pleasant Tiff. Or, I get hurt.
That’s the same for everybody. But it can be different too. For instance you may love the love language of “services” at home – having your spouse clean house for you, for example. But at work, you don’t want anyone surprising you by taking over a project and doing it without your input.
Another thing I learned is that sometimes when the other person is being so off-putting you really can’t stand it – that’s the perfect time to speak THEIR language and do something they need. Usually, their lashing out is a result of something else – you just might 1.) be the closest thing they have to take it out on, and they’d be apologetic if they realized it or 2.) be interpreting it all wrong because you speak a different language.
Is this easy? NO! It’s so hard it makes you feel sick at first. But the results are amazing. It feels much better than worsening the situation by piling more onto the other person so you can get back at them.
…and this only works if you truly have love for them.
If you don’t care, then it won’t work and it’s best to end it anyway, right? Whether it’s a friendship or romantic relationship.
As for me:
When it comes to relationships, I’m not perfect by any means. I have to work on being patient with those who aren’t my kids. I have to practice being tuned in to THEIR needs rather than my own.
But I work at it.
I work on my relationships with my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my friends and even you – my “audience.” (Really, you know I think of you as friends, but I’m trying to be broad here.)
What happens with me since I read that book is this:
At the very first sign of annoyance, I say, “Ohhhh…wait a sec. They’re speaking a different language. Let me speak theirs and maybe then we’ll understand each other.”
So if someone’s irritable, I don’t give them irritable right back. That’s not what speaking their language is about. They don’t know they’re being irritable. Instead, I do something that speaks their language – that could be spend time with them, do an act of service, buy them a little surprise (or even make it), etc.
What it does is diffuse the negative feelings I’m interpreting from them. Now if it STAYED irritable, and nothing I did fixed it, I’d have a problem and would have to find another remedy. But so far, this hasn’t happened with anyone I know.
My view on things…
I have some relationships that are strong. For instance, even though my husband and I have had trouble (nobody did anything – just off languages), I still feel like we have a strong relationship because even in our darkest hour, we were fiercely protective of one another. It was odd.
With other people, there are times they can anger me. Like if I have an opinion about something (politics, whatever) and they try scolding me into saying I’m wrong. That will sever a relationship with me if it goes too far or doesn’t end.
I also look at how people close to ME treat others and it can affect how I view them. If someone I previously liked okay mistreats my husband or my Mom or siblings, then I feel a strong disdain for them…even if THEY get over it! They’ll be on my “not to trust” list.
Bottom line is, we’re all working on bettering ourselves, so you have to realize that relationships evolve and change and grow and get stuck – but if you truly care about it, you take steps to try things and see if it improves matters. If not, you try something else.