If you live like most people these days, from the moment you turn off your alarm clock until you switch it back on at night, you feel like you’re running.
Between working different shifts, trying to fit in exercise, after school programs, volunteerism and high pressure jobs, our family time and conversations are deeply affected. Not only are you running, but so are your friends and the members of your family.
No matter how much you love your spouse, your friend, your children or parents, these days, being in relationship takes effort. Life is busy. Technology competes for our time and attention like never before. Days can go by without having a real quality conversation with the people we love.
While it is easy to assume, that when living like this we really aren't hurting anyone, Psychologist and author, Brene Brown would say otherwise. Brown asserts that being present is not enough to keep strong connections. We must be intentional. Brown’s research discovered that the betrayal of disengagement is just as painful and destructive as more obvious betrayals like lying or unfaithfulness.
Brown writes, "When the people we love or with whom we have deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears – the fear of being abandoned, unworthy and unlovable. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain – there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness.”
This disengagement isn’t just about spouses, it affects our children too. While they might act like they don’t need us, they are craving our attention. Brown goes on to state, "With children, actions speak louder than words, When we stop requesting invitations into their lives by asking about their day, asking them to tell us about their favorite songs, wondering how their friends are doing, then children can feel pain and fear (and not relief despite how our teenagers may act). Because they can’t articulate how they feel about our disengagement when we stop making an effort with them, they show us by acting out, thinking, This will get their attention.”
Here’s a couple of ideas for staying connected:
- Have dinner together as a family. Be intentional in this half an hour to really ask everyone how their day was and listen.
- Learn to listen to what your spouse/friend/kids are not saying. Be intuitive. When they aren’t speaking the words that their actions are showing, gently, but consistently, give them opportunities to verbalize their feelings.
- Carve out intentional blocks of time for relationship – whether that is driving somewhere together (minus the headphones in), a board game night or hike. Create planned opportunities for conversation.
- Understand that relationships are worth fighting for – and can’t be floated through - without thought or intention.
Relationships are not to be taken for granted. They are the very fabric of our society. We must intentionally take good care of them. If you are finding your relationships strained in any way, be that at home, at work or at school, it may be time to get some help from a trained relationship expert. Registered Marriage and Family Therapists have had unique relationship training to help your relationships become the best they can be. You can find out more about marriage and family therapists at www.oamft.on.ca.
Finally, in the words of Brene Brown, "Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement. Trust isn’t a grand gesture –it’s a growing marble collection.”
By: Sharon Osvald in collaboration with Winnie Visser
Principles for Real Living:
I am responsible for my own attitude
My attitude affects my actions
I can not change others, but I can influence others
My emotions do not control my actions
Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I'm a failure
Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world
Desperate Marriages by Gary Chapman, Northfield Publishing, Chicago 1998, 2008