A Vision For Relationship and Family

January is the month when, traditionally, we think about what we want to create for our businesses, organizations and professional endeavors. We work hard to clarify these goals and aspirations and employ sophisticated strategies, techniques and tools to map the future.

My question is: What is your vision for your most important relationships and family life this year?

All too often, those of us with large dreams for work, creativity and community forget that the journey of intimacy, family and relationship is central to a balanced and meaningful life.

We get so immersed in the daily pursuit of professional achievement that we forget to attend to the journey of the heart. As a result, we find ourselves growing distant from those we love or we become disconnected and mired in loneliness.

Such preoccupation undermines the bonds of love and affection, so central to our health and wellbeing. It is a real and growing danger that can undermine our happiness and the happiness of those we love.

Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien makes an astute observation when she suggests that many people come home from work every day, talk to their spouse or partner about work and the kids, and mistake that for attending to the relationship. Then, they are surprised when the relationship lacks fire or falls apart.

It is little wonder that intimate relationships drift from lack of focused attention, engagement and careful stewardship. Relationship is a gift to be experienced and explored, not a routine to be taken for granted.

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THE TYRANNY OF TIME

Many of us struggle with work-life balance. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to attend to all of our responsibilities. As a result, we find ourselves making trade-offs that create stress and resentment.

A recent study by The Center for Work-Life Policy suggested that as many as 1.7 million Americans cite globalization as the source of excessive demands at work. It also reports that up to 50% of top corporate executives have considered leaving their positions due to excessive stress and time demands.

There’s more.

A Canadian Government website reports that “average workers spent 45 minutes less with their family during workdays in 2005 than they did two decades earlier. Based on a 260-day work year, that amounts to 195 hours less, or the equivalent of about five 40-hour work weeks.”

That’s time away from your kid’s music recital, parent-teacher meeting, and bedtime story. It’s also the source of “Honey, I promise! I’ll make it up to you later…”

Far too many people wait far too long for “later.”

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THE PRACTICE OF STEWARDSHIP

For relationships and family to thrive, there must be ongoing attention paid to strengthening the bonds of love, deepening intimacy, softening conflicts and opening new growth. This is called “stewardship.”

Stewardship is a commitment to the health and quality of a relationship and family dynamic. It is a deeper responsibility than simply being “involved.” It requires leadership, engagement and creativity.

All too often, we rely on our partner to take care of the relationship or family, especially those of us with demanding careers. Both partners must share responsibility for the care and nurturance of intimacy so that the bonds of relationship remain strong and that the family thrives.

The practice of stewardship includes openness and presence. Too many people are MIA in their relationships and families, or they are on “automatic pilot.” They go through the motions in a state of preoccupation or emotional disconnection.

Openness means that we are accessible, available, candid and unguarded. It is the ability to bring those we love into our thoughts, feelings, and dreams. We recognize that time is a gift to be used consciously and that the journey of relationship is time-bound. We can't take it for granted. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Openness means that we are generous with our affections and willing to forgive a mistake. It also means that we provide a safe space for our partner, children and extended family to share with us what is most important to them. We listen rather than judge and criticize. Ultimately, openness allows love to be given and received, which is the journey of intimacy in a nutshell.

Talking through problems rather than pretending they don't exist is a sign of relational maturity. Love is not immune to disagreement. Nor does it prevent misunderstanding or hurt feelings. In those moments, when anger and resentment tempt us to withdraw our affections, we must be able to place our allegiance to the relationship first and work through the differences that separate us until real resolution can be found.

 

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Posted on May 27, 2013 .