The Biggest Lie You’ve Been Told About Relationships

If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard it:

“Every couple fights.”

You’ve probably been told that you’re not going to be able to help fighting with your life partner. And you’ve also probably been told that it’s a natural, even healthy part of being in a relationship. That you need to “know how to fight” and “know how to make up.”

That is a lie.

Fighting Over Things vs. Working Through Things

Don’t get me wrong. Struggle is a natural part of being in a relationship. And refusing to deal with issues is certainly unhealthy.

Every couple I know has to deal with hurt, frustration, disappointment, confusion, annoyance, and misunderstanding. And that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.

And it is healthy to share those feelings, to work on things, to talk through things, to be scared, to cry, to plead, and to challenge.

But do you really think it’s impossible to say no to fighting? Especially with the one person you promise to love, support, respect, and care for with all your heart?

There is a difference between discussing and fighting. It has to do with kindness and respect. And when you are fighting, you are giving up on those. Working through things constructively, on the other hand, is a part of kindness and respect.

Some Couples Really Don’t Fight

Don’t just take my word for it. I have only been in a relationship for about three years. But I know other couples–couples who have been together for a long, long time–who say they have never had a fight. Oh, they’ve been through a lot, struggled a lot, shed a lot of tears. But they have never “gotten into it” with each other. They have never really fought.

And I think there’s something really special, really loving and caring about refusing to fight with someone, no matter how familiar and comfortable the relationship gets.

This doesn’t mean that if you’ve fought, you’ve failed. There’s nothing “better” about me if I don’t fight with my girlfriend. We might end up having some fights, anyway.

But all the excusing and explaining and justifying fighting, as a “normal” part of relationships, has got to stop.

Why Fighting Doesn’t Make Sense

I don’t claim the peace that my girlfriend and I have had is because of something great in us. But I am thankful for it. And I wish that more people would believe it’s possible to have peaceful relationships. Because believing you can stop fighting is the first step.

I do, though, think I have an idea of one big thing that’s keeping us from fighting. And I want to share it with you. Because the point is not to judge couples who fight, but to give hope and encouragement. So here’s what helps my girlfriend and I say no to fighting:

We are a team.

We stand and fall together. If we fight each other, we fight ourselves. If we support each other no matter how hard it gets, we support ourselves.

One of the most valuable things we provide for each other is the comfort of knowing we have someone on our team, in every single part of our lives. Someone who cares for us, will defend us, and will help us.

So when one of us is stressed out, the other understands. When one of us disappoints, the other forgives. When one of us fails, the other picks up the slack. And when one of us doesn’t pull enough weight, the other gently asks for a change.

blog image 13Staying Focused on Teamwork

We don’t escape fighting because we’re perfect. If we were perfect, we would do a lot less crying, a lot less sitting in confused silence, a lot less apologizing, and a lot less hugging.

I think we escape fighting largely because, no matter how tough things get, we keep this in the forefront of our minds: We are a team. We have to be a team!

I know we may fight someday. (And the surest way to make it happen is by saying we’ll never fight.) But if that becomes a part of who we are, shame on us. Because fighting is not necessary. It is disrespectful, self-centered, and damaging. We’re supposed to be a team, and that means having each other’s back–even when it hurts.

I’m not willing to assume Alyssa and I will ever fight, though. Because there are couples who just don’t do it. And, like them, we make a point of remembering that we’re on each other’s team.

“Every couple fights” is a lie. And it’s one that’s damning a lot of young couples to very hurtful and lonely relationships.

What helps to make your relationship peaceful and supportive?

6 Steps to Stay on Track When You’re Discouraged

I’ve been struggling with some personal things lately. Just some discouragements I’ve had to work through. Sometimes when you’re discouraged, it’s easy to lose sight of where you want to go–to doubt you’ll get there. And when you’re not fully expecting to get somewhere in the future, it’s not easy to discipline yourself to do the hard work today.

I remember learning this the hard way in my first job. But then I learned how to keep going anyway. Staying diligent through discouragement is hard, but it’s not impossible. Here are 6 steps you can take when you get discouraged. They’ll keep things in perspective and help you stay focused and productive.

     1. Calm your mind.

This is the first step I take in just about any personal challenge. When your mind is fighting (with itself or with outside influences), it is full of adrenaline and doesn’t think clearly or make careful decisions. So the first step to solving a mental and emotional crisis is to just calm down.

I like to go to a quiet place if I can, where I’m not surrounded by people or distractions. Sometimes I close my eyes and just breathe deeply. I let go of some emotions like anger and panic. I relax my mind until I am in a better state to think carefully.

     2. Acknowledge how much you change.

Your mind, heart, temperament, passions–they fluctuate by the day, by the hour, by the minute. Recognizing this helps keep things in perspective. How you feel right now does not have to define who you are. In fact, you are most certainly going to feel differently later.

blog image 12Part of emotional maturity is being able to make decisions that are no longer based on current moods and feelings. But that takes perspective. It requires really understanding your mind, and appreciating how inconsistent it is, so that you stop basing decisions primarily on your mood. And take hope: You’ll feel better about it later!

     3. Get rid of unnecessary discouragements.

Don’t focus too much on the negative, but do take time to figure out what may be bringing you down. Maybe it’s problems on the job or in your relationship. Maybe you just didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe you’re paying too much attention to one friend’s opinion. Or maybe you’re getting down on yourself for putting on a few extra pounds.

Some of these things will take longer to work on and will never be perfect. Like your relationship, or your career. You can’t just ignore those. But is there anything bringing you down that you can deal with immediately? Could you get more sleep tonight? Could you make healthier choices in your diet? Sometimes just getting rid of or changing your attitude about a little struggle can completely re-energize you.

     4. Ask yourself what you want your future to look like.

After deciding what I need to get rid of, I remind myself of what I’m trying to create. Try asking yourself where you want to be in the future. Be specific. What do you want to be able to do? Who do you want to be serving? How much money do you want to be making? Why? What do you want to be able to provide for family and friends? What experiences do you want out of life?

Dreaming of your future helps put things back in perspective. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to get re-motivated. What you’re doing today is not just for the sake of feeling good today. What you’re doing today is because you want to have something later. Whether you want to travel the world, start a charity, or send your kids to a good school, today’s work is for the sake of that future, not your mood.

     5. Ask yourself how you’ll get where you want to go.

Once you know what you want your future to look like–the place from where you want to be looking back on today–ask yourself two tough questions. They’re easy to answer but the answers demand your hard work and self-discipline:

Will you get there by being disciplined and productive? Maybe, maybe not (though if you do miss the moon you may land in the stars). But will you ever get there without being disciplined and productive? No. Definitely not.

6. Ask for help.

This might be the hardest step to take, but it’s often the most valuable, and sometimes the only one that’ll do it for you. When you’re struggling with discouragement, whether it’s laziness or depression, or just a little mood swing, reaching out for help can be a game-changer.

You can find encouragement, teamwork, accountability, or another form of support. And lots of people are ready and eager to help you. But you have to ask for it. You can ask friends and family. The most helpful teammate I have is my girlfriend, who knows me and cares about me more than anyone else. If you’re a religious person, you can reach out to God. An impressive amount of highly productive and successful people say one of the biggest anchors they have is prayer and church. Wherever you find support, don’t be afraid to go there. And when you feel embarrassed for needing help, that’s probably when you need it most.

These six steps help me a lot. I hope they help you, too!

Can you share some other ways you’ve learned to keep going when you’re discouraged?

Balancing Your Purpose

Hey guys! I want to share something with you I’ve been learning lately–it’s helping me a lot!

I’m learning that I need a balance between three states of activity: Learning, Creating, and Enjoying.

blog image 8Receiving, Giving, and Appreciating.

The less balanced those are, the more stressful my life. When I’m experiencing too much of one kind of “purpose,” I find myself asking, “What’s the point?”

The more balanced they are, the happier I am. When I learn, create, and enjoy in balance, I feel fulfilled.

Has anyone else experienced this?

I know what it’s like to learn, learn, learn–never give back, never enjoy. It feels rather self-centered after a while. What’s the point of learning, after all?

I know what it’s like to create, create, create–never learn, never enjoy. Pretty soon you feel like a hypocrite. If you cannot experience the fruit of creations, how can you believe yours will be of value to anyone?

I know what it’s like to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy–never learn, never create. It feels good for a minute, but give it a day, a week, a month, a year. Soon the pleasure becomes a void of purposelessness–torture.

When I begin feeling stressed, it is usually because I am not being who I want to be. When I feel like I am not being who I want to be, I usually realize I have been forgetting to receive, forgetting to give, or forgetting to appreciate.

When I bring them back into balance, I feel the weight of selfishness, hypocrisy, and pointlessness lift from my shoulders. And I feel the energy to live what I believe.

I have been learning to lead myself purposefully, keeping in balance receiving, giving, and appreciating–learning, creating, and enjoying.

How about you? What have you learned about finding balance in your daily activities?

What a Closed Mind Looks Like

One day long ago, a man walked along a dusty old road. Soon a lion approached and met him. They struck up a conversation and began walking together.

“Tell me,” said the man, “Of lion and man, who do you consider to possess the greater strength and cunning?”

The lion walked silently, considering the question. There is great power and cunning to speak of for both, he thought. But hard to tell which is greater.

Unable to wait, and considerably more interested in his own opinion anyway, the man answered his own question. “I think it is reasonable to say man is greater,” he said. “You lions possess not the cunning and strategy that make us great. We will always be conquerors, and you will always fear and serve us.”

The lion purred in obvious annoyance. “That is quite a statement,” he replied.

“Follow me,” said the man, “I will prove it to you!”

The man led the lion into the beautiful public gardens and up to a great statue of stone. The god Zeus was depicted ripping apart a lion’s jaws, slaying the stone beast. The man pointed smugly at the statue, waiting for his companion to concede.

The lion stopped in his tracks and stared at the statue in some confusion. Then a grin began to spread across his face. He chuckled and turned to the man. “You are blind, silly man! Look at the inscription! It was a man, like you, who carved this statue,” he said. “Had a lion fashioned this statue, you can be sure that it would be Zeus who was slain. You have proved nothing.”

 

In this old fable, Aesop taught an important lesson: We can easily represent things as we wish them to be. Our minds are shaped by the statues around us. Each statue has its own maker whose mind was also shaped by statues.

Now that does not prove there is no “truth,” no reality. But it warns that we must take care how blindly we commit ourselves to the statues that have shaped us. Why, after all, do we so desperately need to believe our statues are accurate beyond the shadow of a doubt.

blog image 3Like the man, we are often by nature too confident in our own presuppositions. Too sure of our opinions, too convinced by our own logic.

So it’s time to ask ourselves: Are we blindly following the statues made by our own kind? Or are we truly opening our minds to other ideas–ideas that may be valuable for us, may help us, may change our lives completely?

Gentleness

There’s a verse in the Bible that I’ve tried to live by for the last seven years:

“Let your gentleness be known to all men.”

Gentleness. It’s the first word my girlfriend uses to describe me. But as a kid, I was never gentle. I was very angry, sometimes even a little violent (as violent as a ten-year-old can be, anyway). Everyone and everything around me made me mad, and I didn’t bother hiding it.

I grew up feeling like I had to win every argument and fight. I thought I had to fight for myself whatever the cost. My weapons were sarcasm and a loud voice. If we’re honest, becoming an adult doesn’t fix any of that.

But try living by that verse for a while. When I first read it, all the conflict and stress became a little more black and white. I understood why I had a hard time leading and keeping peaceful friendships.

So I memorized it and thought about it every day for months. I stopped talking as much, stopped insisting on being right, and stopped expressing anger.

I can honestly say, that may have been the biggest turning point in my life. I don’t live in stress and conflict anymore. I don’t drive people away.

blog image 2“Let your gentleness be known to all men.”

I still refocus on that verse regularly, still live by it. And I can tell you from my own experience: For the sake of your own peace and the peace of your relationships, gentleness is one of the most valuable characteristics you can create in yourself.