Going the Distance in the Family Marathon
Family relationships are an ultra-marathon, not a sprint. Having all the skills and techniques in the world will only go so far unless you develop the endurance to “go the distance.” So, here are a few suggestions to help build endurance and help you “go the distance” in your family life.
- Slow down to increase endurance. Slow the pace of your life so you can spend time with your family. Just hang out with individual family members or with your family as a whole. Have meaningless conversations. Spending time expresses value for the one you choose to be with. Family members consider you presence a sign of enduring love and care.
- Fill your speech with kindness. Kind words have tremendous power to build an enduring family. So, encourage one another. Say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Go the distance-keep your words kind and polite, even when irritated, angry, or tired.
- Every day, list at least one way you saw each family member make a positive investment in your family. Keep the list in a notebook or on your calendar. This will demand that you maintain a relational focus and keep your eyes open for positive contributions, even when you start feeling tired, angry, or begin to lose focus. Find a way to thank them for their contribution to the family on at least a weekly basis.
- Every day, list at least three things you appreciate about each family member. What character traits do you find endearing? What mannerisms do you enjoy? What do you admire about them? Keep that list each day and tell them one thing from that list each day.
- Make weekly goals about how you will show family members how much you value them. How will you show your love for each family member this week? How will you let them know how valuable they are to you? Once again, you will build endurance as you find creative ways to express this value week in and week out. It will demand some variation and creativity on your part; but, the results are amazing.
To really “go the distance” requires prevention as well. A yearly checkup can help to diagnoses various health conditions before they get bad, making treatment easier and more effective. The same is true in relationships. In fact, a yearly relationship check up can save a marriage, strengthen parent-child relationships, and lead to more satisfying family relationships. And, a family check up is free. That’s right, you can monitor the progress yourself. Here are some suggestions.
- Each year write a letter to your spouse and children telling them how much they mean to you. Include 2-3 things you admire about them and an example to support each of those traits. Areas of admiration may include personality, areas of growth, or other things about them that have special meaning to you. After writing the letter, share it with that family member. Make the sharing a special occasion, an opportunity to spend time together talking, reminiscing, and enjoying one another’s company.
- Ask your spouse and children what you can do to improve your family relationships. The following questions might help. The answers to these questions can be difficult to hear. However, we grow through constructive feedback. Asking for feedback shows your desire to grow personally and as a family. It shows how much you value your family and family member’s opinions.
- What can I do to make you feel more loved? Respected? Secure? Understood?
- When you think of me, what is the first thought/image that comes to mind? How do you think of me?
- What do you think I value most?
- Is there one characteristic you would like me to develop? An area you want me to work on improving?
- What are some things I can do to show you how much I value having you in my family?
- How do you envision our future together? What can we do to achieve that goal together?
By following these simple steps, you can add depth and longevity to your family relationships. You can “go the distance” and experience greater relationship health and happiness.