Do You Have Good News? Share It!

Sometimes we hesitate to share good news with others. Maybe we fear making the other person feel bad or sounding like we’re boasting. However, a study published in Emotion tells a different story. This study involved 300 participants between 25 and 85 years of age. The research team prompted participants 6 times a day for 10 days to report on their level of gratitude as well as any social interactions and whether they had shared good news with someone else. The study revealed several important findings:

  • People who shared positive events with others felt more grateful in the moment.
  • People who shared good news with others felt closer to the person with whom they shared the good news.
  • People who received enthusiastic responses were the most grateful in this group.

Sharing good news with others draws our attention to the positive events and good things in life. It also gives us the opportunity to “re-experience” those events and perhaps even grow more appreciative as we do. In other words, we grow in gratitude for the good in our lives.

An enthusiastic response makes us feel validated and cared for by the one listening. When a person enthusiastically responds to our good news, we are no longer simply telling them about the event, but we are sharing it with them as we re-experience it together. We have offered a point of connection and, in accepting it, they share a joy with us that leads to a deeper relationship. This sharing also leads to greater gratitude—gratitude for the positive event as well as gratitude for connection to the one with whom we are sharing the positive event.

Wouldn’t it be great to share this kind of connection with family?

  • When our children come home ecstatic about some positive event they experienced at school, we can enthusiastically share in that event rather than minimize or disparage it. When we listen to and share their joy over the positive event, gratitude and interpersonal intimacy will increase.
  • When our spouse shares exciting news and we respond with a joy that matches their joy, gratitude grows and intimacy increases. Our enthusiastic response communicates how much we love and value them. It communicates how important they and their experiences are to us.
  • When we share a positive event from our day with our family, we share a piece of ourselves. We share a positive moment from our lives with them and, as a result, we experience greater intimacy. When they respond with like enthusiasm, we feel loved and validated. Our gratitude increases. Our intimacy grows deeper.

So, if you have good news, share it…especially with your family. When you do, you and your family will enjoy the increased gratitude and intimacy that results.

The Benefit of Inaccurate Information

We seem to live in days filled with misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy. I find it frustrating and disappointing. Worse, I find it somewhat frightening for our children. But…then again… inaccurate information does offer our children benefits IF—and only IF—we develop and nurture a secure, stable, trusting relationship with them.

When children have a secure relationship with a reliable and trustworthy parent, they exhibit a greater ability to weigh the veracity of information they receive. They also show an improved ability to assess the reliability of the person sharing the information. Moreover, they tend to act on the intent of the information giver, not just the content they receive.

This is important for parents. After all there will be times in which we give our children inaccurate information. It may happen based on our own misunderstanding of the information or of the question asked. It can occur when we are tired. It may happen because we simply don’t know and thought we did. But it will happen. Truth be told (and I hate to admit this) even parents don’t know everything. As a result, we will share inaccurate information with our children at times. (For more, read The Perfectly Inadequate Parent.) But here’s one of the beautiful aspects of developing and nurturing a secure relationship with our children, one built on trust and reliability. When we make a mistake and share inaccurate information, they will recognize our intent to share accurate information. They will remember our character and integrity. Most importantly, they will act on our intent and our character, not the inaccurate information. They will correct any inaccurate or incomplete information we might have accidentally shared. (See An Amazing Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts.) They will correct our inaccuracies and continue to love us, respect us, trust us, and turn to us.

Another benefit of inaccurate or misleading information involves strangers. When our children have a secure relationship with us, hearing inaccurate information helps them learn how to assess the reliability of a person and the extent to which they can trust that person. In other words, based in a secure relationship with a parent, inaccurate information helps our children learn discernment. That discernment will protect them from people who might try to take advantage of them through the dissemination of inaccurate information. It will protect them in this age of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy. In this way, inaccurate information can benefit our children…but only if they have a secure relationship with a trusted and dependable parent. Start building and nurturing that relationship with your child today. It will help them develop the discernment they need for a lifetime.

Six Steps to Unhappiness (AND How to Avoid Them)

A recent study involving 1,230 people and several on-line surveys revealed six small steps that descend into “reduced life satisfaction” or unhappiness. I want to describe them to you so we can protect our families from that descent into “reduced life satisfaction.” The first step involves taking a materialistic approach to life, having a materialistic mindset. Unfortunately, our consumer-oriented society promotes a materialistic mindset. Advertisements encourage our desire for more things, new things, and improved things to keep up with the times.

That materialistic mindset promoted by a consumer-oriented society tempts us to compare ourselves with others. The stronger a person’s materialistic mindset, the greater their tendency to compare themselves with others. Our unconscious thoughts become “I need what makes them happy.” Unhealthy comparisons (are any comparisons healthy?) drive us to the second step on the descent into unhappiness.

Of course, an easy place to compare oneself to others is on social media, which leads to the third step toward unhappiness—passive use of social media. Scrolling through social media and passively looking at content posted by others provides the perfect environment for social comparisons. The scroller sees “all the things” others have that seemingly brings them happiness—material blessings as well as activities and interactions. Suddenly, I need those things to bring me happiness.

Passive scrolling pushes us down to the fourth step on our descent into unhappiness—addictive use of social media. The person begins to spend more time on social media and more time thinking about various social media platforms. With that, they quickly descend to the fifth step—increased stress. The fear of missing out grows. As we fear missing out on experiences and the objects/materials that “make” those experiences enjoyable, we find ourselves at the bottom of the stairs in the basement of unhappiness wondering how we got here.

None of us want to slide down these six steps. Nor do we want to find our spouse or children sliding down these steps. In fact, we would do well to block the stairs altogether so that no one in the family begins the descent into long-term unhappiness. With that in mind, here are five actions you can take to keep your whole family off the stairs to unhappiness.

  • Practice daily gratitude. I know it sounds almost cliché, but we live happier lives when we practice gratitude. Make it a point to look for opportunities to express gratitude to the people in your family, your neighbors, the cashier, the waiter…to everyone you can. A disciplined practice of gratitude will also replace complaints with gratitude. Rather than complain about traffic, express gratitude that you have a mode of transportation. Rather than complaining about the heat, give thanks for cold showers and air conditioning.
  • Focus on experiences rather than material things. Material things begin to weigh on us over time. They accumulate, cluttering space and demanding time for upkeep and cleaning. Experiences, however, allow us the joy of sharing with others, memories of times together, and often result in a sense of awe that inspires greater joy.
  • Focus on relationships rather than material things. We are a social people. It’s wired into our DNA, our essence. Even introverts enjoy time with other people. Whether you enjoy time with just a few people or with whole parties of people, our relationship remains crucial to our mental and emotional health. Studies reveal that those who nurture healthy relationships live longer and healthier. They bring us greater joy. We need relationships.
  • Learn contentment. Our society confronts us with a “paradox of choice” that threatens to leave us with a constant sense of dissatisfaction. We have so many options that we fear we may have chosen poorly, if the one I didn’t get would have been better. If we’re not careful, these choices will rob us of contentment. We have to make a decision to accept what we have, to feel gratitude for what we have. Sharing what we have with others may also increase contentment. Accept what we have. Express gratitude for what we have. Share what we have. It all combines to bring us contentment.
  • Use social media in an active manner rather than a passive manner. There is a difference between mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms (passive use) and searching for information or maintaining contact with friends and family (active use). Passive use will lead us into mindless scrolling for hours, leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction and sadness in response to time lost, comparisons mindlessly made, and a desire for more. Active use helps us acquire useful information and to maintain social contacts, both of which can bring greater joy. Use caution though because active use can easily slip into passive use before we know it. Be as wise in your consumption of social media as you are in consumption of food. Consume a healthy diet of active use.

These five action steps demand intention and awareness, but they will keep you and your family off the six steps to unhappiness. They will keep you on the path of contentment, joy, and growing intimacy within your family.

To Teach or Not To Teach

Parents want their children to grow in knowledge, to do well in school and get accepted into a university that will set their career on a great trajectory. To accomplish this end, parents often take the role of teaching their children. That is all well and good, but it’s not the most effective way for parents to reach these goals. Offering didactic teaching is not really the best option for a parent. In fact, it’s definitely not the way children learn best. Know what does help your children learn to the best of their ability? Your relationship with them.

It’s true. Children learn best when their parents build a stable and reliable relationship with them, a stable and reliable resource of security. Research actually suggests that a parent who nurtures a stable, reliable relationship with their children is more valuable than explicitly teaching them. The relationship actually helps increase their ability to learn effectively. Moreover, trust in the parent-child relationship is more important than teaching strategies a parent might use or lessons a parent might teach. When children enjoy a secure relationship with their parents, a relationship filled with trust and stability, they learn more easily.

Knowing that parents represent a child’s primary “teacher” of important lessons (including emotional knowledge, values, and priorities) the parent-child relationship becomes even more important…kind of scary too. I never took a “parenting class” to learn how I might pass on these important lessons to my children; and I know mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, when a child learns from a parent with whom they have a strong, stable relationship, they even correct the mistakes their parent inevitably makes.

If children experience a more avoidant relationship with their parent, one in which the parent-child relationship does not offer the stability of coregulating emotions and emotional connection, they will learn equally from parent and stranger. At first glance, this sounds okay. However, it means that children indiscriminately learn important emotional knowledge and values from strangers as readily as they learn them from their parents. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children to learn from just any stranger.

If, on the other hand, children experience an anxious attachment with their parent, one in which they remain insecure in the relationship and unclear if the parent will remain available to them in times of need, they still learn from their parent. However, they do not correct the mistakes their parents might make. They indiscriminately accept all knowledge from their parents, right or wrong. They will leave the home with mistaken ideas passed on by their parents. Consider the dangers this can present when learning important emotional knowledge and values from a parent with an alcohol or drug problem.

But a secure relationship, a stable and reliable relationship…that opens the door to learning. Your relationship with your children is the most important gift you can give them to enhance their ability to learn. The more secure and trusting your relationship, the more easily and effectively they will learn. Not only will they learn more easily, but they will learn the important lessons of values and emotional maturity primarily from you. Even better, they will recognize mistakes you make and improve upon the lessons you teach them. So, if you want your children to do well in school and learn the lessons that will help them do well in life, focus on developing and nurturing a secure, loving, reliable relationship with them.

Don’t Forget to Teach This to Your Children

Our children need to learn many skills in order to move successfully into adulthood. Perhaps the most important skills have more to do with how they think than what they do. For instance, how they view themselves will play a bigger role in their success than their ability to throw a ball, dance, or do the laundry. One important aspect of how our children learn to view themselves has to do with their beliefs around power. For instance, children who develop a strong sense of self-efficacy (a belief that they have the ability and capacity to successfully complete tasks and achieve) challenge themselves more, put more effort into those challenging tasks, and focus on how to make improvement when they fall short. As you can imagine, this leads to greater success and greater joy in life.

How can you help your children develop a sense of self-efficacy? I’m glad you asked.

  • Provide your children with opportunities to try new things. Encourage them to try things they are not immediately good at. Children have an amazing ability to learn simply through exposure. They don’t have to become experts to gain some knowledge and learn that they have power to influence and learn in many areas.
  • Praise specifics. Rather than providing broad sweeping praises like “Great job” or “You’re a good boy,” praise specific aspects of the job well done. “I really like the colors you used. How did you choose those colors?” “I can tell you’ve been practicing dribbling the ball. You got down field so well this game.” Such specifics point out how effort produces improvement and highlights your children’s experience of “getting it right.”
  • Turn failures and mistakes into learning opportunities. Corrections do not need to be harsh or overly critical. Let mistakes become opportunities for improvement. This will begin by empathizing with any feelings they have about the “failure.” Listen. Understood. Weep with those who weep and be sorrowful with those who are sorrowful. Then, after they know you understand and empathize, begin to explore how they might avoid the same mistake next time. You might ask how they think they might improve or what their teachers/coaches have suggested. You might even teach them from your own experience of learning from “failures.” Just be sure to follow their pace in the process.
  • Part of learning from mistakes is recognizing strategies. Point out strategies that have helped them or others. For instance, pointing out how studying helped them do well on a test might sound like, “You did great on this test. I’m not surprised because I know you studied hard for it.” When they improve their ability to throw a curve ball or their time in a 100-yard dash, a simple “Your practice and hard work are really paying off” points out the strategy of effort contributing to progress.
  • Perhaps the most important action you can take to teach your children self-efficacy is nurture a strong, trusting relationship with your child. Your relationship with your child will impact everything they learn. It is the foundation of their learning and the safe space for their learning. Spend time with your child. Build a strong, trusting relationship with your child.   

These five practices will help your children develop a sense of self-efficacy and that sense of self-efficacy will prove to be one of the most important things you taught them for their life.

I Can’t Say “No,” What Will They Think?

Do you ever begin to feel overwhelmed with the busyness of your schedule? I know I do. In fact, right now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed trying to get everything done amidst the “one too many” commitments I’ve made. During those times, our families suffer. They suffer from our lack of availability and presence in their lives. We also suffer with our family by missing out on a growing sense of intimacy and closeness.

There is one thing you can do to help prevent this from happening. In fact, a well-delivered single word can help prevent the number of times you feel overwhelmed. This one word can help you maintain the time needed to love your family with your full presence—your physical, emotional, and mental presence. What is this powerful word? What word can allow you the time you need to care for yourself and love your family? “NO.” Yes, that’s right. “NO.” Yes, I know it’s hard to say “no” sometimes. We struggle to do so for at least two reasons.

One, we really want to do things. We want to help others. We want to enjoy various activities. We want to travel. We want…. But we can’t do it all. At some point we have to sit down and do the hard work of determining our priorities. We have to decide what is truly most important in our lives. Of course, family will like fall in the top two priorities on our values list (your relationship with God may fall higher) because our children’s future depends on our making them a priority, as does the happiness and longevity of our marriage. Really, our happiness hinges, in great part, on our family happiness. So, keep family within the top two spots of your priority list.

Two, we fear how other people will respond to our “no.” We fear the ramification of our “no” on our relationships. We fear our friends will be angry or disappointed if we say no. We assume they won’t understand and will quit inviting us because of the one time we said “no.” We fear the other person will feel rejected. However, studies suggest we “overestimate the social consequences of saying no.” In fact, other people (like our friends and family) often consider the thoughts we struggle with behind the “no.” You know… thoughts like “I would really like to go but I’m so busy” or “I already made another commitment and I just can’t back out” or “I would really like to do this, but I’m so exhausted I need to rest before I get sick.” In reality, our friends will understand our occasional “no’s” and respect the boundaries of healthy self-care and family care that we establish by saying “no.”  

Overall, a kind and polite “no” will nurture greater self-care, stronger family ties, and even a deeper understanding in friendship. So go ahead and say “no” when you’re feeling it. Friends will understand. Your family will rejoice to have you present with them. Everyone will benefit.

No One Told Me

When my wife and I had children, no one told me how difficult it would be to let them go, especially as they left home. No one told me the emotional challenge inherent in allowing them to leave home and begin their independent, adult journey through life. The first person I heard talk about the struggle of letting go was Kevin Lehman. In fact, he may have been the only one I have ever heard talk about this. (You can view it here.) I have a friend with similar age children. He who compared the children leaving home to a death. I compared it to breaking off a long-term relationship, an engagement. I found that out by experience, but no one told me it would be so challenging, so difficult. It’s filled with mixed emotions—pride, sorrow, joy, longing…. And, as Kevin Lehman explains, it is a challenge for our children as well. No one told me that either.

Don’t get me wrong. It may prove challenging to let our children go, but it is also necessary and rewarding. Which brings me to a second thing that no one told me. I learned this lesson recently. My wife and I have had several friends and even some family members pass away over the last couple of years. Recently, a friend of mine passed away. When my daughters heard, they contacted us to offer support and comfort. They made themselves available to us. They offered support and a listening ear. They chose to be present in our lives during a time of need. No one told me that would happen. No one told me that one day after the children have “left home” they would return to offer support and comfort, to be a present help in our lives. Maybe I should have known…but no one told me.

Those two things go together, don’t they? Our children have to leave home to become independent adults. The transition of a child into adult life happens more smoothly for those whose parents have nurtured a positive, loving relationship with them. The security of that parent-child relationship emboldens a child to move into the world with a greater sense of confidence and agency. The positive, loving relationship nurtured throughout their childhood and teen years also “sticks with them.” It establishes a connection between parent and child that continues to grow and develop. It opens a child’s heart to their parents just as the parents’ heart has been open to their child from the time they were born (and probably even before).

I don’t know if anyone ever told you these two things facets of parenting or not. If not, read through this short blog again. Letting go is challenging…an exciting challenge filled with a whole cocktail of mixed emotions. It’s a moment of sorrow and longing as well as pride and joy. But it doesn’t mark the end of your relationship. It marks a new beginning. That new beginning will fill you with an even greater joy as you discover your children remaining present in your life by their choice and returning the love you have shared with them all their lives.

In the Shadow of the Cross

It’s Saturday, the day after Good Friday and the day before Resurrection Sunday. I’m left only with my thoughts as I sit in the silence between the pain of death and the hope of resurrection. I imagine the friends and family of Jesus sitting silently, hopelessly pondering a myriad of questions. What would happen next? Why did He die? What will become of us? Was it all a lie? I join them in confusion as I look at our world and wonder what the cross has to offer. In a world so distraught by greed and pride, conflict and war, what does the cross have to offer? Closer to home, what can our families and communities learn from the cross? Of course, we know the end of the story, so we know the resurrection brings life and hope. But what of today, the day before the resurrection? What do we learn in the silence?

We learn that the cross calls us to give ourselves up in humble submission to one another. Jesus “gave Himself up” for us in humble submission to His Father. For that very reason, He was “highly exalted” and given a “name above every name.” He returned to “the right hand” of His Father, “having become as much better than the angels.” Giving ourselves up in humble submission to one another opens the door to not only returning home but returning to a home filled with greater intimacy and joy. It opens the door to having a “greater reputation” as one who loves deeply enough to “give himself up” for the benefit of his family, his friends, and his community, as one who models true love for the whole family to emulate. Every family will benefit when they give themselves up in humble submission for the benefit of one another.

We learn that the cross points us toward reconciliation. We all make mistakes. We will offend one another, both unintentionally and intentionally. We will say the wrong thing. We will renege on our promises. We will neglect to speak or act in love. How can a marriage, a parent-child relationship, or a friendship continue in light of such offense? There is only one way: by offering forgiveness and so opening the door to reconciliation. Ironically, in following the model of the cross, the offended one, the one who was wronged, will pay the price of that wrong in order to initiate forgiveness and open the door to reconciliation. The cross teaches us to forgive and even bear the burden of pain brought about by the other person’s offense in order to open the door of reconciliation. Take a moment to think about that. Imagine how that type of cross-based forgiveness will impact your family.

Not only does the cross point us to reconciliation, but it also convicts us of our shortcomings. After all, “it was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished….” The cross calls us to “speak the truth in our hearts,” confess our wrongs, and bear the fruit of that repentance. In light of the cross, we cannot hide from our responsibility. We must “speak the truth in our hearts” and acknowledge when we hurt our spouse or children or neighbor or friend. We must apologize and seek forgiveness. We must then “change our ways” and live a life that reveals the depth of our sincere apology. To whom do you need to apologize? Your spouse? Your children? Your parent? Don’t wait. Do it.

Giving ourselves up…forgiving one another to open the door of reconciliation…taking responsibility for our wrongs, apologizing, and living the “fruit of repentance… They’re all found in the shadow of the cross. They’re all necessary for a healthy family. Imagine how such actions would impact your family. Then commit to living out these practices starting today.

The “Big Little Leap” & All the Leaps That Follow

Ah…the experience of joy on the first day of kindergarten. I never really understood the parental struggle mixed with pride and joy when “letting go” of children until I dropped mine off for their first days of school. It was the first of many leaps that culminated in dropping them off at college or watching them walk the aisle with their spouse. Still, that first day of kindergarten was a “big little leap” for parent and child. Interesting, research finds that the more successfully a child makes the “leap” (AKA—transitions) into kindergarten (over a 10–14-week period) the higher they score on academic and social-behavioral skills tests at the end of that school year. That doesn’t surprise me. Transitioning easily leaves more time and more mental and emotional space to learn. The real question becomes: how can a parent prepare their children to successfully make that “big little leap” and all the other leaps (AKA-transitions) of life?

The answer to that question does not rest on academic or cognitive training but on relationship security. Children and parents will make the “big little leap” and other life “leaps” more successfully when they have experienced, and continue to experience, secure relationships at home. Having a secure relationship with our children helps them answer a couple of important questions. One question is: “Will you, as my parents, be there for me? Are you available?” A second question asks, “Do you think I’m capable? Am I capable?”

These two questions get answered in the everyday interaction of a parent and child. It begins as our children explore the world around them. As newborns, they simply want us to notice what they notice and match their curiosity with our own, reflecting back to them what they see in an ever-expanding way. “Oh, you see the squirrel. He’s fast isn’t he? Watch how he runs with that acorn in his mouth.” “Here comes the dog. He wants you to pet him. Gentle….” We join them in their experience and expand upon it somewhat, encouraging them to explore more deeply.

As they grow and become increasingly independent, they need us to allow them the freedom to explore in a more independent fashion. While they do, they need us to delight in their exploration by noticing what they notice and becoming excited and curious about things that arouse their curiosity. They need us to allow them the freedom to explore independently rather than hover in an overprotective way.

During their independent exploration, our children may experience times of stress and look to us for assurance. At those times, they need us to look at them with delight and confidence as they prepare for their “new venture.” For instance, the first time our child approaches a slide in the park they may look up the ladder and experience nervousness and doubt. They look to us to see our response. If we look with delight and confidence, they are empowered. They climb the ladder and “enjoy the ride.” However, if we look distressed or concerned for some reason, they will likely forego the slide and come to our side to confirm their own security.

This scenario will happen time and time again in all types of situations, like setting the table, joining a group, playing a game, getting on a slide, riding a bike, and so on. Each time, they find the answer to their questions: “Are you available to me?” and “Am I capable?” Each time these questions are answered in a positive way, security is enhanced. They being to internalize important messages:

  • My parents are available to help me and so there are helpers in the world.
  • I can manage my emotions whether they be joy or sorrow, courage or fear, and if I struggle, there are supports to help me.
  • I can take appropriate risks. I know my limitations and how to risk in a healthy way.
  • I am safe.

With these beliefs in place, the “big little leap” has a greater chance of success and just adds another layer of support for those beliefs. In fact, with each leap, parent and child grow more confident and trusting of one another. With that confidence comes greater joy and greater success. Isn’t that what we want for our children? Sure, letting go is hard…but watching them grow into amazing young adults is well worth the “leap.”

The Starter Ingredients of a Healthy Marriage

Marriages require at least two basic ingredients added in the right order at the start. The first ingredient is dedication. That makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, if we desire to find success in any enterprise, we must dedicate time and energy into creating that success. In marriage, dedicating our time and energy means moving from “me” to a “we” and an “us.” We don’t simply move to an “us in the moment” either, but an “us with a future.” In practical terms this means placing a greater priority on our relationship than our individual self. We express our desire to remain an “us” by investing time together to build our relationship with our spouse. We willingly serve our spouse because we love them and are dedicated to their happiness. We forgive minor offenses because we are dedicated to a future together and have already seen the joys of our time together. We recognize that our love can continue to grow, and our intimacy continue to deepen, so we willingly make sacrifices, some small and some large, for one another.    

Dedication is supported by a second ingredient: constraint. Constraints are the bonds that naturally grow in relationships and make it more difficult to separate. For instance, when a couple announces to their friends that they are in an exclusive relationship, they have taken on a constraint. To break up after that announcement requires explaining to additional people and forcing those people into the awkward position of caring for (and possibly choosing between) both parties in a painful situation. Another constraint is buying a house (or getting a dog or buying a car) together. Joint ownership adds a layer of complication to separating as you have to negotiate how to “divey up the goods.”  Of course, having children adds another layer of constraint. As you can see, constraints arise naturally.

When dedication is strong, naturally arising constraints simply serve to strengthen an already strong relationship. However, without dedication, constraint begins to feel like a prison, an inescapable trap. This brings up a third surprising ingredient: timing. Ideally, a couple begins to build dedication before constraint, commitment before accepting the constraints of moving in together or having a baby together, for example. If a couple “slips” into a relationship through constraints, the relationship begins to feel like a trap. For instance, some couples move in together for convenience rather than dedication—it’s closer to work, a way to save money, an experiment to see if “we want to dedicate.” Such situations, often made without consideration to the level of dedication in the relationship, result in ambiguity, dissatisfaction, and even resentment. If constraints arise without dedication, the relationship eventually suffers. With that in mind, it becomes important for couples to clearly communicate their level of dedication and commitment before adding any level of constraint to their relationship. Your long-term happiness depends on it.

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