This last week we read and discussed God's grace and how it applies to our relationships. I am in my 30s and I am still learning so much in this area! I went through the typical, painful relationships of junior high and high school and then had one or two close friends during my college years. Then I got married and, for years really, my husband and my kids were the only ones close.
Now, here I am, a grown woman, and I feel like I'm having to learn how to be a friend all over again in many ways. Having an amazing, healthy husband has been a huge benefit to me...he has taught me so much about how to be healthy in a relationship, whether it's friendship, marriage, or child to parent. If only I could put those lessons learned to use all the time. *wink*
Here's a few things I know...and am still preaching to myself...
Don't place unrealistic expectations on the other person. Don't expect them to be your one and only, bestie, sole confidant. A healthy person has a few, trusted people in whom they can place trust. Don't expect your husband/wife to fill the void a same-sex friend should. Likewise, don't confide all your marital problems to your best friend and expect her help. Let your kids be kids...they are not perfect and they are not your best friend. Evaluate each relationship for what it is and let it be that.
Communication is key. Don't expect them to read your mind. Say what you need to say with love. Start sentences with "I" rather than "You". And no name-calling. Ever. Remember that those words don't go back where they came from, even after apologies. Words stick. Let them be healthy and life-giving.
Be the first to say I'm sorry and quick to forgive. Ouch. This one is so hard for me! A little humility goes a long way. Don't let stubborn pride come between you and those you love.
Be the kind of friend, spouse, child, parent that you want to have. If you wish someone would call out of the blue to see how you're doing, do that for someone. If you wish your spouse would hold your hand spontaneously, reach for his or her hand. If you hope people are praying for you, pray for them. If you wish your children were more attentive to your instructions, be more attentive to them. This doesn't guarantee your desired outcome right away, but it protects your heart and helps you to invest in those around you. People will show love when they are loved.
Observe the 10 year rule. Have a friend who is 10 years older than you. You will be amazed at the comfort that comes from having a friend who's been there. Have a friend who is 10 years younger than you. You will laugh more and see the world in a different way.
Let it breathe and be what it is. There are not many things more frustrating than trying to make someone into something they're not. If he's not ready to commit, he may not be your husband. If she seems unwilling to spend time with you, she may not have time to invest in your relationship. If that family member hurts you over and over, you may need some space. If your 3 year old won't potty train, remember that we all get it eventually...wait, maybe that's another post...
Remember that Jesus is the only perfect One around. He really is the best friend who will never hurt you. He always has the best intentions and will never take advantage of you. Even better...being friends with Him guarantees that you will be a better spouse, parent, child, friend.