The month of February seems to give us all hope that, amidst the red and pink themed merchandise in the stores, spring will be closely following. Earlier in life the excitement of Valentine boxes and cards filled the weeks prior to the day. We’d have a celebratory meal with pink and red themed desserts followed with cards to one another and while those days are long past, they still make me smile in reflection. So I ask you, what are your favorite memories? Don’t forget to share them with your family as you have a family meal sometime this week. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just time together is a way to strengthen our families.
This week I received a message from The Gottman Institute, a research-based educational organization in Seattle, Washington that strives to strengthen couple relationships and parenting skills (https://www.gottman.com/). It seemed timely to me to share three ways to strengthen our relationships.
1. Fight fairly. I’m not sure if this was just because of COVID and the extra hours that we may be spending together, but we all know that conflict is part of relationships. How do we navigate this without harming each other? Some of you may have accomplished this by learning when and how to bring up topics of discussion, what has worked in the past, and maybe more importantly, what didn’t work. It could be timing, the words chosen, or simply not listening to understand and cutting each other off because I’m answering what I think the question is before hearing the whole concern. If we listen to understand, which would you rather hear: “You never remember my birthday” or “My birthday is coming up next week and I want to do something special with you”?
Granted, very few conversations lend themselves to easy dissection, but if we enter with the intent of doing good and wish to have a positive outcome, the outcome is more apt to be that. If and when tempers flare, take five, walk away, and come back when you can have a positive conversation. Anger and frustration don’t usually lend to a positive outcome and can harbor resentment.
2. Strengthen yourself. What do you need to be good? Taking care of ourselves physically is important on many levels - getting a good night’s sleep, eating a balanced diet, and having some exercise in our daily routines are all important. Ask yourself, what areas in life you want to excel in? What challenges you with career, friendship, education, free time, money, or your future? What are you doing about getting where you want to go? It’s a good reminder to reflect that it’s not someone else’s job to make you happy in life - that’s a choice each of us make. If we rely on others, our co-workers, our boss, our parents, our spouse, our friends, or anyone else, we will be disappointed with the outcomes.
3. Strengthen our relationships. Sometimes the little things are the big things. Look for the small routines that offer comfort and connection, like morning coffee (or breakfast), board games in the evening, or a walk on the weekends to look forward to. Maybe it’s a shared hobby, to read a book and discuss it, or planning an upcoming weekend getaway. Be gracious and look for the good things with an attitude of gratitude. What have you done today for your partner? Focus on the positive and reinforce them as you remember children may be watching and learning what good relationships look like. Happy Valentine’s Day, one and all!
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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