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Only one relationship lasts a lifetime
Holidays can go one of two ways: they can be a time of enjoying the particular theme and activities of that event, or they can remind us that we do not fit in. In February, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, which can be one of those holidays — whether or not we are in the advertised loving, caring and intimate relationship. When I worked as a counselor with children in foster care, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day always had a “not included” message for them. More often than not, the kids tended to let those holidays pass without much mention.
For many of us, Valentine’s Day has a feeling tone of “should.” We “should” have someone special in our lives. We “should” be in a relationship. We “should” be happy if we are married or have a life partner.
What this has me thinking about is how we define a relationship that we would actually want to have. And what are the qualities we would look for in another person?
The things that come to mind for me are:
Balance and reciprocity. One does not do all the giving and the other all the receiving, but both give and receive.
Honesty, trust, dependability, consistency — someone I can count on.
Grace or forgiveness would be nice when I make mistakes or make bad choices and recognize I need to ask for a re-try. I would have to be willing to offer the same.
Being seen, heard and appreciated for who I am is important — and with that, support and nurturing to develop my best with the strengths and interests that I do have. I would have to offer the same, too.
Disagreements would be resolved without attacks, shaming or coercion.
And just being together, enjoying each other’s company and having fun are important qualities for me as well.
I am sure each of us has more items to add to this list or perhaps completely different ones than I have listed. One thing I do know is that any genuine relationship worth celebrating takes time. And that is not such a bad thing. When we have shared memories over the years, we become each other’s witness. We are the mirror for each other to truly see ourselves. Relationships are also the opportunity for each of us and the relationship itself to evolve, change and grow.
Now think for a moment about your relationship with yourself. Are you giving yourself the qualities you would ask for from someone else?
How well do you nurture your own strengths and interests? How trustworthy and consistently do you come through for yourself? How often do you give yourself some grace and forgiveness when you make a mistake or poor choice?
How often do you give yourself the opportunity to be seen and heard for who you really are and appreciate those qualities in yourself? How often do you accept yourself?
We can all celebrate Valentine’s Day if we are reminded that taking care of the relationship with ourselves is just as important as any relationship with others. The relationship with ourselves lasts a lifetime.
Candy and flowers, anyone?
Steve Pults, LMHC, is an individual, couple and family therapist at Mercer Island Youth & Family Services, www.mercergov.org/yfs. For more information about counseling services at MIYFS, contact Gayle Erickson, Clinical Supervisor, at 275-7611.