It really is true. We get out of a relationship what we put into it. All relationships, be they with your spouse, children, parents, coworkers or friends.
My marriage is fantastic! It hasn’t always been this good. I’ve been married for 27 years, and what took my marriage to the fantastic level was when my husband and I started ramping up the caring and loving things we did for each other. Every day.
You can do simple things like warming up your partner’s side of the bed or making his lunch. Tell him how much you love him. I sometimes go out of my way to get my husband’s favorite bagels as a surprise, or make his favorite cookies. We surprise each other periodically with mystery dates a few times a year. These small acts of love feel great to both give and receive, and make us feel closer and really good about the other.
The converse is also true. If you don’t put much into a relationship, don’t expect much in return.
I have a client who has always dreamed of moving to Paris. The problem is that her husband’s parents are aging. While she realizes that moving across the pond will mean trips back to the States when they get ill, she doesn’t think her relationship with them is worth squashing her dreams.
When she got married, she was excited to live near her husband’s family. They seemed like nice, family-oriented people who would be good grandparents. When she and her husband started a family, however, the new grandparents never offered to take their grandchildren for an evening so the parents could enjoy a night out. They rarely reached out to the grandchildren at all, didn’t offer to have them over just for fun, take them places or do things with them, although they would take the children when asked. My client always invited her in-laws to events in which the kids were involved, such as school plays, concerts and sports events. But the grandparents took no initiative in return. In sharp contrast, her parents (who did not live nearby) couldn’t get enough of their grandchildren! They wanted to see the kids as much as possible, and showered them with affection. She witnessed her friends’ parents acting the same way towards their grandchildren. When my client was injured and unable to walk for several months, her in-laws never offered to help with the kids or anything else, never brought a meal or anything that would show that they cared about their daughter-in-law or son, who was now saddled with taking care of the kids and his injured wife, in addition to continuing to work full time in a demanding job. Her husband was also disappointed in his parents’ lack of interest in his children.
Who knows what the reasons were for this disinterest, but the result is that the relationship is merely a cordial one. Maybe that is all that either party wanted. It doesn’t mean much to my client, and the only reason it means anything to her children is because she and her husband have taught their kids to show others that they care. And maybe my client should have reached out more, too. You reap what you sow.
If you want warm, caring relationships, show people that you care about them. These things don’t have to cost money. A phone call or email to a relative who is sick, offering to help a friend who is moving, sharing a loaf of bread that you baked, or simply wishing someone a happy birthday are all ways of showing people that you are thinking of them.
It is never too late to start! Plant those seeds now and watch your relationships grow!