Monday, June 24, 2013

Enhancing Relationships From a Single Person’s Point of View by Sylvia Gunther

These days when someone asks. "Are you in a relationship?" they really mean "Are you dating, romantically involved or married.". When I went to the dictionary, the word "relationship" listed several definitions. The first one mentioned was a connection through blood or marriage meaning our relatives. Secondly, you have a "working" relationship that you might have in a workplace, with a neighbor, someone on a committee with you, even a fellow church member. A third definition was a relationship between friends, people we choose to associate with because of common interests, special attachments or circumstances that draw people together. The fourth type was the one between two people in a romance or marriage. This means that relationships are for everyone!

God created us to be in a relationship with Him. He made us with a need for human companionship from infancy until old age. I've been asked to write an article about relationships from a single person's viewpoint, so I will share some of what I've experienced and learned. I hope that you are also involved in a variety of relationships and will be encouraged to enhance them and perhaps build new ones.

So from my heart to yours:
Like most young women my hopes and dreams were for marriage and children. My love for children was the reason I became a teacher. As the years went by my siblings, all of whom were younger than me, married and started their families. I had prayed at length, asking God to reveal his will. The answer was unexpected! "Enjoy what you have".

I had loving and supportive parents, I had two sisters and a brother who along with their spouses respected and affirmed me. And then the nieces and nephews arrived - five of them. I became "Auntie Syl" to these amazing wonderful children who in turn gave me all the love anyone could want. I was an important part of their lives, a welcome visitor during school holidays and as many special events as I had time to attend. Though we lived in four different provinces, we were always close in heart.

I am thankful for the generosity of spirit my siblings always showed me and for their unselfishness in sharing their children with me. These five nieces and nephews have grown up now and some have children of their own. They too are giving me opportunities to be a part of their families by welcoming my visits, allowing me to provide care for their children and share in their lives. What a blessing and privilege. Between enjoying my school children and the children of family and friends, I've had lots of use for my maternal instincts. I've grown closer to my siblings as well since I've been able to share special times and support them in raising their families.

I would say that the biggest factor in enhancing relationships is time. Time to build relationships, time spent one on one with each person and also collectively as a family group. Time spent loving, teaching, sharing, listening, nurturing and supporting. It requires a commitment of ourselves to each person, a sort of losing self as we invest in their lives. It means loving lavishly and unconditionally;. Show you love them and don't forget to say the words "I love you" often! Even as adults we need that affirmation. For many of us, loving comes easily and for others it can be painful when disappointment and hurt come into even loving families. Still we have been chosen to be part of God's family. How better to show His love to the world than by loving our own family members and working at building and maintaining strong relationships.

From my own experience I've learned to offer encouragement and support to the parents and not to meddle. With the children I've tried to pass on things like my love of books, music, nature and life?s simple pleasures. They loved personal Auntie time and we did lots of that. I know that many of you must have favorite things you did or do with your own families and you already know many ways to enhance your relationships, so just continue!

Secondly, we'll examine the "working" type of relationships we have. Many of you are retired and have left jobs or careers behind. However, we still have people that we meet regularly like neighbors, folks at church or those that serve us in the community in various ways. I know how important it is to have a workplace that is positive, productive, cheerful and free of tension. A community like that would be amazing. It has to begin with people like us, doing the little things, getting to know our neighbors, showing an interest in people, learning their names, using opportunities to build relationships by listening, encouraging, helping, comforting, by following Jesus' command to love, "love your neighbor as yourself". Matthew 22:39.

The third type of relationship is friendship. These are relationships with people we chose to love, to be involved with, to share our interests and feelings and to spend time with. They are the ones who often know us best, recognize our flaws and love us anyway because they also chose us. I am blessed to have many good friends and a few great ones. Over the years we spent time together, laughed, cried, talked and shared the intimate details of our lives. Because I lived far away from my own family members, many of my friends became my "chosen" family. They enriched my life in so many ways and have had a great influence on me in positive ways. I can't imagine living without my friends. I have lived in a number of places during my life and moving has meant leaving friends behind. It also has given me opportunities to make new friends. I continue to work at being a great friend and becoming more open to new relationships.

My friends have taught me the importance of being a good listener, of being sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, and of being supportive and non judgmental. I've learned that no one person can be all the things you need them to be, so a variety of friends is a good thing. I've learned that friendship takes commitment and a willingness to be honest and open.

As a teenager, my father once said to me, "If you want to have friends, you must be a friend". In other words friendship is something active, not passive. It requires your involvement. I keep in touch by writing letters or phoning friends far away. I visit whenever possible. I look for opportunities to encourage and let them know how much they mean to me. I've learned to say "I love you" out loud.

None of this is top secret information and I'm sure all of you are involved in close relationships and practice doing these same things and more. Relationships have given me a feeling of self worth, of being needed and important. We can help others to feel valued by building relationships with them and sharing the love that God gives in such abundance.

In closing here are three points for you to remember and consider:

MAINTAIN ? your relationships
CHERISH - your relationships
ENJOY - your relationships

by Sylvia Gunther 

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