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We all want to have great relationships with our family members and friends.  But creating great relationships is hard.  If it were easy, there wouldn’t be so many divorces.  There wouldn’t be so many adults who have little to no contact with their parents or their siblings.  And friendships wouldn’t fall apart.

The problem is that we, as human beings, are by our nature self-centered.  We want to live life on our own terms.  We want people to always agree with us.  And we want people to do things our way.  Then, irrationally, after demanding that folks do things our way, we also want them to like us!

To have great relationships with other people, you can’t expect everyone to march to be beat of your drum.  Instead, you have to treat the needs and desires of others as being as equally important as your own.  And, at times, you have to put the needs of others before your own needs.

Many people are unwilling to make those kinds of sacrifices.  And then they scratch their heads and ask, “Why can’t I make my relationships work?”  The answer is that you can’t be selfish and have good relationships.

Of course, you can be selfish and have fun.  You can be selfish and be popular.  But if you are selfish, you will not have successful, close relationships.  You may have a pile of acquaintances.  But you won’t have those meaningful, intimate relationships with others that you crave.

So, if your closest relationships are struggling, and you really want to improve them, you need to change your mindset from “selfish” to “selfless.”  Below are some ways to do just that.

Learn to Enjoy Serving Others:  Many people live in fear of “being taken advantage of.”  They worry that if they do too much for others, that somehow will make them a pushover or a patsy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Serving others is part of what transforms us from being children to being adults.  Children spend their time being served, and they often wonder why people aren’t doing more for them.  Adults meet their own needs, and then they serve others.  For instance, you know that your children have become adults when they no longer look to you for help, but instead ask, “How can I help you?”

Realize that it is personally rewarding to serve others.  It feels good to see the joy on another person’s face when you have done something to make him or her happy.  It feels good to be able to care for other people.

Moreover, service is what smooths the rough edges of our relationships.  For example, successful marriages are the ones in which spouses serve each other – continually.  My husband and I have a service-oriented marriage.  Neither one of us sits on the couch waiting to be served while the other does the work.  Instead, we are always serving each other.

When spouses serve each other, neither one feels aggravated or over-worked.  Neither feels like they are being taken advantage of.  Instead, they both feel cared for.

The same holds true for your relationships with your friends.  Our friendships blossom when we serve each other.  In fact, we always should be on the lookout for things we can do for our closest friends.  For example, I have a very dear friend from church who regularly sends me Internet links to classical music pieces which she thinks I will enjoy.  I have another friend who texts me funny jokes that she sees on Facebook.  Both of these ladies regularly do thoughtful things which make me truly cherish those friendships.

The bottom line is that the more we serve others, the better our relationships become.  But to do so, we need to view serving others not as a burden, but as an opportunity.  It is an opportunity to not only make others feel loved and cared for, but to improve our relationships with them, as well!

Appreciate People for Who They Are:  The death knell for any relationship occurs when one person tells the other, “You should be more ______.”  Fill in the blank.  Because the message that you send to someone when you say that (or imply that) is, “I don’t like you as you are.  You aren’t good enough.  You need to change to meet my needs.”

The problem is that other people don’t exist in order to meet our needs.  Every person on this earth has their own needs.  They have their own hopes, dreams and aspirations.  They have their own unique personalities.  And they don’t need to change for your benefit.

Asking people to change who they are to make themselves more palatable to you is selfish.  And it is a recipe for unsuccessful relationships with others.  If you truly want to have good relationships with other people, stop asking them to change.  Appreciate people just as they are.

In any relationship, the best thing you can do is appreciate what is good about the other person, and work around those things that you don’t appreciate.  For instance, I know some couples for whom one spouse likes to go to church and the other doesn’t.  If that is your situation, don’t force your spouse to go to church, if he or she doesn’t enjoy it.  But also don’t give up going to church because your spouse won’t go.  Just go by yourself!

A good marriage is a partnership in which both people have the ability to spend their time doing those things that they enjoy.  It isn’t a prison in which you and your spouse have to do every last thing together.  Be confident enough to do some things on your own, if your spouse simply doesn’t enjoy them.  Don’t demand that he or she change their tastes or interests to accommodate you.

In fact, the best thing that you can do in any relationship is to stop focusing on where you find the other person to be lacking.  Instead, focus on what you appreciate about them.  No good comes from complaining about those who you are closest to.

Let’s face it.  We are all irritating in our own way.  Better to appreciate others for what is wonderful about them, and hope that they will take the same benevolent attitude toward us.

We all want good relationships with our spouses, family members and friends.  Of course, that takes wisdom and maturity.  But two steps in the right direction are being willing to serve others and appreciating others.  If you do those two simple things, I guarantee that your relationships will improve dramatically.


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