Posts Tagged ‘healthy relationships’

The Love Budget – Do Your Deposits Cover Your Withdrawals?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Joe's Dollar

Ah, love. How do you define it, much less measure it? When I think about it, I flash on Valentine hearts, tiny purple wildflowers, skin-on-skin hugs and holding hands, a calm inner conviction that life is good after all… (Have you ever noticed that when you try to describe love, your words always come out sounding like a poem?) But as ethereal and intangible as it may seem, love is very real and actually far more precious than things touched, held, or counted…like money, houses, and cars, for instance. And lucky us—as human beings, we have the capacity to give and receive this extraordinary commodity. Many even spend their whole lives searching for it!

Although love isn’t quantified on any type of universal scale or psychic adding machine, it’s pretty obvious that some people have more of it in their lives than others. The whole discussion gets even more complicated when you consider all the different types of love, the relative qualities of each kind, what attracts it, what blocks it, why some people seem to need more than others, and on and on…

In my own experience, the only crystal clear thing about love is that the more of it I have in my life, the happier I am. Being practical – I’m a single mom, after all – the issues of love and relative happiness seem clearer when I envision them ledger-style in an overall “Love Budget.” According to this system, love that goes out to others and/or the world makes up what I loosely call “withdrawals,” which are balanced by “deposits,” when people or other sources shine love on me. Confused? Okay, here’s a breakdown of the accounts in my own Budget:

1.   The Self-Love Account – For me, this column in my love ledger is hands-down the most important! Self-Love must be kept consistently funded, because other accounts in my Budget (see below) often need transfers from this one to keep them operational. The great thing about the Self-Love account is that I can add to it in so many wonderful ways: taking care of myself by exercising, getting enough sleep and healthy food, and giving myself little pleasures such as a good book, a good movie, a good burrito, or a good massage! Also, ironically, when I help someone else without expectation of reward or reciprocation, I find a surprise deposit has been made to my Self-Love account. Basically, when I treat myself and others with respect and compassion, this column is in the black, where I need it to be.

For me, another critical source for replenishing Self-Love is connection with – actually, complete reliance upon – God. When I put effort into improving my Spiritual relationship, there is an amazing surge of love that can raise the balance to near-overflow!

2.   The Family Account – This account reflects love activity with family members such as aunts, grandparents, nieces, siblings, and cousins, i.e. extended family members whom I don’t live with, but who are important to me and with whom I share many events in my life.

Deposits and withdrawals in this column are pretty consistent, owing to the fact that this account has been around a long time, and I’m really familiar with its typical dynamic. I know which family members to expect deposits from – thanks, sissy – and which ones usually require a disproportionate emotional payout. Actually, it all balances out pretty well, because if funds get low in this account, I start spending more time with the payers than with those who like to take oversize withdrawals.

3.  The Children Account – The balance in this account has to be continually funded by transfers from Self-Love, because it could be decades and maybe never before you see some real love deposits from your children. As disappointing as that sounds, keep in mind: it is a parent’s job to love their children, not the other way around. However, I will add that there is some positive funding here from the satisfaction you get watching your children grow into healthy, responsible, independent adults who manage their own budgets successfully.

4.  The Friends Account – My basic goal in this particular account is to have it include friends who deposit and withdraw in roughly equal proportions. Of course, this follows along with the concept of the best friendships being those that include a healthy balance of give and take.

When there are people in this account making consistent major withdrawals with little to no deposits, I sometimes have to cut off future transactions with them. They can easily start eating their way into my Self-Love account, and the resulting resentment has Budget-blowing potential.

5.  The Significant Other Account – Unfortunately, the balance in this account – for me, anyway – has been pretty volatile. This is probably owing to the fact that falling in love makes me stupid, and I wind up making vast payouts with little coming back from the payee. If this sounds like you, watch out! Love blindness can be similar to an out-of-control spending binge, and even your Self-Love repository can go bust in the fall-out. For some of us, shutting this account down for a while is the only solution.

So there you have it – my Love Budget. How does yours look? Be aware that a Love Budget is also subject to the influence of outside economic conditions such as mental or physical illness, addiction, codependency issues, and unresolved emotional baggage. Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from working on those Self-Love deposits, and the best part is, we can always add to this balance without having to depend on anyone other than little ‘ol us.

(image courtesy of http://thomashawk.com/2008/01/eat-at-joes.html)

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Most of us talk – or write – a pretty good game, but where do you stand when it comes to matching what you say with what you do? The consistency between my words and behavior, or lack thereof, has been on my mind in the aftermath of a few recent, poignant experiences where insincere talk left me disappointed, disillusioned, and dismayed.

Meaningless, feel-good words flung glibly from mouths like gunfire; noble gestures made only for show; self-interest masquerading as virtue… This confusing duplicity surrounds us everyday! Consider the chart-topping singer/songwriter who croons about love, life, and peace, then makes the news ranting at the manager of a Hollywood club who can’t accommodate him with the best table in the house. Or the best-selling author who writes about successful relationship strategies, but meanwhile has been divorced twice and is still single. More than once I have put people on pedestals because of the ideas they seem to espouse, only to feel let down when I find out how they actually lead their lives.

A few tough questions might clarify how well your actions demonstrate what you profess to others. When you tell a friend or a business acquaintance you’ll “get back to him” in a couple days, how often do you actually follow through within two days, or even within a week or two? Or after accepting an invitation for a party that’s more than a few days away, how often do you wind up as a no-show when something better comes along in the meantime? Ever promise a good friend you’ll help her with some big task she’s working on, and then somehow “forget” you ever offered? The variations on this modus operandi are endless, but they all add up to one thing: lack of consistency and follow-through.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been as guilty as anyone of these type of misdemeanors. Another word for it is lying, if I want to cut through the denial and actually call this what it is. My aim here is not to provoke guilt (well, maybe a tiny bit of guilt might be in order) or point fingers, but to raise awareness of how often and easy it becomes to say things we don’t really mean.

Sometimes, making rash and thoughtless remarks or promises to others in the moment is a convenient panacea, bridging the gap of what otherwise might be filled with awkward, uncomfortable truth. Satisfying our immediate compulsion to people-please, we move on with little or no further consideration given to what we said. Later, we conveniently avoid having to put in the effort required to follow through, all the while patting ourselves on the back for being so diplomatic and smooth in our dealings with others.

The problem is, those suave statements turn into hurtful weapons unless we use them responsibly. If you are one of those who adhere to the Golden Rule, how can you justify this form of dishonesty? Have you ever been at the receiving end of this treatment, feeling disappointed because someone didn’t keep a promise? If you have, you are likely familiar with the pain of having others plant an expectation within you, then feeling hurt and disillusioned when no action follows. Resentment naturally rears its ugly head at this point, presenting another troubling emotion we are left to handle. What a mess! And a self-serving tactic for those who speak frivolously, because the resultant pain is felt by the recipient, not by the speaker.

The worst offenders are the ones who use careless words so often, they are not even consciously aware they are doing it! It has become an ingrained and comfortable habit. I would venture to guess these same people also make promises to themselves – such as vowing to stay on a diet, exercise more, spend less money, etc. – that are revered for a short time before being forgotten or abandoned. To be honest, my experience is that the people who actually say what they mean and mean what they say are far outnumbered by those who do not. It’s sad to think that perhaps this tendency is so prevalent in society, it is no longer regarded as the victimizing behavior that it is.

To make matters worse, the payoff from saying things we don’t mean reinforces our continuing to do so. After all, as humans we know that it’s generally easier to not take responsibility. And perhaps people around us, maybe even our parents, were talkers-not-doers, so we merely modeled this trait as “normal.”

Whatever the reason for it, being disingenuous is best addressed by examining ourselves, not others. It is far easier to complain about people that don’t act in accordance with their words, than to look closely at our own culpability in this regard. Obviously, becoming honest with ourselves about our own inconsistencies requires that we be willing, since facing our defects is humbling and somewhat painful. However, the aftereffect is priceless: a surge in our self-esteem, development of greater emotional maturity, and higher-quality, more honest relationships with others. A note of caution, though – the more sincere you try to be in your dealings with others, the greater will be your awareness of others who cannot or will not demonstrate this quality. You may even find yourself choosing to hang around a new group of more trustworthy friends and acquaintances.

As with any personal growth work we do, we always want to remember to praise ourselves for making attempts, and give ourselves credit for even small improvements.

As I stumble through this journey myself, falling now and again into the pit of escaping discomfort with meaningless niceties, I also learn to feel a bit more compassion for all the infuriating hypocrites I have to deal with.

Um. Guess I still have some work to do.