In this series we will delve into the most important topic, Love. When we are feeling loved we feel special, content and happy. When we are feeling rejected, we feel hurt, angry and withdraw. Keeping a sense of love alive between family members is challenging given our pace of life. Activities and commitments pull us apart and create pressure on both parents and kids.
If you’re feeling lonely as a mom, dad or child in your family you’re not alone.
Research confirms this challenge. Today 60% of couples report feeling lonely. Unfortunately, loneliness is also often experienced by the kids in these families.
When we feel lonely we do not feel close to and loved by those with whom we should be deeply connected.
Love is a word that we regularly use in our culture, yet we struggle to understand it.
Love is a word we find difficult to explain, describe and define. We want our homes to be characterized by peace, patience, kindness and the joy that come from a loving culture. We want to have connected hearts, but life schedules and issues seem to keep invading
our unity and closeness.
When we think of love we all may instantly go to our memory banks to that point in time when we fell in love. I remember like it was yesterday! For some inexplicable reason, my parents planned for us to have dinner at the home of my ex girl friend who had broken my heart. I’m glad they did. My former girl friend stayed at college and wasn’t there, but one of her best friends was spending Thanksgiving break from college in Massachusetts.
That evening at dinner everyone saw the sparks between Deedee and me. They also knew how shy and introverted I was and that I wouldn’t act on the clear attraction I was feeling. To push things forward, the parents hatched a plan to go out leaving Deedee home alone with nothing to do. They suggested that she, my sister and I go to a movie. That night my sister did everything she could to have Deedee and me sit together. The rest is history. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary this summer.
While we all remember those times when love swept over us like a tidal wave, it is difficult to build an understanding or build a true definition of love that will work in our families based on these intense feelings that fade over time.
There is very little research that studies love within a family structure or the parent child relationships. It is almost as if we assumed parents will love their kids and kids will love their parents, which is true on one level. However, I have found so many homes where love has broken down between couples, parents and their kids and especially from the kids’ perspective, their love for their parents.
Kids tell me, “We are four individuals living under one roof.”
Far too many kids between the ages of 10 and 18 describe their families this way. Their statements indicate that the sense of love has broken down within their family, allowing loneliness to invade their homes.
In this and the following two blogs, we will take an in depth look at love, how it functions and what makes it flourish in families. This study changed my view of love and is helping reconnect hearts in homes across the country.
Staying connected at the heart level requires desire and real effort. Each person in the family must desire to be close. Spouses and parents cannot force their partners or kids to remain close to them, but we can easily slip into this mindset as parents given our position and authority.
Maintaining the internal desire for connection requires a sense of safety and trust. Family members, who do not feel safe, will unconsciously withdraw and emotionally distance themselves. When a sense of trust and safety breaks down, the sense of connection and love disappears quickly. This forced me to reconsider how I had come to view trust, ‘that trust is earned’. This does not work in family structures because in living together and spending so much time with each other it is inevitable that we will let each other down. Failing each other can cause us to doubt and question each other rather than take the time needed to resolve the issue and forgive the one who let us down. Shortcomings even our kids’ lies to protect themselves should not cause us to doubt and mistrust each other. Trust is the glue that binds families together. We need to stay focused on our love and care for each other and help each other when we fail.
We have come to see trust differently in our home. We see trust as being bestowed not earned. When we bestow trust after a failure it lifts the other person up, gets them back in the game and keeps their desire to succeed and please in place.
They rose to this trust, having felt the pain of their failure and the encouragement of grace and crazy trust.
It is clear that Jesus saw trust differently as well. Even in the face of the disciples’ biggest failure, deserting him on his arrest and denying him. Jesus returned and did not say, now you need to earn my trust. Rather He extended them even more trust, charging them with the great commission to go love, serve and help people in Jerusalem, Judea and the outermost parts of the world. They rose to this trust, having felt the pain of their failure and the encouragement of grace and crazy trust. If trust and safety are issues in your home, please listen to my podcast on trust.
Trust is the foundation of love. Therefore trust needs to be the foundation of the relationships in our family in spite of our inherent weaknesses. We must trust and believe that everyone in the family desires to be better and is working on being a better wife, husband or child. Every kid I coach desires to be better for their parents unless they have lost all belief in themselves or their ability to measure up to their parents.