Healthy Relationships Depend Upon Our Expectations

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When you’ve been around for as long as most of us have, you’ve learned a thing or two from life’s long journey.  I hope by now you’ve landed in a good spot as you cruise into retirement and are surrounded by good people.

I can tell you I am surrounded by a great family and friends who’ve been by my side through the good times and bad.  They’ve stayed.  They’ve been supportive.  They’ve always found a way to lend a hand.  I will admit to you I’ve gained and certainly learned more from my failures than I have my successes.  Pain teaches.  Pain leaves a lasting indelible impression that hopefully keeps us from making the same mistakes again.  With dumb luck and common sense, we glean something positive from adversity.

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Human interaction is a tricky thing.  There are people with whom we have great chemistry and there are those we wish we’d never met.  I’ve had both.  I bet you have too.  This brings me to the point of this Boomer Journey.

What keeps us searching for elements in people that are not there?  What keeps us chasing unhealthy relationships?  What do you do when you reach out to a friend and you’re met with the sound of crickets?  I think, by nature, we want what we cannot have.  You know this is true.  Relationships go off the rails with our expectations of others.  This applies to acquaintances, friends, our children, a significant other, neighbors, our parents, cousins, siblings, coworkers, a cruising buddy, business partner, the mailman, your plumber, the gardener, your boss, and just about anyone else you can think of.

The list becomes endless because relationships we develop over a lifetime are infinite totaling hundreds and sometimes thousands depending upon how well traveled you’ve been.  I will tell you what I’ve learned from a lifetime of both rock solid and badly broken relationships.  True friends and family are those who have stuck with me through thick and thin—friends I’ve known a lifetime and even those I’ve known a relatively short time.

They’ve stayed.

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Great friends are those you never have to chase.  They call.  They show up.  They reach out without having to be reminded.  Just when you’re beginning to give up on life, they call to remind you of how much you are needed.  Marvin McAfee, 87, a wise old curmudgeon and dear friend, said to me, “If you have to chase anyone, to remind them to remember you, what for?”  Marvin had been around long enough to know what mattered and—what didn’t.  He understood true friendship is free choice.  Be in a relationship because you want to be there—not because you feel like you have to.

By the time, you crest the age of 60, it is good to inventory the relationships you have and ascertain their value.  Are they healthy or are they toxic?  Are you struggling with a friendship and why?  A great relationship works like a well-oiled machine and fits like a Brooks Brothers suit.  It works well even if you don’t agree on everything.  You find peace with each other and look forward to the times you spend together.  Under the best of circumstances, you can’t get enough of one another.

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Toxic relationships, on the other hand, are long on struggle.  They make us apprehensive and on edge, wondering what’s next.  They’ve become an unhealthy habit.  You feed off one another and not in a healthy way.  They’ve learned how to push your buttons and you’ve learned how to push theirs.

Is this the way you’d like to spend the rest of your life?

Has a friendship become toxic?

Or—was it always?

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As we continue this journey together, it is time to pause, reflect, and continue looking ahead—with less attention paid to regrets and uncomfortable memories.  It is time for you to get focused and begin working on new memories and healthy relationships.  One of the best ways to feel better about life is giving back.  Volunteer work where you’re helping those less fortunate is a good way to feel better about yourself.  Veterans, the elderly (shut-ins), young people in need of a great mentor, the poor and destitute, the homeless, battered and abused animals—you name the cause.  The list of ways you can help others (and yourself) is endless, even if it’s helping a neighbor who could use a good friend.  Reach out and ask how you can help.  There are many organizations and individuals who could use your help and your heart.

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The best way to open the door to the rest of your life is to open it and examine the possibilities.  If volunteer work or a second career isn’t your bag, consider something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or money to do.  Book that trip to Europe or Australia.  Consider driving across North America.  Canada and Mexico are right next door depend upon where you live.  Put a fresh coat of paint on your house or apartment.  Load up the CD player with the music you grew up with.  No matter how old you are, it will make you feel young.

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The best way to look at this time in your life is for the opportunity it presents.  You are, with any luck, retired or perhaps dependent on a part-time job.  This is the time to spread your wings and fly.  Imagine yourself on an aircraft carrier at the end of a catapult.  Then, mentally launch with a fresh mind and new dreams.

 

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