Nurturing steps help build good relationships
March 27 2016 11:17 PM

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H Hopson and Ted Hagen/Tribune News Service

Do you wonder why your marriage or a friendship has fallen apart?
One reason might be that you’ve not nurtured your relationship consistently. Every relationship grows and thrives by each person doing something for the other in small steps.
Some married men, for example, believe that sending a dozen roses twice a year guarantees their wives will love and respect them.
Roses coming twice a year can’t hurt. But, in reality, a woman will be more impressed by a man who helps with the dinner dishes five nights out of seven.
Roses can be easily purchased. Helping with the dishes takes a little sweat.
When you help someone with chores, stressful errands and fixing things around the house, you show a lot of love and concern.
It’s hard to not love a spouse or friend who will go the extra mile for you.
Consider a friend of ours we’ll call Jan. Jan will call her friends every five or six months to book a movie or dinner night. But, if someone needs Jan to tag along to a difficult doctor’s appointment, forget it. Jan will beg off.
Jan wants to enjoy her friendships. But, she doesn’t want to nurture them.
“I try to make deposits into my marriage love bank by cooking dinner three nights a week,” says a man we’ll call Dennis. “Some of my meals aren’t fancy, but my wife knows I take helping her seriously.”
We’ve all known of couples that seemed to have it all, but their marriages fell apart.
These couples had a nice home, good jobs and great kids. But still, their marriage flopped.
One reason is that busy folks can’t really nurture other people properly. They can call, visit, write, spend, encourage and compliment. But, when the flu hits, they don’t have the time, nor the will, to make homemade chicken soup.
“We live in an era when it’s considered too time-consuming to love on somebody,” says an attorney we’ll call Jed. Jed is a divorce lawyer. “The people I see usually haven’t learned the lesson that if you don’t nurture a person, they will feel betrayed and empty.”
A lot of busy emergency responders contact us about their relationships. These men and women love their spouses, but they have a hard time making their marriages work.
They’ll send e-mails along these lines: “I love my job, but my job is killing my marriage. My mate is threatening to divorce me, but I don’t know how to save the marriage. Any ideas?”
We often suggest this: Ask your mate if he or she feels nurtured and taken care of by you. If not, ask if you can both sit down and talk about it.
Someone is probably not leaving you because you don’t earn $150,000 a year. He or she is probably not leaving you because you goofed up and had an affair.
Truth is, people leave a relationship when they don’t feel loved. And, no one can feel loved if the other person doesn’t care about the small things.
A man we’ll call Jeff says he picks up his wife’s favourite fruit on the way home. She loves naval oranges.
“I make it a point to get her a couple of very large naval oranges at least once a week,” says Jeff. “Now, I could buy her a whole bag at one time, but no, I make a big deal of how I selected just the right ones out of the pile for my wife.”
To nurture someone, you can fill up her gas tank, cook his favourite soup, buy a magazine she likes, or pick out a new coffee mug for him or her. Big spending isn’t required, but investing the time to nurture is mandatory.

- Judi Light Hopson is the executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.

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