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A quick trip to the store last week triggered a mild irritation and red color-coded awakening that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Ahhhh, the sweet scent of Chocolate!

This narrowed my focus on relationships. “What a good way to prepare for a celebratory one when it finally rolls around”, I thought to myself.

My formative years were in a perfect relationship bubble. Or so I thought. A tight-knit traditional family; a father, a mother, siblings, grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, close and even extended relatives – although the knowledge I had of these extended versions was vague and remote. Through my childhood eyes, we were all seemingly living in a perfectly orchestrated symphony of life. The music was delightful.

I was under the bubbled impression that my relationships – particularly immediate ones – were without any problems and thus perfect. Even sibling squabbles were quickly fixed with the dexterity of a Master Conductor who saves the music with a skilful sway of his baton.

Looking back, I thankfully attribute this to the tremendous amount of love, care and work put into the relational tango by all those adults that surrounded me. They did what they knew. Sadly, much of their efforts were directed at creating what I must now painfully admit, an artificial canvas upon which I painted a bright portrait of the world around me.  

As I grew older it seemed as though the complex act of navigating relationships took a different turn, most often unkind meanderings resulting in whiplash, dizzying spells and harshly shattering my perfectly framed picture over and over again.

Looking back and around, I celebrate wonderful connections with people in my life thus far. I also often lament about the vicious road kills, and merciless wrecks that litter my relationship highways and byways.

There are many valuable lessons I’m learning as I traverse this journey called life. One important lesson is that, there is no direction in life where relationships will not be encountered. From the cradle to the grave and beyond, this reality cannot be argued or ignored without serious consequences.

No wonder so much of our issues with life have to do with relationships. Relationships believe it or not, are the oxygen of life. Therefore, knowing how to navigate, negotiate, and RE-negotiate them on a frequent basis is essential to a fulfilling life.

Although not a new concept, Dr. Phil’s statement below made a fresh impact on my perspective recently.

“You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don’t. This means you are partly responsible for the mistreatment that you get at the hands of someone else. You shape other’s behavior when you teach them what they can get away with and what they cannot. If the people in your life treat you in an undesirable way, figure out what you are doing to reinforce, elicit or allow that treatment. Identify the payoffs you may be giving someone in response to any negative behavior.”

You may be thinking about some serious questions concerning your relationships right now.

People don’t just quit marriages, a job, a church, a club or leave a geographic area. They primarily quit relationships. The seed of relational breakdown will eventually led to the fruit of dissolved relationships, icy isolation, and incredible heartaches.

Ponder these three words; navigate, negotiate and RE-negotiate.

NAVIGATE: Move decisively through and about every relationship in your past, present and the future. If there is any awkwardness in any direction, you need to examine that particular relationship.

NEGOTIATE: Work responsibly to resolve every wrong in the past, present and courageously face the future. Take responsibility for your actions, and free yourself from false guilt and shame. Place proper value on all relationships.

RENEGOTIATE: Some relationships in the past need to remain dead, while others need resurrection, healing and renewal. Exercise wisdom in deciding which is which, and act accordingly.

Take these steps upon the foundation of the Golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. Be deliberate and honest with yourself.  

If you do these, you will breathe freely and easier wherever you go or whoever you run into.

If you are like me, you are already thinking about how to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Start preparing for that now. But you don’t have to wait till that day to honor and celebrate your relationships.  A lot can happen between now and then. Practice your Relationship Dance today!