Do you have a strained relationship that you need to mend? Maybe it is a family member, a friend, or a coworker. Something has happened in the past that has driven a wedge between the two of you. Or maybe it is a continued difference of opinions that plaques the relationship. Whatever the cause of the division in your relationship, you feel the need to repair the relationship but you don’t know how.
Today I’ll share with you a personal story of my experience in mending an important relationship and 6 steps that you can take to improve such relationships in your life.
My recent experience with mending relationships involves my dad. I’ve shared before how my biological dad struggles with an addiction to alcohol and how that has plagued our relationship all of my life. This wedge between us has resulted in numerous arguments and several months at a time without any type of communication. I recently felt the persuading of God to attempt to rebuild my relationship with my dad, and so I took the first steps of planning a visit.
More on that visit later, now let’s focus on the steps to rebuilding a strained relationship.
Be sure to devote special prayer time to the rebuilding of your relationship. You will want to pray about the specific event (visit, phone call, etc) that you will soon plan. You will also want to pray about the outcome and next steps following with initial event. Be sure to pray and seek God’s grace that is needed to ensure your visit or call goes well, without argument or deeper division.
My prayers leading up to my recent visit with my dad included prayers that he would be completely sober and have a clear mind. Prayers that I would have the courage and wisdom to discuss sensitive topics that have caused much of the division in our relationship. Prayers the he and I both would have open hearts and minds to understand the other’s points of view.
Proper planning of an event (visit or phone call) is super important. Planning includes giving the other person some notice. And be honest about about your intent. Don’t try to hide the fact that you are attempting to rebuild your relationship. This honesty and transparency will allow the other person to lower their guard enough to have a meaningful visit or call. Start with just a brief phone call that results in a scheduled visit or lengthier call to have a meaningful conversation.
My initial phone call with my dad was just before the Christmas holidays. I was honest and told him that I wanted to visit because the Christmas season reminded me of our strained relationship. While I wasn’t able to adjust our holiday schedule to visit him on Christmas day (I was honest about our schedule), I wanted to visit him soon after Christmas. I didn’t mention specific topics of discussion, but I did let him know that I hoped to have conversations that would begin to mend our relationship. This proper planning also allowed him time to ensure that his mind was sober and clear of alcohol – which helped a lot.
3) Take is slow
It is likely that your relationship has reached such a bad place over years and years of argument and division. It is very unreasonable to think that all of those years will be recovered in a single visit or phone call. Don’t go into the visit or call with such expectations. The project planning world has a philosophy for completing very large projects – elephant size projects. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Rebuilding a relationship is certainly an elephant size project. Rebuild it one bite at a time.
For me, it was tempting to try to rehash my entire 42 year relationship with my dad. It was tempting to unleash on him all the feelings of abandonment I’ve felt from him. However, none of that would have been fruitful toward the goal of rebuilding our relationship. Sure, those old feelings need to be addressed. Likewise, I’m sure he has similar feelings that need to be addressed. But there will be another time for all that.
Taking that first step to rebuild a relationship isn’t easy. This is the primary factor that influences such lengthy division in relationships. The strained relationship carries on for years and years because taking that initial step to repair the relationship is difficult and scary. For this reason, you need some accountability. Share your story and your plan with a trusted individual that will lovingly hold you accountable to follow through.
My accountability just happened to be my our Sunday school class. I received this prompting from God to visit my dad while at church. The truth is, I’ve received such promptings many times before and ignored them. I wanted to quickly find folks that would hold me accountable to obedience in this prompting. So before the influence of God’s prompting had time to wane away, I shared the situation and plan with our Sunday school class. I asked them to pray for the situation and hold me accountable to follow through. They have carried out that responsibility wonderfully.
5) Comfort zones
Rebuilding a relationship often means addressing or discussing uncomfortable topics. Pains of the past create an atmosphere of fear and nervousness. This makes it all the more important to select a place or time that lies within the comfort zone of the person with which you are rebuilding a relationship. Meet them on their turf. Give them the home field advantage. By doing so, you will demonstrate a real commitment to restoring the relationship and you will provide a familiar atmosphere that will encourage their genuine participation.
My dad works part time at a golf course. He enjoys the work, but he also enjoys the opportunity to play golf that his employment provides. Knowing that he feels very comfortable on the golf course, I asked him if we could play a round of golf during my recent visit. He agreed with a sense of security that I’d asked to play golf rather than meet at some coffee shop. Playing golf provided a great sense of familiarity for him and provided us plenty of one on one time to have great conversations.
6) Finish positive
Lastly, remember that this elephant is not going to be eaten in this one bite. Restoring your relationship will require multiple visits or calls. Therefore it is crucial to end this first visit or call on a very positive note. By ending on a positive note, you will be preparing the hearts and minds of both of you for the next step in restoring the relationship. Be intentional to end with honest and positive comments regarding the hope you have of further restoration.
As we ended our visit, I told my dad that it was great to play a little golf again (I hadn’t played in years). But I was very intentional that I didn’t leave it at that. I told him it was great to play golf with him and have conversations such as we were able to have. He reciprocated with such comments, but added some comments that were music to my ears. He told me about his recent return to church and even a new commitment to a small group Sunday school class. Additionally, his face lit up as he described his favorite Christmas gift – a new study Bible. Wow, I was blown away and I would have missed it if I hadn’t taken these first steps to rebuilding our relationship.
So there you have the 6 steps to begin the rebuilding process of a strained relationship. I know it isn’t easy, but you know it is the right thing to do. Maybe you need to take these steps with an estranged spouse. Maybe you have wayward teenager that really needs a better relationship with you. Whatever the case, I challenge and encourage you to take these first 6 steps. Do it now, don’t wait; don’t let the influence of this prompting wane away until you do nothing to restore this very important relationship in your life.
What steps are you taking to rebuild a strained relationship? Do you have relationships that need reconciliation? Share your comments and thoughts below.