Cultivating Relationships

The social aspect of our lives is undeniably important for our well-being and happiness. People who have strong connections with others report higher levels of happiness. Relationships can also be challenging at times, and can be a source of unhappiness if we don’t know much about them.


Levels of Relationships

Relationships move through several stages or levels, ranging from casual acquaintances to close intimate relationships. When we first meet someone, we exchange information and learn more about each other. Some relationships don’t progress any further. We might not ever see the person again, or they may be a casual acquaintance. Others move through the levels as a relationship grows. Sharing information about yourself is called self-disclosure, and knowing what to share and when is an important relationship skill to develop.

Level One includes casual acquaintances: classmates, group members, neighbors. At this level, we share our public self: observable general knowledge. We may make small talk about the weather, our jobs, sports, etc.

Level Two -Friends & Family: co-workers, cousins, aunts & uncles, nephews & nieces. We share the personal self: opinions, beliefs, and might discuss events and news.

Level Three -Close Friends, Immediate Family. We share the private self: ideas and problems, and might ask for advice or share what’s going on in your life.

Level Four -Intimate Relationships: a spouse or partner, best friends. We share the intimate self: reactions, thoughts & feelings, needs & wants. Explore deeper questions about goals, challenges, emotions.

Cultivating Relationships – Plant a garden

For a relationship to grow, it must be cultivated and tended to carefully. To cultivate a relationship, plant seeds of conversation with kindness, and attention. Sprinkle them with shared experiences and time. Fertilize them with caring and thoughtfulness, and add plenty of the sunshine of laughter. Pull out weeds of conflict that can strangle healthy flowers with lots of good communication. The closer the relationship, the more time and attention is needed to maintain the closeness.


How to Make a Friend

Be the kind of person you would like to have as a friend

Join a group to meet others with similar interests

Be friendly-greet people, smile, use their name, make conversation

Be interesting-share ideas & thoughts

Invite people to join you for activities you enjoy

Spend time together

Be kind and thoughtful. Call, email, send cards and gifts on special occasions

Learn more with Smart Skills Trading Cards on Relationships, and The Science of Making Friends from the Wall Street Journal. See more links about Friends at Delicious.

What I Have Learned About Love from the Movies


Something’s Gotta Give is one of my favorite romantic comedies. I’ve watched it many times and know almost all the lines by heart. Diane Keaton somehow makes having a broken heart funny in her crying scene. One of the lessons of the movie is this: the heart wants what the heart wants. But the lines below are among the most powerful.

Marin: Are you crying?

Erica Barry: Yeah. It’s my new thing. I’ve gotten abnormally brilliant at it.

Marin: Why? What is it?

Erica Barry: I’m in love. Ain’t it great? Seems like I gotta learn how to that… love-them-and-leave-them stuff, you know?

Marin: Oh mom, I hate this. Now do you get my theory about all this? You gotta self-protect.

Erica Barry: You don’t really buy this stuff you say, do you? You don’t actually think that you can outsmart getting hurt?

Marin: I think it’s worth trying.

Erica Barry: Listen to me. You can’t hide from love for the rest of your life because maybe it won’t work out… maybe you’ll become unglued? It’s just not a way to live.

Marin: Are you telling me this is good? What’s happened to you?

Erica Barry: I think you should consider the possibility that you and I are more alike than you realize. I let someone in, and I had the time of my life.

Marin: I’ve never had the time of my life.

Erica Barry: I know, baby. And I say this from the deepest part of my heart. What are you waiting for?

The lesson: In romance, you have to take a risk. Yes, there may be pain. But if you see a chance, take it. Here’s a few more things I’ve learned about love from the movies:

“Love is a gift, Alex, not an obligation.” –Fools Rush In

“You are what you love, not what loves you.” –Adaptation

“The greatest thing you’ll ever know, is just to love, and be loved in return.” –Moulin Rouge

A few more:

And Samantha in the television show Sex and the City:

“I love you, but I love me more.”

What have you learned about love at the movies? Let us know at the Daily PlanIt Facebook page!

What is Your Love Language?

Relationships: Learn love languages

Dr. Gary Chapman describes “The Five Love Languages” in his book. (Affiliate link: I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if you click through and make a purchase with an affiliate link. Thank you for your support!)

They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

One love language speaks most clearly to us, and it may be a different one for your partner. Use the one that connects to communicate your love. There is a quiz to determine your primary love language at the Five Love Languages website. Watch the What’s Your Love Language video with Vanessa Van Edwards.

See also: Free printable Loving Actions for the Five Love Languages (pdf)

This is one of the weekly activities for a Year of Personal Development.

Tracking loving actions

Personal Development System
Part Two: Relationship Tracker Cards relationshipset.pdf

This set includes four cards:

1. list your main primary and secondary relationships.

2. fill out a contact card for each of the relationships you listed.

3. conversation starter card.

4. an emotional account card to track Loving Actions for the Five Love Languages (pdf)

see also What is Your Love Language?

9 Things That Helped Me During the Divorce

Email to a Friend

To: My dear friend
Subject: Dealing with divorce

I know how difficult it can be when you’re going through a divorce. Here are a few things that helped me:

1) I spent a lot of time playing the addictive bubblet game. Don’t say I didn’t warn you that it’s addictive!

2) The book “How to Survive the Loss of a Love” by Peter McWilliams.

3) Friends!

4) I walked the dog a LOT.

5) Discovering a dream and working toward it.

6) On a purely practical level, my mom sent me a copy of Uncle Bill’s Bill Manager.

7) Here are some ideas from the book “Mars and Venus Starting Over” by John Gray:

  • Listen to music
  • Go to movies or watch videos
  • Read books and discuss them
  • Go for a drive
  • Burn candles
  • Join a support group
  • Learn something new
  • Practice an art or craft
  • Go shopping
  • Buy a gift for yourself
  • Buy flowers
  • Garden
  • Make home improvements
  • Bake bread
  • Go somewhere new, meet new people
  • Care for a pet
  • Ask for help and support from friends
  • Ask for hugs from friends
  • Count your blessings
  • Be patient with yourself and others
  • Go for a walk
  • Watch a sunset
  • Do something good for others
  • Go to church
  • Exercise or practice a sport
  • Keep a journal
  • Get a massage

8) My sister took me on a shopping therapy trip. I found a beautiful book of children’s prayers that included this one:

I hear no voice, I feel no touch
I see no glory bright;
But yet I know that God is near
In darkness as in light.
He watches ever by my side
And hears my whispered prayer:
The Father for His little child
Both night and day doth care.

9) Remember you are loved.

Searching for Answers

You know how sometimes you may be about ready to give up and someone gives you a word of encouragement that keeps you going? A big Thank You to whoever wrote the post about the Daily PlanIt at! Now the pressure is really on to keep coming up with ideas! I’m reminded of the moment in the movie “Joy Luck Club” when the mother tells the daughter, “I see you.” That’s an important part of love, to really see and be seen. I feel loved today!

I guess it’s time to come forth and share a little more information about me. I’ll start with some of the hard stuff first. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic, with somewhat predictable results that are pretty ingrained. Like difficulty with boundaries, and the unspoken rule of “Don’t talk about it.” Another result is co-dependency, a learned pattern of self-defeating coping behaviors. has lots of information for those who are struggling with these problems. When we fail to understand what we control, we often have dysfunctional relationships with ourselves and others. From various sources I’ve learned there are basically three things we control: our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. More on this later.
That said, it’s probably not too surprising that I went through a divorce some years ago that rocked my world. I’m not saying that he didn’t have his own issues too! 🙂 I’ve searched for answers as I’ve struggled with these problems. I know I’m not alone. And if you have problems too (and if you’re human you just might), you’re not alone either.

I’m encouraged when Dr. Phil McGraw says that we do not have to be defined by our past. That leads us back to change, and it ain’t easy. But is the alternative working for you? A definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But so many times we keep trying anyway, because we don’t know any other way to do it. That’s why Steve Pavlina is so helpful as he focuses on awareness and choosing love over fear.

You know how sometimes you just happen on to the thing that you need to see or hear? When I was cruising at I discovered Phil Gerbyshak’s Make It Great site and he’s an incredibly positive person with awesome things to say! Now I need to re-title my article Top Ten Eleven Time and Life Management Blogs. 🙂 Then I turned on the tv to begin my exercises and Robert Schuller was talking about the five R’s of love. My hope is that you can find something that you need to see or hear on The Daily PlanIt.

Who Are You? Part One of Discover U

Whether you are searching for a career, want to create a great relationship, or are wondering what you want to do with your life, there is one place you have to start. You have to know who you are. And that’s not always an easy task. It’s not just about where you live or what you do for a living. It’s not just about your favorite tv shows and favorite color. It’s not just about the roles that you play like parent or child. It’s about discovering your voice and learning how to speak your truth with it. It’s about getting in touch with the real you-your authentic self.

For all of these steps you will want to create an environment that will assist you in listening to your inner voice. Surround yourself with the sounds of music and scents and images that inspire you. Meditation, prayer, or taking a walk might inspire you. Find out what works best for you.

Getting started

Grab a pen and a notebook or some index cards. At the top of the page (or card) write HEROES. Think about some people that you really admire and why. Plant this thought in your brain and let it vegetate awhile until some really good ideas come out. A hero could be someone you know or someone who is famous, real people or characters from books or movies, from the present or the past…

For ideas, you can explore the Discovery Channel’s 100 Greatest Americans or
Coming up: In part two, explore your strengths.

Discover U in Ten Steps

Being who we are and loving

A convergance of several experiences have led me to reflect again about the difficulties of love and relationships. Dr Robin L Smith spoke about her new book “Lies at the Altar” on Oprah, describing how women often lose themselves in marriage. Then I watched the movie “Shopgirl” and was profoundly affected by it. Combine that with a scene from the movie “Casanova” where Francesca says: “Oh give me a man who is man enough to give himself just to the woman who is worth him. If that woman were me I would love him alone and forever.” And you have a recipe for some deep thoughts.

Mirabelle is the shopgirl who first hooks up with the clueless and quirky Jeremy, then is courted by a much older and richer man. Despite the warnings of Ray Porter (played by Steve Martin) that she is not to expect commitment, she falls in love with him. While gracious and generous with money, which is easy for him, he is not able to give of his heart. Eventually she realizes that he will never be capable of loving her. Meanwhile Jeremy has been working on self-improvement and has made changes that make him a better companion. His warm and appealing character shines through now that he is no longer so clueless about relationships.

The moment that affected me so deeply comes at the end of the movie when Ray runs into Mirabelle. “I did love you,” he tells her, when he so clearly didn’t. He probably believed that he did, even as he was not capable of it. He was as clueless about love as Jeremy previously was about relationships. We do not know why Ray is this way, but we do know he is not likely to change. To respond to being hurt by shutting ourselves off from sharing love is to ultimately hurt ourselves, depriving ourselves of the human experience.

Love Books

Books are a great place to look for the answers to questions. Sometimes there is one especially excellent book on a subject with all the answers. Other times different books contain elements of truth that can begin to make sense when they are combined. I’ve read lots of books about a subject that seems simultaneously both simple and amazingly complex. While there are many more books yet to read, here are a few ideas from books about love.

We say that we love our pets, our family, our friends, certain foods, a work of art, our partner. The same word can mean so many different things, no wonder it is confusing. M Scott Peck’s defines love in his book “The Road Less Traveled” as: “the will to extend one’s self to nurture one’s own or another’s spiritual truth.”

This definition includes self-love. We must begin with loving ourselves in order to be capable of both loving others and receiving love. To love ourselves, we need to fully realize that we are loved simply because we are alive. A higher power is one completely reliable source of unconditional love. Since we are all loved, it follows that all deserve to be treated with love, wherever we are on our travels.

This definition also implies effort. Love requires our on-going efforts to keep it growing, like a garden that we plant. Love is either nurtured and grows or neglected and dies. We either choose to act lovingly or we choose not to. We learn to communicate, or we don’t. We accept others as they are, or attempt to control them.

If we have not learned how to love, we may believe that love can be found by pursuing praise, power, pleasure, and safety. Greg Baer calls this Imitation Love in his book “Real Love.” While these things are not inherently bad, they will never provide true happiness when they become a substitute for real love. We may choose these forms of Imitation Love simply because we do not realize there is another choice.

When we do not receive unconditional love, we feel empty and afraid, and learn getting and protecting behaviors, which are actions to get others to like us or to avoid and prevent others from hurting us. Brief satisfaction may result from these behaviors, but the long-term damage is considerable, the worst effect being that they make it impossible to feel Real Love even when it’s actually being given to us. Only when we take the risk of telling the truth about ourselves is there the possibility of unconditional love.

We may not have learned how to act lovingly, but if we do not change, we continue to be defined by our past. In “All About Love” by Bell Hooks, the author lists actions that convey love. Actions that express love include: care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, trust, recognition and communication. Conversely, actions that destroy love include hurt, abuse, neglect, disrespect, manipulation, and controlling. We can learn to act lovingly towards all people, but love reaches a deeper level with some who touch our hearts. When this happens it is quite mysterious.

While love is a gift freely given, healthy relationships are about balanced appreciation and mutual respect. We show love by giving our time and attention, especially by actively listening. Gary Chapman describes the “Five Love Languages” as acts of service, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, and gifts. One love language speaks most clearly to us, and it may be a different one for your partner.

Life is change, but often not in ways that we might expect. Since nobody is perfect, there’s usually something we would like to change, in ourselves as well as others. But change is the ultimate self-help project, making efforts to change others spectacularly ineffective and problematic.

In “Real Love,” Greg Baer says that attempts to control others indicate that we are not accepting them. This does not mean we must accept unloving behavior; it does mean setting your own limits and requesting what you want without demanding it or expecting you will always get it.  There’s so much more to learn, it’s time to read more books!