flowersThere are relationships in life that happen by default, such as with  co-workers, stepchildren, in laws, college roommates, or the parent of your child’s BFF.  In these cases, you find yourself automatically connected to someone, who you may not have normally chosen to befriend, because of your relationship with your loved one or work. Default relationships are not to be underestimated. They could make or break your most important relationships.

So, what if you don’t particularly get along with your default relationships?  You don’t have to be besties with these folks, but you do need to put time and effort into making these interactions easy going and comfortable. Why? Because your relationship with your spouse or child or status at work depend on it.  A peaceful family or workplace is a content one.  You never want your spouse to feel like he has to choose between his parents or you or his children from a previous marriage or you.  That’s not fair.

Here are 5 ways to connect with your default relationships:

  1. Get to know them better.  Affinity for another is built on accurate understanding.  Chit chat with your default relationship whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Through everyday conversation, we learn about people’s past, notable experiences, and perspectives.  Share your daily happenings and life stories with them too.  Giving them the opportunity to get to know you is essential to moving forward positively.
  2. Check in regularly.  Take time to contact your default relationship, just to check in.  A call, email, text, or snail mail letter works equally well.  We all feel special when we receive a check-in from someone because it lets us know that they were thinking of us.  If you don’t have much to say to the person in the start of the relationship, find a reason to text, such as “I wanted to let you know that I saw your favorite lotion on sale.”  Or call when you have a set time that you need to get off the phone so that you don’t feel obligated to keep the conversation going, which could be awkward.  For example, “Hi, Grace (mom-in-law), I’m just calling to check in on you and Bob (dad-in-law) since I have ten minutes before I need to run into my doctor’s appointment.”  In addition to calls and texts, I  encourage you to meet regularly with your default relationships, if you don’t normally see them in person. It doesn’t have to be for a long time.   Does having dinner with your default relationship sound long and boring to you?  Meet up for dessert instead.  As we’ve said before, keeping in touch is a booster that mitigates relationships from going sour.
  3. Enjoy a shared interest. Find something you have in common with your default relationship, and do it together.  If it’s a love for coffee, take an hour to meet up at a local coffee house.  If it’s baking, take a baking class together.  Invite a fellow football fan to your house to watch the game.
  4. Gift them with a random act of kindness.  Whether it may be to bring a co-worker flowers for their desk or take the carpool shift of a fellow parent, think of something that you could do that would be a welcome surprise for your default relationship.  Going out of your way for someone else shows that you are willing to give of yourself and generates wonderful feelings in the other person.
  5. Build mutual respect.   In making the proactive effort to connect with your default relationships, you begin build respect for each other.  This respect results in us being courteous, kind, and forgiving.  Respect also helps us be okay in situations where you may have to agree to disagree.

You may find that you are just not compatible with your default relationship.  In this case, do your best to keep this relationship neutral.  Don’t speak negatively about this individual, and respect the relationship between that person and your loved one.  Acknowledge that you are simply different.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

Be gentle with your default relationships. Don’t force or rush them.  Be slow to anger or irritation with them as well.  While default relationships can be challenging, they are often blessings and may gradually move out of the “default-zone” to the “friend-zone.”

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