If you want to fix an area of your life, start a diary for that subject. As a lifelong introspective writer, this is what works for me. Earlier this year I had diaries for meditation, sexuality, and other personal topics. Each diary helped me either stick to a habit, or improve my relationship with a part of myself. What I didn’t have was a diary for my relationships with other people in my life. What if I did?
It seemed about time, because I was getting tired of the conflicts that sometimes arose at home. It affected my mental health, as who isn’t strongly influenced by their exchanges with those directly around them? Discontent in the family felt inseparable from my own body, like a fifth limb that’s sore. Even if all we argued about was my blueberry stains I left on the floor!
As soon I started my family life diary, I was prioritizing the health of our relationships every day. And that itself has been a benefit. My family members and I each have our own individual tastes, triggers, pet peeves, and boundaries not to overstep. But that’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention or are taking each other for granted. You might only need a little daily vigilance, over the weeks and months, to make a significant change. That’s what my new, short diary entries did for me.
I focused mainly on the things I could control, reporting in my diary if I:
- Did a good job at housework, or did extra favors whether someone asked me to or not.
- Brought home flowers.
- Laughed at a family member’s joke, commiserated with their pain, paid them a genuine compliment, or spent quality time with them.
- Updated someone about things going on with me, keeping them in the loop.
- Texted something nice, or even liked a family member’s facebook post. We all notice that these days!
The diary became a reward for my own little efforts. A common complaint we have in relationships is that the other person is too critical, that they don’t acknowledge us enough. I certainly feel this myself, even though I’m sure I make others feel the same. What I love about self-reflection time is that I can use it to acknowledge myself. I can double-check that I’ve done my best, and thereby reduce my cravings for validation from others.
Occasionally, I have had to report an error to my diary, explaining how I handled the mistake. With family harmony top of mind, I usually catch what went wrong now. I take immediate corrective action—doing extra chores, texting them sorry, or putting aside my other ambitions for the night to join everyone for a movie. That way, any bad taste I gave a family member is swiftly replaced by their next positive experience, and the conflict quickly dies.
If you try a relationship diary like I have, you don’t necessarily need to start from love. The truth is, my original intention for the diary was self-protective. Frustrated in my relationships, I thought, “Ha, I will just do this to get along with you.” However, once that bad day was over, the diary became imbued with a flavor of affection. I noted when family members showed pleasure, did nice things for me, or when anything fun or sweet happened. I became more attentive to what makes family special—moments together. My love and loyalty grew, as they were no longer tainted or held back by frequent feelings of the opposite!
Yes, I really did succeed at “fixing” my home life, at least from my own perspective. There have been moments I mildly upset someone, but it got resolved the same day. Thanks to my diary keeping me aware, I haven’t let conflicts linger, or cause me avoidance or anxiety anymore. It’s been over two months now of a harmonious home life. I hope if I keep up this habit, it will make me a better person to live with or spend time with over the years to come. I don’t just want to be good to my online friends! I want to make sure people around me feel better because of me being there.
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Photo: lilartsy via Unsplash