Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Keys to Remember When the Urge to Merge Hits!

I think we're most powerful in life when we see connections.  No activity becomes a moment of drudgery if it is part of a greater whole.  At the end of my current blog post for Psychology Today which is dedicated to the importance of chores for kids,  I wrote:

Being able to take care of a home has many applications beyond chores for our children.  We become better houseguests.  Who doesn’t love a relative or friend who spontaneously takes out the trash after dinner?  In the current economic climate we may find ourselves moving back home with our parents or welcoming relatives who have fallen on tough times.  Don’t we all appreciate the ‘housebroken’ adult who makes his bed, does his own laundry and leaves the bathroom in pristine condition? 

What about the college freshman faced with life in a dorm?  I’d rather be the mom of the kid who teaches his friends how to do laundry than the one who drives home most weekends so I can do it for him.  And of course there are first apartments, marriages and travel.  The merging scenarios are virtually endless each full of twists and turns in the ancient story of harmoniously bringing together divergent styles, possessions and life habits.  I’ve got lots more tips in my new e-book called The Urge to Merge.  Let me know how you like it and how it helped your family.

Living with other human beings is tough even when we love them!  What can we do to make life easier when we've been thrust into a situation with folks whose styles are very different from our own?  Here are three things I think work a bit of magic.

  • Commitment 
Everybody in the mix needs to be on the same page and headed in the same direction. It's got to be a 'we're all in this together and we want to succeed' effort or else petty grievances, jealousies and resentments may rule the day.  And they never take us to a good outcome.
  • Communication
Human beings are borderline hilarious in their ability to convince themselves that they know THE way to accomplish a task.  Doubt me?   Try loading the dishwasher at someone else's home and see how well you do!  The family culture will have a set way to put dishes away.  (There's a scene devoted to this madness in the movie Rachel Getting Married that captures the drama beautifully).  There will no doubt be 'rules' about how to load the trunk of a car, do laundry and cut grass.  Instead of assuming that your house mates are crackers open a dialogue. After all, we're all assuming we do it right.
  • Compromise
I saved the best for last, didn't I? Have an open mind.  You want to use your grandmother's good dishes for Thanksgiving and your new husband assumes his grandmother's dishes are superior.  Remember that there are several big holiday meals during the course of the year.  You will have ample opportunities to showcase both grandmas dish sets.  Why not set a schedule now so you take the guesswork and the hurt feelings out of days that are meant to be festive? Sharing space affords us ample opportunities to compromise.  

Children Will Listen

Stephen Sondheim was right: children will listen, watch and absorb lessons we never intended to teach. The three C's will on the other hand give children useful life tools.  And you don't have to lecture.  You just have to set the example by using them effectively. The three C's are tools that can be taken to school, used in friendship and dating and ultimately used in the boardroom as easily as they are used in the home. Think about that when Uncle Harry has put the butter on the 'incorrect' shelf in the refrigerator or Cousin Susie has cut bizarre patterns into the grass. 

At the heart of this discord is very often a fear: we don't necessarily believe we have invented the perfect way to do things; you're convinced you were taught the perfect way by mom.  The problem of course is that our mom wasn't capable of nurturing the world so a lot of moms and assumptions are behind most arguments.  I think that blind allegiance to anyone or anything doesn't work as well as a willingness to create fresh new solutions.  After all there is every hope that's exactly what mom would encourage us to do!

I've got a new e-book that deals exclusively with all the ups and downs of merging households.  It's called The Urge to Merge because throughout our lives we're doing just that ~ from your baby brother taking over your room to the kids coming home from college there's a whole lot a mergin' going on out there.  Why not do it with grace, intelligence and wisdom?

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June 2009, in China

June 2009, in China
At the Summer Palace outside Beijing

About Me

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I will always be grateful I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  It was a rich atmosphere that introduced me to different races, creeds and professions.  It seemed that anything was possible if you were willing to work hard to achieve your goals.

I'm a yogi which means that my spiritual path is that of yoga principles that have been handed down for over 5000 years. Yoga is an ancient philosophy based on the Gita, the sutras of Patanjali and yes, the Bible. The postures are a key element as is meditation. We honor all paths.

I got my first dog when I was 6 years old after a full year of begging.  She was a collie and her name was Queenie.  As an adult I've had 2 golden retrievers.  A female named Miss Katie who came into my life when she was 3 months old and an ancient male golden who came to me when he was 15.  I'd like to have a Great Dane next but we'll see what the universe has in store.

I've been organizing clients for over 24 years and writing about it for over ten.