Giving from the Heart
Martha was always the family "go to". If someone needed help, if something broke, or if there was an "emergency", she was always the one person everyone called. When she was single, she didn't mind it that much. After all, everyone else had families and spouses, while Martha was usually alone.
This became a problem when she started a new relationship. Sure, she had been on dates but it was never really serious. This relationship was different. Martha was in love and saw a future with this man. As they began to spend more time together, her priorities shifted. Family activities went on the back burner. It's not that she didn't love her family, but she needed and wanted to develop a life of her own. She was reluctant to include her new man in the family affairs because she didn't want to hear their take on this relationship. In the past they had always been rather critical, and with good reason. Martha had not always been the best at picking men. She wanted to decide on her own if he was right for her.
At first she felt guilty when she said she was busy and couldn't help. At first, her family was angry. Without even knowing him, they decided he couldn't possibly be good for her. What decent man would try to take her away from her family? Her priorities were all wrong! Family comes first, right?
Martha struggled with her guilt. She wanted to maintain her family relationships, but not at the expense of a romantic relationship. Some how she needed to find a balance.
It wasn't easy. Martha had always been swayed by the demands of others. The deciding factor in many of her decisions had always been what other people wanted. She seemed to respond to the "squeaky wheel". What her heart desired was something she had never given a lot of consideration.
Now was the time for Martha to begin to design her own life based on what she wanted rather than what other people needed. At first, it seemed selfish. Her family even told her she was being selfish and "this relationship" was obviously unhealthy since he seemed to be "isolating" her from the rest of the family. It was at this point that she turned to some of her trusted friends.
Her friends had been hearing general updates about the status of her relationship and were supportive. They could see Martha was genuinely happy. They were happy for her and encouraged her to take the space she needed. When Martha introduced him to her friends, they really liked him. Still, the family was not supportive.
It took much longer than expected for the family to come around. For Martha, setting boundaries came first. The family backlash came second. The family reorganizing came third. This meant they had to find other solutions to their problems besides Martha. As the family reorganized and found other solutions to their problems, they began to realize how much Martha actually did and how unreasonable their requests were. When Martha did jump into help, they appreciated her efforts and let her know how much they appreciated what she did. Martha did not help because of her families need, but rather out of her own desire. This felt much better to her. In the past, she felt the imbalance, which always left a bitter after taste. Now, the exchange felt sweet. They appreciated her and she felt happy she could help.
Now that the family dynamics were in balance, she decided it was time to begin to introduce her new man to the family. She started with one of her sisters, the one she felt closest to and the one she thought would be most support. It went well. Martha slowly proceeded in this one-on-one fashion. As her family began to hear stories of George, they were generally positive. They recognized Martha was happy and looked forward to meeting George. She didn't give in to the pressure of their requests to meet him. Instead, she chose to introduce him to those she felt were likely to be accepting. As George's acceptance grew among her friends and family, she was less impacted by those who were critical. After all, they tended to be critical and probably always would be, no matter who she was dating.
This was the balance she needed to move forward in her relationship with George. It was also the balance she needed in all her relationships. Giving now came from the heart, rather than from the burden of obligation or duty.