Navigating human behavior, specifically in the context of a relationship, can be tricky. Luckily, trends and road markers can help us along the way if we look at what we know. Be it in our relationships with students, friends or family members, conflict is inevitable, and for me, at least knowing this helps me better prepare and accept it in a healthy way.

It’s spring break for us which means seven days of yard work. I type this with a smile on my face, as I love this task. Unfortunately, given two years of mild winters, I’m cleaning out shrubbery and greenbelt vines of death that tower way over my head. Lord only knows what critter habitats I’m disturbing in this process. Yesterday, I was given some hope by an elderly neighbor from down the street. She stopped to tell me how great everything was starting to look. As I grumbled about the current state of the yard, she reminded me, “well, we all have to deal with a bit of dirt and ugly before things get pretty again.” What a great insight and reminder for me.

Relationships go through periods of turbulence, and be it during the terrible twos, long teenage years, midlife of a marriage or friendship, things can get ugly. I find by accepting this normal evolution, I’m better equipped to proactively adjust my perspective when it happens. And this shift also helps me understand that sometimes we have to get our hands really dirty in the process of unearthing all the “pretty”. Trust me, I have cuts and calloused hands as evidence – but I know the end result will most definitely be worth the effort.