As our personal relationships change, how do we come through those changes without harming the relationship? This is a question I’ve been contemplating and writing about a lot lately. I recently went through the “dropping your last kid off at college” experience and that has put me at a new level of experiencing changes in important personal relationships, right?
For the past 18 years, my daughter has been around me all the time. Now our relationship is completely different. I’m not going to be there every morning to have breakfast with her, or at night to say goodnight. I won’t know when she’s mad and grumpy, or when she’s happy. The context of our relationship has completely changed, almost overnight, and most likely forever.
Here’s a little story of our new normal…
A week ago, my daughter wanted to catch up so she called me during the day as I was in meetings. I tried her later on, but she was in class. At midnight, she reached out over text to ask if we could talk. Well, guess what? I was asleep and decided not to wake up. I thought we would catch up the next day, but she was not available. . . . Are you with me?
While research shows that parents are happiest when their children are grown up, I am still left to wonder, how can I ensure our relationship brings both of us fulfillment and connection despite the changes to our interactions. I asked myself what was the single most important thing I wanted to maintain through this huge change. Most of all, as a parent, I want to remain relevant to my daughter as a presence to guide, support and love. No matter what type of personal relationship, or what the external changes to that relationship, it should be important to consider relevance as you consider ways to grow through the change.
So how does one remain relevant when our personal relationships change? Having friends and enduring relationships has been found to be a great predictor of happiness in countless studies. Strong personal relationships are shown to help people be happier, have fewer health problems and even live longer. So the answer to the above question is truly important!
How can we maintain our connection with ones we love through life’s changes? Here are some things to consider when you are contemplating that question:
- Remain appropriately engaged in the relationship. Remaining relevant in the story I shared above was all about continuing to make a visible effort in the way I engage my daughter now that she is at college. Maybe it’s texting, using FaceTime, or talking on the phone in the middle of the night. I’m going to have to be flexible to remain relevant in this relationship as we undergo these big changes. I had to intentionally dismantle what we have always done (talk every day, face to face) and reassemble with adaptability (trying new forms of communication to see which one works the best).
- Determine the most important thing about the relationship that you want to preserve. What is the one most important thing you would like to preserve in the relationship? Is it time together, companionship, a sense of security? Is it simply going to the movies together once a week? If you know what it is that’s most important, then you can be much more intentional about focusing on that.
- Be a giver. In times of change in relationships, be a giver and not a taker. When you focus on giving, it always helps. Sometimes when relationships change, it’s easy to demand and that’s never helpful.
- Be flexible. Give up some of the things you used to do that were once tried and true and just be flexible. Maybe in some relationships, we text more often now than we ever have before. We may have to reframe the way we communicate, but that will only be possible if we are open-minded to the possibilities.
- Go to your friends and learn from their experiences. Another thing I’ve been doing to help cope with my newfound status as an “Empty Nester” is telling all my friends about it! I’ve been listening as friends at many different stages of life and parenthood have given me advice from their own experiences. If you want to deal with change effectively, don’t isolate yourself. Talk to the people you love and trust and have them talk to you about their experiences. Have they experienced the same thing as you in business or life? How did they cope? What were their successes? What are the lessons learned? In that vein, I’d love to hear ways that you have been able to work through changes, whether in your personal life or at work, while remaining relevant. Share your successes and challenges, and let’s start a dialog.
- Enduring is ok. Relationships at times just exist in the face of change. They do not grow or go away, but rather stay in a holding pattern of some sort, and that is often ok for a time. Relationships ebb and flow and it’s important to have a perspective that can look at whatever change is happening as a phase and not think it will be that way forever.
Is one of your key personal relationships experiencing a change? Are you hopeful about the change?
These simple steps can help you remain relevant and keep a strong connection even during difficult transitions.
Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds, and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership, and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.