Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

Renegotiating Relationships

As my parents aged, I needed to change my relationship with them.  Accepting that they had evolving needs as a result of aging and required my support in physical and emotional ways was hard for me and required thoughtful effort.  But these changes were obvious when I took a step back.  And, I understood they needed me to make their transitions move easier.

Personal Evolution

As humans we are all growing, evolving and adapting to external forces.  Others in our lives may not always grow or change at the same rate or in the same direction. They may not even be aware of changes that are not externally obvious. The need for our external relationships to evolve is often difficult to see. And the path forward is hard to navigate.

We have to accept that this is happening and welcome the changes consciously and deliberately.  Harold Wilson, the former British Prime Minister said: He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.

Relationship Revolutions and Evolutions

The relationship corollary is that those who reject changes in a relationship can expect that that relationship will wither and possibly die.

My parents went through the changes that happen in normal aging and occurred in a steady flow.  Other changes are more abrupt, such as major illnesses, children moving away from home, graduations, marriage and divorce.  I was aware of changes in my children as they grew up, but the abrupt life changes of going off to college or getting first adult jobs were wake up calls.

Graduating To and From Relationships

Moving from high school to college and the world beyond involves very abrupt changes.  Some relationships bridge many life stages and some end when the immediacy of what you have in common ends.  It takes work to make the transitions.  And with some people you want to invest the energy to make the change and with others, it is time to say goodbye.

Relationships naturally change over time.  To be most successful and ensure continuity, however, I believe that they should be redefined and perhaps renegotiated.

How many divorces happen when the children leave the home?  Is this because the couple stopped thinking about the needs of each other as human beings with wants and dreams?

Staying Relevant

I think hard about my relationships with my three adult children.  I want to stay relevant to them and have quality time with them.  But this takes work as the relationships have to change.  Even if it was a mirage that I controlled the relationships when they were younger, I know that I need to have adult to adult relationships with them today.  Same people, new relationships.  It involves much renegotiation and train-and-error, but it is definitely worth it.

Christine Jacobs is an experienced corporate executive and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

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