Don’t neglect these important connections.
As we get older, for our relationships to truly thrive, we must prioritize them by giving them our energy and focus. Whether it’s a connection with yourself, your spouse, your kids, or your parents, circumstances change, and so do relationship dynamics. This article explores how to actively nurture positive relationships in midlife. It all starts with taking an intentional approach to staying connected and being kinder and gentler to ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us.
There are a lot of moving parts that determine the success of a marriage. The willingness to adapt affects longevity as we don’t remain the same people over the years. Age and time march on, and we are vulnerable to their impact.
The secret to an enduring long-term partnership is for both parties to accept that their partner is not the same person they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago, and neither are they. The excitement in an authentic marriage is that you get to be with a new person throughout that timeline. Every person your partner becomes is someone new to discover and to fall more deeply in love with.
All relationships ebb and flow, and there will be times when you think all is lost. Other times you’ll feel like you want to live like this forever. It’s all changeable and dynamic. Communication is key. Tell your partner what you need and invite them to express their needs to you. Then set about meeting those needs. Give your spouse what they need to continue to feel loved by you and to feel like you value them deeply. Show them daily how grateful you are to have them in your world.
The relationship with our kids can sometimes be exciting, complex, and even scary. We provide guidance to our children at every age, but advising a teenager or young adult is different from telling a child what to do or how to do something.
As our kids get older, we must let go…but stay connected. Young adults need to know that everybody needs advice and help from others for the rest of their lives. We, as parents, now need to be open to getting advice and feedback from our teenage or adult children. Open and honest communication is key. Even though some topics may be difficult or embarrassing, this is the basis of a healthy adult relationship with our kids. There may be times when we disagree, and conflicts may occur. Try not to let things escalate and turn into a fight. Fights don’t solve problems; they make new ones. Solve problems and conflicts with respect for our teen or young adult. Acknowledge and apologize when we are wrong. This is an excellent way to teach our children how to solve conflicts with others peacefully.
The aging process is a natural part of life and affects all families. As middle-aged adults, our parents’ aging will affect our relationship with them. It doesn’t matter how many children you have cared for because none of it prepares you for what it’s like to care for an aging loved one. If it hasn’t already, rest assured, the time will come when the effects of aging become more evident, and some change is inevitable. The best place to start is by being patient and kind to yourself and your elderly parent.
When caring for an elderly parent, we may find ourselves up against emotional and mental strain, especially while juggling our busy lives and families. Just like your aging parent, you are a human being with emotions and physical needs. Self-care is not selfish, and it’s okay to acknowledge when you feel emotionally exhausted without guilt. On the other side of the coin, ensure that your aging parent understands the importance of self-care for their well-being and encourage them to move (to the best of their ability), get sleep, eat nourishing foods, and stay hydrated.
To nurture your relationship with an aging parent, help them feel connected to the outside world. Whether it be a phone call or an in-person visit, take the time to talk about their day and keep them posted on what friends and family members are doing. Another way to ensure they feel loved is by mailing a letter. For the older generations, a handwritten note reminds them of their younger days when people used the post office to connect with loved ones.
It’s human nature to crave companionship. People with solid and genuine friendships tend to live longer, happier lives. Friendships are unique relationships because, unlike family relationships, we choose to participate in them. And unlike romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn’t go months without speaking to your partner, but you might go that long without communicating with a friend. Friends are amazing because they come from all areas and times of your life, forming a web of warmth and support for you and enriching your life through various perspectives and experiences. Invest in your friendships. A few ideas to feed your friendships include; making a friend date, having people over, being a great listener, staying in touch, and taking a “friend trip” to explore new destinations.
We are often told that true confidence and freedom come with age, but for some of us, it doesn’t feel like that. Perhaps you’ve never felt genuine love for yourself or are searching for ways to find it again. Either way, it is possible to learn to love yourself no matter how old.
To love yourself, you need to know who you REALLY are as a person. This means recognizing what brings you joy or makes you sad, who you like to spend time with, what makes you unique, and your ability to see what others see in you. Journaling, meditation, prayer, honest conversations with loved ones, or even counseling are good ways to start your journey to self-discovery.
Make a conscious effort to treat yourself with love and respect regardless of how you feel and whether you believe it or not. Simply put, you deserve to love yourself, and if you simply start treating yourself that way before you know it, you will begin to feel it!
RESOURCES + TOOLS
- “Restart Your Sex Life with Dr. Lori Brotto” – We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle podcast
- How Relationships with Parents and Children Change as We Age – Andrea Brandt PhD
- “The Self-Love Experiment” – a book by Shannon Kaiser