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Building Relationships Through Seasons of Change

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Cozy sweaters, changing colors, cooling temps; it’s time for a change from sweltering summer. Kids are back in school, routines return, and we take a breath before we gear up for the holidays.
Yet the leaves aren’t the only ones changing. With autumn come new relationships—new teachers, classmates at school, new parents and peers at kids’ activities—and shifts in schedules with friends and partners. Transitions can bring tension, and it’s a good time to review some keys to building new relationships and keeping them healthy.

Express Curiosity and Acceptance
Everyone knows the keys to relationships are communication and listening. And inactive listening doesn’t invite connection. Concepts around communication are vast and daunting. When we think of what we really crave in conversation, we want others to be both interested in and accepting of our experiences. Simple questions such as “Oh, what was that like for you?” or “Tell me more about that. What happened next?” validate people of all ages.

We as women often protect and support the emotional space of others. We often rush to fix things, either with advice or with trying to let others know they’re not alone through sharing our own experiences. There is a time and a place for this. Yet expressing curiosity and acceptance clearly communicates to your child, friend, parent or partner that their experience is worth your time in a busy world.

Remember that accepting someone’s experience does not mean agreeing with them or condoning their behavior. This is especially helpful when it comes to understanding children’s motivations but is just as crucial in adult relationships. Our friends and partners will also do things that make no sense to us, that rub against our needs and values. We can be curious about what was happening to them while also setting our own boundaries and values.

Thoughtful gestures that connect with others’ stories, important dates, goals and stressors let people know that we are thinking of them even when they’re not in front of us. A simple text on a big day, sharing a story about a place that a friend mentioned, or snagging an extra pumpkin spice latte for a co-worker goes a long way.

There’s another plus. Drs. John and Julie Gottman, researchers in marriage and relationships, talk about the “bank” in all relationships. We unconsciously “store” and weigh positive and negative experiences in relationships, needing more positive to continue. These gestures make the most of the “money in the bank” in all relationships.

Let Go of Rigid Relationship Goals
Ultimately, we’re often too hard on ourselves. Are we being a good mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, partner? Often when we feel one relationship is going well, we feel as though we’re failing another. We get stuck on what we think relationships should like look and compare ourselves to others.

Let go of this. Every person has different needs. While one friend might need to send texts every day and meet regularly, others need time and space. Seek to understand what the people in your life need, even if it’s different than what you think, and you are more than enough for those around you.

Relationships also have seasons. It’s normal for friendships to change, for once-cuddly children to push away, and for partners to change what you thought were never-ending habits. Over our lifetime, some of our closest relationships with our children, spouses, partners, co-workers and friends will have times of discomfort and conflict. While these times might be signs of trouble, they also are times of personal growth and development for you and your loved ones. Stick to the principles of reciprocal relationships and look for others who will do the same for you.


Rebecca Kline Toy, LCMFT, DBTC, is the senior vice president of clinical services at KidsTLC. The Olathe-based nonprofit agency provides an unparalleled continuum of residential and outpatient care to children and their families facing challenges with mental and behavioral health, developmental trauma and autism.
The Lotus Clinics at KidsTLC | 15940 College Blvd. | Lenexa, KS | 913-764-2887 |