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  • Writer's pictureMartin Sanders

Updating Your Relationships

Our last several blogs have centered around the concept of updating our views of God and ourselves. Today we look at our relationships. Updating in close relationships is to honestly look at how you see each other, what you see in each other, and recognize how someone has changed, developed, and grown; how you value them and regard them.

Young woman holding gift.

There have been funny stories over the years of children who want to regard and appreciate the gifts given to them, except their grandparents see them somewhere between 3-10 years younger than they ACTUALLY are. Everyone quietly smiles, but inside the child is going “I’m not a kid anymore.”

Updating your view of others in your family structures is so essential. You have to do it throughout the seasons of life. Things change, people change, settings and circumstances change. On the one hand, there are people who have setbacks (changes in life that they can’t anticipate nor help). They can’t hit that anticipated benchmark or can’t somehow reach previous expectations. It just happens; it’s normative. On the other hand, people go on to develop very significantly in courage and confidence, sometimes professionally they develop with education, careers, or various partnerships. But very often, people report they get little credit. It’s hard for family members - whether its siblings, parents, or extended family - to update their view of the individual from where they were at an earlier stage in life. Their family often views them as one or two decades behind through a previous image.

I have tried to read widely throughout my professional career. For nearly 30 years, I’ve read four new books every week, but also other things - magazines, journals, etc., and years ago I was asked to read Seventeen magazine by my youngest daughter. She said, “Dad I know you read widely, but I’m not sure you read Seventeen magazine every month.” I concurred that I didn’t. She had an article she wanted me to read called Validating Your Daughter, and I thought to myself, “I’m pretty good at this. It’s surprising that she wants me to read it.” But the article was really insightful. They said that there are 2 mistakes that parents who want to be validating or affirming with their daughters make.

The first mistake is that they don’t update their view of their daughters. They are saying the same things at 16 & 17 that they said to them when they were 10-12. They must update - understand what’s going on in their life and what is going on in their head and their heart and update accordingly.

Secondly, we’re often far too generalized in what we say. Our words need to be a little less but very specific. Afterwards, talking with Lauren, she said, “Dad, I love that you love me, and I feel it all the time. But it needs to be much more specific and updated. I’d like you to become a student of my life and validate me accordingly.” That’s a great line. Family structures could be very different if we did that.

I’d like you to become a student of my life and validate me accordingly.

Let’s update our view of our partner. I say partner because I work in Australia almost every year and common terminology over there for them because of marriage rates and other things has just become “partner”. So, your view of your partner or spouse—Again, watch for those similar phrases in other relationships, “You are…you were…you never... you used to…” Those of you in a close connected relationship in marriage, you know these phrases.

Couple holding hands

Since 1999, I’ve run an annual Executive Couples Coaching Conference. We usually have 12-15 couples by invitation only. We usually go to a nice resort somewhere warm, and they’re always in October. We discovered updating your view of your partner to be such a key coaching point because their lives have gone on. They often connected when they were younger. They’ve been together 2-4 decades, and somehow very bright people have failed to update their view of their partner. These updating conversations become something that we have to do with them. It’s usually enjoyable, and though sometimes painful in the earlier process, still necessary. We have to update these views as we go along, or you will find you have a distorted view of your partner based on who they used to be.

For Dianna and I, we were married as teenagers, and there were so many changes that happened. It was just necessary to update. We moved away to start college the month I turned 21, with 2 small children, and ended up going for more than 14 years of education. I became a professor, an author, and several other things. Dianna did slightly less education but expanded in so many ways taking on and developing her artistic ability; her confidence and courage grew dramatically; and professionally, she became Vice President for finances for a corporation in New York. But it wasn’t natural to update. It took conversations, sometimes difficult ones. But the outcomes were worth it.

One of the moments I remember most—the kids were in the car as I was driving a fairly short distance, and there was something she wasn’t happy with. She made a generalized statement with a bit of a tone in her voice and said, “You never______”.

I thought, “I’m not going to defend myself, we just need to talk about it.” So I pulled the car over on the side of the road, parked it with caution lights, and turned to the back seat, and said “We’ll jut be a minute, kids.” I turned to her and said, “How long has it been since I was like that?”

Not anticipating the question, she said “I don’t remember.” I said “No, I think we need to do this. How long has it been?”

She said “Okay, it’s been a while.”

I said, “How long?”

And she said, “I don’t know, probably quite a while.”

I said, “No, I don’t want be a _____, but I think this is going to help us. How long has it been since I did that particular thing that you mentioned? I attempted to address it. How long has it been?”

And she said, “Several years.”

I said, “How many?”

She said, “Apparently you’ve kept track of this!”

I laughed and said, “Without intending to, yes, because I knew how important it was to you that I change, and I set out to do it and I did, and now it has come back up again.”

And she said, “How long has it been?”

“7 ½ years.”

When you’re hoping that someone notices ,7 ½ years seems almost like a lifetime (it’s not but it seems that way in your head). That was a big turnaround day for us, and we decided to intentionally update on a regular basis, not the big things like careers or successes, but the little things of how we treat, honor, validate, expect each other.

Updating in close relationships is to honestly look at how you see each other, what you see in each other, and recognize how someone has changed, developed, and grown; how you value them and regard them.

May you learn these very well. They pay such big dividends in relationships. Update your view of family, children, and your partner/spouse.

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