Baby boomers, empty nesters, new parents, grandparents, newlyweds, adult children, teens, divorced families, well you can add to this list, all wonder , WHY CAN”T WE GET ALONG?

You are not going to be able to change me and I won’t be able to change you. Why is that idea so difficult? Parents want to change their children and their spouses for that matter. Children want their parents to change. The key to the heart is negotiating and acceptance. The myth is once you learn that, it will stick. Not true. Practice means practice. Vulnerability is vulnerability. You feel uncomfortable because you could get hurt by what you are expressing. It could be used against you at the worst times and you might fear you just won’t be loved when someone hears your limitations and your deep feelings.

The paradox is, you will still need to express what you want, “I want you to call me once a week because I want to know how you are doing and I just want to hear your voice.” You get to ask your children for what you want. You need to let go when the behavior doesn’t show up. Focus back on what you need each day that doesn’t always include your children or your spouse. I know, you have heard that before. It really does work and that is why you hear it over and over.

You can ask you partner, “Please just listen to what I need to say and don’t get defensive or try to immediately come up with a solution. It feels like you are trying to end the conversation fast or control how I should be thinking and feeling. Listen first, pause, please. Get out of your sweet mind and drop into your soft heart. You will express in the way you express. Reminder is, you won’t have a chance to get what you want if you aren’t honestly open to hearing the other person’s response. If it is the same ole, same ole response, “I am trying and I need to try harder.” That response can be frustrating for sure because it doesn’t move you in the direction you want. It makes you feel like the person really doesn’t want to change or they would think about it and come back at some point with new ideas or thoughts. Figuring out why the behavior isn’t changing is a helper. You need to dive below the surface or the same behavior continues as a habit. Adult to adult diving is different than adult to children. Children are young even if you call them, ADULT CHILDREN. They aren’t the same age as you. Partner to partner can shift behaviors.

Partner to partner, might not shift behaviors. Feel what you feel. Say what you need to say without screaming by keeping in touch with your feelings so you don’t send out a canon. When you do trigger your canon and you will, SORRY and naming more than that, “I am sorry I attached you. I needed to wait until I cooled down. I needed to have it be ok for me to be angry and to let you know I am breaking with the same old behavior problems that don’t get shifted. I just fear I will always have to tolerate your behaviors because I don’t see signs of new behaviors. It doesn’t make sense to me that same, same keeps showing up on the weekends when we have time to go out and do fun things together or be home and laugh.” Each of us has our own style of words and thinking process. It helps to learn the style and teach each other so that one partner doesn’t feel like he or she is always leading the feelings and discomfort discussions. Doesn’t it sound so easy? It is not, so don’t set yourself up for thinking it is. Communication takes practice and the willingness to pause before you speak and to plan ahead.

Natalie Caine
natalie@emptynestsupport.com
(800) 446-3310 or (818) 763-0188
Los Angeles, CA

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Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.