The leaves are changing, so why can't your relationship?
I live in the Northeast, so as summer draws to an end, and a new season begins, I look forward to the leaves changing colors and the all the magnificent brilliance they bring. And since I'm a relationship expert, I can't help but also make comparisons to partnerships.
Change is certainly something that affects how a couple relates to each another. Here are 5 tips to help your relationship weather any shifts that pop up along the way:
1. Understand That Change WILL Happen
You start your journey as a couple at one place in your lives and will hopefully continue together for the long haul. To do so, expect many twists and turns along the way: everyday stresses, major challenges, milestone events ... in other words: life! Change is always happening, so expect that it will continue to show up in your relationship, as well. Embracing an open mindset that allows for change and being willing to adjust and adapt creates space for your relationship can evolve with it.
Take for instance the story of Mary and John, a couple who always expected they'd live in one part of the country, but John was offered a fabulous job on the other coast. Though it certainly wasn't something they planned for, Mary was willing to accept the change in lifestyle and they, as a couple, were able to have a wonderful life. They rolled with the change and came out stronger for it in the long run.
2. Accept That People Change, And That's OK
For any number of reasons, individuals shift and change. As a mate, it's important to support who your partner is presently rather than expecting them to forever remain as you'd like them to be. Appreciate and foster their unique, evolving needs and desires. Sometimes, their changes are temporary, as in a demanding work situation; at other times, the shift might be permanent because of a desire to make a life transition. Regardless of the cause, having your support will add strength to the relationship.
When Sue and Tom got married, they planned for Sue to be a stay-at-home mom. When the youngest turned 5, Sue ached to go back to school and become a dental technician. It was certainly a change in the initial plan and in their lifestyle, but Tom got on board with both his support of Sue and with the household chores, letting Sue pursue her studies.
3. Figure Out When Change Might Mean Trouble
Sometimes, when your partner acts differently, it might mean something is bothering them. Not all people are able to easily express themselves verbally. If you notice over time that your mate is behaving in a way that's out of the ordinary, show your concern in a caring way. It's important that care and compassion be expressed so that your mate feels safe enought to be honest if there's a problem.
Mike was generally a happy-go-lucky guy. Lately, he seemed quiet, though he didn't complain. After 3 weeks, his wife, Jess, decided it was time to ask if something was upsetting him. Because she was caring and non-blaming, Mike was able to let her know that he did have some business issues that were weighing on him heavily.
4. Mix it Up & Make Change Happen For You!
Though one of the nice things about being in a relationship is consistency, research has also shown that boredom can kill it. The remedy is to create novelty—change! But not to worry: if the two of you aren't major risk takers, you don't have to go sky diving to achieve the goal. Merely switch up the restaurant you go to or try a new activity together. Add a little spice to your daily life.
Ann and Bill were starting to feel like things were getting a bit stale. To spice things up, they decided to join a bowling league. Not only did they enjoy the new light-hearted activity, they also liked being with new friends.
5. Change The Way You Handle Conflict
One of the reasons couples get into conflicts is because they do the same "dance steps" all the time—they keep repeating the same arguments over and over again. One of the best ways to make a change is to step back from moments of conflict and observe what patterns the two of you are repeating. Then reframe the situation to see where shift in a different direction might be possible. Being open to changing the patterns allows you to create a different (and more loving) result.
Barbara and Todd kept fighting about Todd's habit of coming home late and not letting her know. Barbara felt it was disrespectful and like he didn't care about her. As much as she'd get upset and share her feelings about it with him, the situation didn't change. She decided to take a new approach. She "stepped back" and realized that Todd had a really high pressure job and that even while he was driving home, he was making calls. In fact, he was doing everything he could to get home as fast as he could. Therefore, in his rush to get out the door and multi-task on the way home, he'd forget to call her about his delay. With this change in thinking, she could look at his lateness differently and let go of her upset, thereby instantly ending the conflict.
Change is hard for many people. However, when embraced, it can be quite empowering for your relationship!