Challenging and even happy events can strain your relationship. Here's how to keep the love alive!
Rosa and Pete will never forget the birth of their first child. It was the beginning a beautiful new chapter in their lives, but it’s also marked a time of big changes in their relationship. Now they are three and that’s made everything more wonderful and more complicated too.
Erin and Lori just watched their youngest “kid” graduate from college and move into her own apartment. Their house seems huge with just the two of them and they’ve been having excited and nervous conversations about what’s next.
Keith and Julie had just settled into a new house when she was laid off from her job. It took months for Julie to find this job and she’s worried about what lies ahead. Even more worrisome is the health crisis Keith is having. His headaches have been getting worse and he’s waiting on test results from the doctor.
What do each of these couples have in common? They’re all in different stages of life dealing with vastly different situations, but they’re all going through a transition. Change-- even the good stuff that you’re happy and eager about-- can be stressful and rough on your relationship connection.
That time of adjustment, making decisions, and working out the details in the middle or aftermath of a change mark the transition from what was to a new normal. This can be a period of anxiety, uncertainty, doubt, intense emotions, and a whole lot of stress.
Some people attribute the deterioration (and possibly demise) of their relationship to the change in employment, move to a new home, or even the birth of a baby, but this is missing an array of factors and early warning signs that led to the relationship problems.
When a relationship hits a rough patch or ends, it is usually due to a combination of disappointments, hurt feelings, resentments, and un-resolvable disagreements-- rarely is it just one change or transitional event. But, the transition itself can be the tipping point. The way that each person in the relationship reacts to the transition, really makes a difference.
No matter how drastic the change, if you and your partner find ways to work together and support one another through whatever is going on, the transition can be a true blessing in disguise that leaves you stronger as a couple.
What’s your change threshold?
We all have different levels of adaptability to and comfort with change. These become more pronounced during a transitional time, whether it’s an expected or surprise transition.
When your partner tend to get emotionally heightened, anxious, fearful, or shut down and you are more accepting and easy-going about it, this can lead to tension and conflict between the two of you. (And , of course, the opposite is also true.)
When this happens, the focus-- for you both-- moves away from the baby, the job search, finding the best health care, or whatever is needed and you get stuck in blame and judgment. This is where resentment and dangerous distance can form in your relationship.
Instead of working together to find the best solutions or to savor precious joyful moments, you feel at odds with one another.
The last thing that either of you needs during a time of transition is more stress and more that pulls you away from where your energy and attention should be. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way! Even the most difficult changes can be an opportunity for you and your partner to deepen your love (instead of ruin it).
Use these guidelines to move more easily through transitions and keep your relationship intact:
1. Stop running mind movies.
Many of us have a tendency to imagine what could happen in the future and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it brings up more anxiety, fear, and tension. Always return to the facts you have in this present moment.
2. Give up your need to be “right.”
Another stress response many of us have is to hold tight to what we believe is the “right” way to do things. Take a deep breath, loosen up, and open up to really hearing what your partner is advocating for.
3. Remind yourself to get curious.
The more you can approach any situation-- the good, the bad, and the ugly-- with a sense of curiosity, the quicker you’ll come to a solution that you won’t later regret. Use questions like, “What can I learn from this?” or “I wonder what next step would move us closer to what we truly want?”
4. Create time for self-care.
The first thing to go during a transition time is usually self-care, even though self-care may be your most powerful tool for resilience! Self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive-- it can be as simple as sitting down and drinking a tall glass of cool water. Ask yourself what would truly feel nourishing right now and then do it.
5. Take a 5 minute “time out.”
Connecting regularly with your partner is another common casualty of a life change. It only takes 5 minutes of setting aside electronic devices and talking to one another (or not talking, but just holding each other or just sitting quietly together) to re-connect. Commit to a 5 minute “time out” together once a day.
6. Be team-oriented.
Always remember that you and your partner are on the same team. Even if the transitional event is happening more directly to your partner (or to you), approach decisions together. Talk often about possibilities and acknowledge improvements .
Trust is a necessary component of making it through a change as a team and to deepen and strengthen love in your relationship. We can help you build (or rebuild) trust through our brand new Trust Triggers program. Click here to watch free videos to get you started.