Relationships change all the time. It's normal, for the most part. Getting engaged, getting married, having a child, moving in together, moving to a different location, changing roles at work, experiencing a change in health, beginning a new semester in school, etc. are all examples of changes that can make a huge impact on your relationship.
Even personal changes affect the relationship because partners are interconnected. For example, David's beginning his PhD (part-time), so it’s definitely caused some extra stress on him and, in turn, on the relationship. In order to navigate this, we’ve had to have some pre-emptive as well as reactive conversations.
We took some time to reflect about the 10 most important conversations for partner(s) to have when there's a change in the relationship, tried by yours truly.
All of these tips rely on our assumption that communication should be increased in times of change. We feel it’s better for our personal and relationship well-being if conversations can be proactive as much as possible.
Reactive or emotional conversations will come up, but they may be far less frustrating if you’ve got a good base going on.
The 10 conversations we recommend:
Values-based conflicts are some of the hardest to get past! So no matter the transition, get clear about your personal and relationship values, then put a system in place to communicate how you plan to navigate the change in line with your values (for more information on communication through a life change, check out our previous blog post on managing transitions). Many transitions involve impacts on finances. And, money is a very common source of stress/conflict for many relationships! We feel it’s best to deal with it proactively. Talk about your finances and discuss if any adjustments need to be made to spending, saving, and investing. Personally, we keep a spreadsheet of our monthly finances to keep track, but we do keep separate bank accounts.
Transitions sometimes make us feel insecure and when we’re feeling insecure, even subconsciously, the relationship can become like a landline. Often, this is due to family of origin stuff creeping up. We think it’s best to process this proactively together: talk about family history dynamics and how it may influence your behaviours in the early stages of this new transition. For example, if you’re moving in together, reflect on how your parents/guardians were as a co-habitants in terms of processing emotions and getting needs met. What patterns did you notice and are you subconsciously avoiding, attaching to, or even resisting? What would be useful to keep in mind? Another example, if you’re getting a new job, think about how your earliest role models related to work. Were they super workaholics? Did they love/hate work? Our earliest histories seem to play a role in our lives in very interesting ways! It’s important in a relationship to be upfront about any baggage or information that you may be aware of and to adapt appropriately.
Talk about how you might literally or symbolically mark the end of the old thing and the beginning of the new thing, instead of being caught between the old and the new. For us, we like to go on a nature trip together. For example, right before David started his new job, we took a short trip to a National park and stayed overnight. This helped our minds move from one reality to the next and ease the transition to the new role and reality.
Another source of conflict is different conceptions of what makes up quality time. Schedules, energies and stress levels are often tense when a change is taking place, so you may find yourself prioritizing your needs and relationship less. Before it happens, talk about what your schedules may look like and how you might integrate each other into your new realities.
Maintain your individuality as well. Talk about how you like to spend your downtime or personal time and how often that’s needed for you. Hang out with your networks separately from time to time. For example, Lindsey loves to go out dancing and David loves to watch movies. Those individual needs have to be maintained.
Do you have any expectations for your partner(s) as you move to the upcoming routine? These should be negotiated with respect as early as possible to avoid miscommunication and false expectations.
It may sound simple, but talk about how you personally react to change, how you’ve dealt with it in the past and how that might affect the upcoming change.
Talk about how you can challenge and support each other through the change. Are there certain ways you like to be challenged, and vice versa?
Stay in tune with your own and your relationship’s needs by checking-in, emotionally, with yourself and each other.
Don’t forget about the most important part: YOU! Make time for your individual thoughts, ideas, processing, etc. to ensure you are being mindful, intentional, and taking care of what’s important to you. For example, you might change your mind completely about one of the points above and that’s okay, just ensure you reflect and communicate it thoughtfully, intentionally, and appropriately.
We believe that change is inevitable and constant. It can be exciting, scary, nerve racking, etc., however it’s up to you how you decide to approach and dialogue about the change.
We hope you enjoyed our short list of things to think and chat about before you embark on whatever the next step is in your life and in your relationship. If you’ve already taken the next step and would like some support with your relationship's next big change, feel free to schedule a consultation and we can support you through the process!
As always, please share your reactions, comments and questions on our Facebook group, by tagging our social media accounts, or by using the #RelationshipZen hashtag.
Sending you love and light,