Navigating Life Transitions as a Couple
Life transitions are major events that happen throughout our life and often involve change. These transitions can be both positive and/or negative, and many of them are ones we all experience in one form or another. Some examples include getting married or entering into a long-term commitment, a divorce or break-up, a pregnancy and/or birth, a move to a new house or location, starting a new job, the illness or death of a loved one, etc. This is by no means an exhaustive list - there are many other examples that fall under this category of important life transitions.
While we all experience many transitions throughout our lives, how they affect us and how we navigate them differs for everyone. If you are in a relationship, either married or in a committed partnership, navigating a life transition is often something you and your partner will go through together. Below are some areas to think about in terms of how you and your partner can move through the transition together, as a team.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Being able to communicate with each other is key for navigating life changes that affect you and your partner, so it is important to check in with each other regularly. During these check-ins, create a space where you and your partner can openly share your emotions, fears, hopes, and concerns about the changes you are experiencing. In addition, it is important to continually discuss any temporary changes that may need to be made in the roles within your relationship, such as each partner taking on extra chores here and there as to provide self-care time for the other.
How Can I Best Support You?
We all need different things when we are going through a significant change in our life, and it can be helpful for partners to discuss what this looks like for them. Think about what you need from your partner and how they can best support you, while also asking and learning how you can best offer support to your partner. Some elements to consider are how you need emotional support to be given, as well as if you would like advice when talking to your partner or just need a listening ear. The key is to set out concrete expectations so neither partner has to guess what to do.
Set Healthy Boundaries
When going through a life transition as a couple, it can be helpful to set boundaries both around and within the relationship as needed. An example of setting boundaries around your relationship might include you deciding as a couple how you will manage seeking and receiving advice/help from family, friends, coworkers, etc., as well as how you will answer any questions about your experience from others. Discuss and come to an agreement about what you each will and will not share with those outside of the relationship. In terms of setting boundaries within the relationship, an example might be deciding when it may be a better time to seek support from an outside source rather than your partner if they are unable to provide that support for you at the time.
Nurture Your Relationship
When you are experiencing a major transition, life can sometimes feel chaotic and it can be easy to place your relationship at a lower priority as compared to other current stressors. But it is important to still find time to nurture and grow your relationship throughout the transition so it can continue to be a source of support. Block off time to nurture your relationship with your partner and spend quality time together. Depending on how much time you have available to do this, you might set a weekly date night, engage in 10 minute check-ins throughout the week, text each other throughout the day to check-in - whatever works best for both you and your partner.
If you and your partner are in the midst of a life transition and would like support in figuring out how best to navigate the changes that come with it, couples therapy can be a great place to have these conversations. A therapist can ask you questions you may not have thought of, as well as aid you and your partner in learning skills to effectively communicate as you move through the transition, helping you become a stronger couple in the process.