Navigating Transitions as a Couple

Married life can fall into a comfortable rhythm, where you know what to expect every day, and nothing really takes you by surprise. But there are times, too, when one or both of you undergo changes that affect the whole family dynamics.

Joy and I went through a season where both of us were working on the same nonprofit organisation; we also enjoyed a time where she was fully involved in her corporate career and making meaningful contributions. Then, in the last few years, we both embarked on furthering our education—adding to our already full plates of parenting six children and mentoring other people. And this year, we jumped into another family adventure of franchising a convenience store.

I share that not to boast about how great we are, or how much we’re able to do. The truth is, all these changes in life did not come without a fuss. For example, when we were undergoing training for our new business, Joy and I would have countless “serious discussions” about our plans for hiring staff. Then we would also butt heads because she’s the type who would just absorb all the information from the classes, whereas I believed we could just learn it as we go along. As I like to say, she studies hard, I study smart! (*wink)

Any change affecting your spouse affects you.
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Top 5 Tips for Navigating Transitions as a Couple

Sometimes life throws a curve ball at you and forces you into a transition, such as when an unexpected baby comes, or when one or both of you lose a job. Other times, we choose to take a step and initiate change. Some examples of this would be taking on a new job, starting a business, buying a house, or deciding to start a family.

Either way, it can get uncomfortable, and we want to equip you how to navigate change in a healthy way as a couple.

1. Any change affecting your spouse affects you.

Sometimes, the change may only be directly related to one of you. Remember, though, that any change that affects your spouse also affects you. How? For example, if she receives a promotion, it might mean a bigger income, but also longer hours. That will definitely spill over to how much time she has left for you or for the children. It might mean you would need to chip in a little bit more on household chores or bringing the children to school.

Remember, you’re a team! Understanding this will help the two of you navigate the change better.

2. Keep communication lines open.

We can’t stress this enough: whatever you’re going through, individually, or as a couple, make sure to keep communication open. This means that we commit to share our thoughts, feelings, and ideas with our spouse. It also means not shutting our partner down by shooting down his thoughts, feelings, or ideas, and learning to listen to each other.

On the other hand, it also means being able to wait until your spouse is ready to talk and not forcing things right away. When we force them to talk, it can short-circuit the thought process and also make you a bully!

3. Understand that fluctuating feelings are normal.

Everyone responds to changes in different ways. Whether the change is positive (such as a work promotion) or negative (a sickness or a loss), it’s quite normal for our feelings to be on a roller coaster. This means that you and your spouse may be feeling more sensitive than usual.

When there’s a major transition taking place, it’s important that you learn to give allowances for each other’s big feelings. Yes, adults have big feelings, too! The key is learning how to communicate your feelings, and for both of you to listen and accept these emotions without passing judgment.

4. Continue to schedule time alone together.

Some transitions mean that what you’ve gotten used to may not be as easy to do. For example, when you’re jumping into a new business or taking classes at the university, that would mean more time needed for these commitments, and most likely less time for everything else.

Even so, we encourage you to find ways still to take a regular time out alone together. Call it date time, or just down time. It may not look like your date times before: for example, if you were used to having a whole evening out for dinner, with the limited time during transition, you may have to make do with an hour or half an hour of just walking to the grocery store or on your way to errands. Still, make the most of it and be intentional about spending time alone, no matter how short.

5. Work with mentors if needed.

If the transition is too heavy for you, such as in the case of death of loved ones, infidelity, or the loss of a job or property, consider finding mentors to help you navigate the change. Mentors or coaches can be a big help, especially when you are not sure yourself how to process the change.

Growing Through Change Together

In a nutshell, changes may come to our individual lives or even to us as a couple. Either way, it can get uncomfortable. But when you have tools in your pocket to help you go through it together, it can be an exciting and rewarding time of growth and intimacy.

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