Couples choose to make changes in their lives: starting a relationship, moving in together, having a child, taking a new job or relocating etc.
Successful voluntary change can be described in four steps:
1) Uninformed Optimism
When a process of voluntary change begins we are usually optimistic. Actually we are uninformed and naïve about all the unknowns to come.
2) Informed Pessimism
We tend to grossly underestimate the effect of change on our relationships. There are unforeseen obstacles: your partner wants more computer-time than sofa-time, your baby doesn’t sleep or the new home improvements are hugely stressful.
At this time morale can drop dramatically. You know your partner is reacting differently, yet seemingly denying it. You may focus on your losses, the comforts you used to have and then find yourself often pining for your old secure way of life.
This new world is a far cry from what you imagined. Morale can deteriorate. The darkness of uncertainty about your choice can creep into your thoughts. Facing the new brings moments of shear horror in the face of what seems impassable. Sometimes you may even feel like running away.
At this informed pessimism stage, the challenge is to simply hang on and keep going. If your low morale becomes blameful, or largely secret from your partner, your relationship may come under threat.
So you must mobilise all possible resources:
• talk about the downsides together,
• offer and accept gifts, surprises, appreciations and support,
• avoid blaming each other,
• get external help from friends, relatives and professionals, and
• work tenaciously on solutions as a team.
3) Informed Realism
Problems have been tackled together and compromises reached: an agreement on no computers after 9pm, getting help or taking sensible turns with the crying baby, the home improvement plan is moderated to deal with stress. In pushing on and adjusting realistically to the challenges of the new situation, you can reach a turning point.
4) Rewarding Completion
Confidence and hope return, you have survived and gone to a new level of belief in the future and your relationship. Facing difficulties and completing together have proved your lasting power as a couple-team. You are better bonded and feel justified in believing in your long-term loving relationship.
With thanks to:
The Emotional Cycle of Change by D Kelly and R Connor,
Life Lessons by E Kubler Ross,
“You’re Kind” song by Simon and Garfunkel
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