Every relationship faces key turning points, roadblocks, or hurdles that have to be overcome in order to move on. These challenges occur any time there is a major shift or change in the life of one or both partners, such as financial troubles, a death in the family, or a change in career. Perhaps one person wants to go to grad school in Iowa and the other doesn’t want to leave their job on the East Coast, or one person wants kids and the other doesn’t. These challenges come in many forms and happen in every relationship. What’s important is the way you deal with them.
While these transitions will most certainly bring up stress, disagreements, and frustration, each time you’re able to move past one of these challenges and your relationship survives, it’s able to grow and expand. The key is taking the time to communicate clearly and reach a compromise or solution together.
1. Acknowledge the situation
When one of these life transitions comes up, be intentional in the way you handle it. Don’t deny, disregard, or minimize what is happening or what you’re feeling. Face the issue head on by reaching out to your partner and discussing the current situation in a practical, logical way. Address what is going on and why. Even if the topic is a difficult one, changes or hardships should not be ignored, as pretending it doesn’t exist will only build resentment and anger leaving both parties feeling unheard or underappreciated.
2. Evaluate your feelings
Take time to think about the challenge you’re facing and how it makes you feel. Do you feel scared for the impending change? Angry toward your partner? Sad about what may lose? Take time to be alone so you can gain control of these feelings and determine how to express them in a logical, organized way. This isn’t time to build an argument for one way or another, but time to really evaluate your feelings to understand what emotions are driving your opinions.
3. Express your point of view
Once you’ve taken time to understand and evaluate your point of view, you need to express it to your partner in a calm, collected manner. Find a time to talk when you can both be fully engaged so your partner can hear your point of view and evaluate how it makes him or her feel. Speak your point of view with honesty, letting your partner know why you feel the way you do. Your partner doesn’t have to agree with you (and may very likely not), but it’s important that they hear you and make an effort to understand where you’re coming from.
4. Listen and attempt to understand
Just as your partner took the time to listen to your point of view, you’ll need to offer the same attentive listening and understanding as they express their opinion. Hear where they’re coming from and empathize with their feelings. Attempt to put yourself in their shoes, even though you may feel completely different about the situation. Refrain from inserting comments or hurtful jabs. Simply listen and absorb what your partner is trying to communicate. In order to navigate change, you’ll need to be united as a team.
5. Work together to come up with solutions
Once you’ve both expressed your feelings and opinions, the time has come to use that information to come up with viable solutions. After hearing each other’s honest feelings and opinions, you both may feel very differently about the situation. You will be more willing to bend and compromise once you see and understand what was driving your partner to feel and act the way they did. As a couple, come up with a few solutions. Choose a course of action that you both agree to, rather than stubbornly insisting you get your way.
6. Move forward
Once you’ve determined the solution as a couple, it is time to join together as you move forward. Even though you both have your own opinions, needs, and desires, you are on the same team. You have the ability to reinforce each other’s strengths and fill in for each other’s weaknesses. As a team you’ll need both parties’ wisdom and courage as you move forward toward the solution.