How to Deal with Changes in Your Relationship

Three Parts:Responding to ChangesCommunicating About the ChangesPrioritizing the Relationship Through Times of Change

Relationships naturally endure many changes, whether it’s moving, starting a new job, spending time apart, getting married, or having children. While some changes can be difficult, there’s no need to see change as a bad thing. By being adaptive and communicating regularly, you and your partner can endure changes in your relationship.

Part 1
Responding to Changes

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    Change your view on change. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing and many positive things can result from change. There’s no need to assume the worst when change comes along. Instead, think of what positive things may result from change.[1]
    • For example, it can be hard to move, but think about the exciting parts of starting a new adventure together, exploring new places, and meeting new people.
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    Accept that you may be seeing your partner differently. If you feel like your partner has all of a sudden changed (especially for the worst), consider that your partner always had these traits, but you’re seeing him or her differently now. Once the honeymoon phase is over, you may see your partner in a different light, and it may not always be pleasant. You may not want to immediate blame your partner for the changes and instead, recognize that your perception may have changed.[2]
    • if you’re really bothered by something your partner does, recognize that it’s your own annoyance that is bothering you, not your partner. Find ways to cope with your feelings of annoyance or upset, such as learning to tune out behaviors or taking deep breaths.
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    Allow for your differences.[3] Sometimes one partner may change a viewpoint that changes the relationship, like about marriage or having kids. Don’t take differences in views or beliefs personally.[4] Just because you and your partner have different views doesn’t mean that one is attacking the other. It doesn’t mean that your approach is lesser than and there doesn’t have to be a “best” and “worse.” It just means that you disagree, and it’s okay to accept those differences.
    • It’s okay to call some topics “off limits” if you know that they bring conflict with no resolution. Things like politics or religion can cause major disagreements with no obvious resolution. Agree not to discuss certain topics together.
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    Take some time off. If the change causes confusion or strong emotions, take some time away from each other and away from arguing.[5] Do some digging and ask yourself why this change affects you so much. Is there something the change is triggering? Are there fears or worries? Figure out what is upsetting you or filling you with fear.
    • For example, if you used to agree on having kids and now you disagree, take some time to figure out why your position is so important for you. Where are the fears from? Why is it that you feel so strongly? You may want to journal your thoughts and feelings.

Part 2
Communicating About the Changes

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    Give each other emotional support. Changes can be hard on both people in a relationship. Even if you’re struggling, reach out and support your partner. Let your partner know that he or she is important to you and that you care about the relationship.[6] Give affection, care, and respect, and express yourself through thoughtful words and gestures.
    • Say, “This is hard, and I’m struggling. Yet, I want you to know I care about you and I want this relationship to work. I’m here and willing to support you.”
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    Discuss the changes. Talk about how big changes affect each of you separately and how they affect the relationship as a whole.[7] Let your partner express his or her feelings completely. It may not be an easy conversation and may extend to several conversations. However, it’s important to communicate clearly with your partner when big changes occur.
    • Be honest about how you feel. Use “I statements” to convey your feelings.[8] For example, say, “I feel nervous and anxious about you starting night school. I feel like I’ll see less of you, which makes me feel sad. At the same time, I’m proud of you and want you to pursue what makes you happy.”
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    Listen to what your partner wants. While you may want to express your thoughts, needs, and feelings to your partner as soon as change comes up, take a step back and ask your partner about how he or she is experiencing the change.[9] Listen intently and let your partner communicate his or her thoughts, feelings, and needs. Show your partner your care by being available to listen.
    • Improve your listening skills by reflecting and restating what your partner says.[10] For example, say, “I hear you saying that this change is hard on you too, and that you feel it’s important to go through with this, even though it’s difficult.”
    • Validate your partner’s feelings.[11] Say, “I can tell it’s really hard for you to talk about your father’s death, and you feel depressed. I can understand why this is so hard for you.”
    • Learn more listening skills by checking out How to Be a Good Listener.
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    Keep your relationship in mind. When faced with changes, remind yourself how much you value your partner and your relationship.[12] How much are you willing to let the changes affect your relationship? For example, if your partner gets a new job across the country, you may feel upset with him or her. Keep in mind your relationship and respond in ways that show that you are prioritizing your relationship.
    • If you’re upset, ask yourself whether it’s worth making your partner “pay” for the changes, or whether it’s better to keep things in perspective and value your partner.
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    See a therapist. You may come to a point where you realize that your relationship needs intervention and therapy may be necessary to deal with the changes.[13] A couples counselor can help you and partner improve your communication, and state your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in truthful and meaningful ways. Especially in periods of transition and change, therapy can be an invaluable tool for getting through challenging times.
    • You can also work on emotional avoidance and dysfunctional behavior in the relationship.[14]

Part 3
Prioritizing the Relationship Through Times of Change

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    Be affectionate. Touch can provide support on physiological and psychological levels.[15] Maintain touch with your partner through times of change. Hold hands, put your arms around each other, and show that you want to be close together.
    • Maintain your sex life and prioritize having sex together.[16] Scheduling sex doesn’t sound sexy, but it can help you connect regularly.
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    Bring back old pleasures. If you’re feeling disoriented by change, bring something old and familiar back into your relationship.[17] Maintain a sense of normalcy (or nostalgia) by doing something you used to do together once again.
    • Perhaps you enjoyed watching old episodes of “I Love Lucy” together when you first started dating. Invite your partner to watch an episode with you. Re-create a date you both enjoyed or eat a treat you have fond memories of together.
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    Try something new. Find an activity that both of you want to do and do it together. Even when change might feel bad, do something new that feels good. Doing something new together can ignite feelings of excitement and emotional intimacy.[18]
    • Go ice skating or spelunking. Try a new activity together such as golf or painting. Whatever it is, make it fun and appealing to each of you.
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    Plan regular date nights. Plan time to spend time together, just the two of you. This can be a great way to reconnect and enjoy time together on a regular basis. Keeping your dates consistent can give you something to look forward to and a way to know that you can spend time meaningfully connecting.[19]
    • Avoid topics like finances and focus on reminiscing about when you were first dating, fond memories of your kids, and other pleasant memories.
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    Take a mini-vacation. You may want to take some time off from experiencing changes and have some time together, just the two of you. Take a weekend and go somewhere nice where you can spend time together, be affectionate, and enjoy each other’s company. It can be nice to get away from pressures and deadlines and changes to just having time together.[20]
    • Get out of the house and away from the to-do lists. Go somewhere that brings you peace and calm and inspires connection with your partner.

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Categories: Relationship Issues