Change is difficult in any area of life, but it’s especially difficult in romantic relationships. As a couple’s therapist, this comes up frequently in the therapy room. Couples struggle to understand how their relationship has changed. And especially when their partner has changed. When there is a realization that change has happened, couples don’t know what to do moving forward.
So, maybe you’re to the point where you realize that either your relationship has changed, your partner has changed, or you have changed. Or, maybe you fear that your relationships has changed and don’t know what to do. Wherever you are, it is important to move through change positively and successfully. Otherwise, you are bound do have difficulties. Keep reading to find tips on how to navigate change in your relationship.
Now, this is easier said than done – embrace change. But, think about it. Oftentimes when you and/or your partner discover that change has happened on some level, you try to fight the change. Change can feel scary, unstable, and threatening to relationships. It can be difficult to accept that what you once knew about the relationship, or who your partner was, is suddenly different. However, fighting change will only increase conflict in your relationship. The reality is that change must be embraced in order to to move forward.
How do you embrace change?
Think back to the beginning of your relationship. You didn’t know everything about your partner, you didn’t know what would come of this relationship, and both you and your partner were learning about each other. Although you were unfamiliar with each other to start, this tends to be the most exciting parts of people’s relationships. At the beginning of your relationship it was “fun” and “new”; and that’s because you were discovering each other. So, to embrace change, make this a fun venture. Remind yourself that this is a new opportunity to create new romance and passion in your relationship. With change comes excitement.
As mentioned above, change can be exciting and fun because it allows you to create new romance and passion in your relationship. Let this be a time to “date” your partner again. For both you and your partner, this can be a place to relearn about one another, but also redefine your relationship to align with the changes that have happened. To make it fun, think about what questions you have for each other (just like in the beginning of the relationship). What do you want to know about your partner? What do you want your partner to know about you? Where would you like the relationship to go? Now that change has happened, how can you use this change to your benefit to work through conflict as a couple better? Create a fun, safe, and supportive environment with your partner to begin this dialogue and remind yourself, you are “dating” again! And dates can be fun!
When change happens in a relationship, it is easy for couples to get caught-up in the content of the change (when did the change happen, what was going on at the time, etc.). Once you find out the answers to these questions, you may be frustrated or angry with your partner and vice versa. Although it may seem more comforting to have answers, this is not supporting you and your partner growing together during this time of change.
In order to grow with your partner, it’s important to identify and share how you REALLY feel about this change. Are you scared? Are you worried about how this might threaten your relationship? Whatever your feelings are, it is important for both you and your partner to share these with each other. Once this happens, the relationship moves from the content of the problem to how you can support and love one another through this process.
Where is your relationship currently? On some level, change has likely occurred. Although change can be scary and unsettling, it does not have to create discord in your relationship. Embrace change, make it fun to relearn about your partner and relationship, and start identifying and sharing how you really feel about change.
Amanda Cummins is an associate therapist with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She focuses on working with couples in distress as well as families and children in transitions. As a Denver Native, Amanda enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her family.