“Remind yourself: It’s not wrong, it’s just different,” my coach told me during cultural training when I first moved overseas. Then she laughed, “Except when it’s wrong.”
That mindset shift was a game-changer in a time of huge transition, because it helped me to slow down and observe my new culture. To approach it with curiosity rather than judgment. That little phrase— along with some other great advice — has carried me through half a dozen big life transitions and countless small ones.
Maybe you’re a person who relishes newness, or maybe you dread each shift in your life seasons. (Either way, I’m willing to bet your partner experiences it a bit differently than you do!). So how can we walk together well through times of change?
Perhaps when you see your next transition on the horizon, you might consider trying one of these practices to help you through:
Check your expectations: Maybe you are used to feeling competent and a transition will unsettle you by bringing a whole wave of unfamiliar tasks your way. Or you expect yourself to be a generally upbeat and sunny kind of person, but stress is causing you to act in ways that are unfamiliar to you. Perhaps it’s an external expectation, like the kind of time you and your partner will spend together during this season or how they might react to your shared circumstances. Become a student of yourself, and try to identify what hidden expectations you might be carrying with you.
Identify your triggers: Pay attention to your body and take note of when you tend to tense up or your heart starts to race. Do you notice those things happening in similar situations or at the same time every day? Identifying triggers can help you to stay calm in difficult situations in the future, because you can start to see them coming and prepare yourself well.
Take time to say goodbye: If your transition is taking you to a new physical location, identify a few places you want to visit one last time and friends you and your partner want to say goodbye to in person. Book these visits for specific times in your diary so you don’t miss the opportunity.
Make a memento: Write out a list of things you’ve been thankful for in the season that is ending. Frame a photo that reminds you of a happy memory from this season to take with you into the next. Chat with your partner in a quiet moment about what you’re looking forward to about what comes next.
Speak up before you meltdown: You and your partner might experience transition stress differently or at different times. Do you catch yourself obsessing about one particular aspect of the transition? Experiencing fear or anxiety? Find a time to chat about it early on rather than waiting until it’s been bothering you for weeks. Even if your partner doesn’t have a solution to what’s weighing on you, at least you can carry the burden together.
Give yourself grace: Transition is hard, and sometimes it doesn’t only bring out the best in us. Do you notice yourself wound up about little things that wouldn’t usually bother you? Snapping at your partner more than usual? Those might be signs of stress starting to get to you. Step away from your task if you can, take a walk, call a friend or take some deep breaths.
Apologize when you need to: Giving yourself grace doesn’t mean you have a license to be a jerk. If you find yourself reacting in a way you aren’t proud of, try thinking it through and then speaking out a complete apology. It might sound something like this: “I’m sorry for snapping at you when we were talking in the kitchen. I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed about the situation I’m dealing with. Next time I’ll try to take some deep breaths and speak to you in a kind voice instead. Will you forgive me?” You can read more about the art of a heartfelt apology here.
Life is full of change, there’s no denying that. But putting in a bit of extra time and effort to walk together well in tumultuous seasons with your partner can pay dividends well into your next phase of life together. To read more about how to thrive through different seasons and transitions, click here.