After living in our home for twelve years, my husband and I decided to embark on the precarious journey of total home renovation. Life changes and transitions have the potential to test any relationship. For us, amidst the falling sheet rock, scattered nails, paint samples, and dust, I’ve been reminded of some major life lessons. Whether you, too, are renovating your home or moving between homes, or may be welcoming a new child or pet into your family, these lessons can be applied to any life change to keep you and your partner connected amidst the potential chaos.
First, compromise is key. Compromise is defined as an agreement or settlement of an issue reached by each side making concessions. It is a choice on how to behave when challenged. For many of us, our first instinct may be to stick to what we want or feel is “right.” But keep in mind that being able to compromise in situations shows your partner that your relationship with him is more important than standing your ground. Staying away from that instinct of being “right” takes conscious practice. If you like a darker shade of blue paint while your partner likes the lighter shade, why not agree to compromise and consider a shade somewhere between the two? Practice makes each compromise easier. Once you are able to compromise on the small disagreements in life, compromising on larger and potentially more important issues as they arise may become easier and more natural. There is no time like the present to start practicing compromise that will serve your relationship well through the years!
Second, be prepared for every twist and turn in the journey ahead. Life changes are full of unexpected situations that can cause anxiety and tempers to flare. Think ahead, to anticipate possible situations and/or stressors that may trip you up. Make a commitment to always work as a team, rather than adversaries. You both likely want the same ultimate thing—it’s just how you want to reach that goal that you may disagree on, and that’s no reason to stir up tension. Make preparations for and decisions around these potential pitfalls ahead of time to minimize the strain on you and your family. For example, not having a kitchen for several weeks with three kids is quite nerve-wracking. We decreased some of the stress by making sure we had a hot plate, microwave and all the kitchen tools we needed in our makeshift basement “kitchen” ahead of time. In essence, do your homework.
Finally, know and accept your partner. Remind yourself that everyone handles stress differently. Just because choosing hardware for your cabinets makes you anxious does not mean your partner feels the same. Take note of how your partner handled stress in the past and be prepared for similar triggers. This allows you to have an appreciation for your differences and delegate who should take the lead on specific projects, tasks, or decisions. Be honest with yourself about yourself and trust in your partner. Life changes can be rewarding when tackled as a team.
- Choose your battles wisely. Don’t let your need to be right cause friction in your relationship. When you feel or sense a battle emerging over a decision, remind yourself that compromise is one of the key foundational elements of a successful relationship.
- Be attuned with your partner’s energy. Balancing your partner’s energy with your own in a difficult moment leads to better decisions and a better overall connection between you. Notice your partner’s energy level and modulate your own accordingly. For example, when your partner is stressed over something, try to be a calming influence by staying focused on and reminding your partner of the end goal.
- This is your journey. Ralph Waldo Emerson so wisely said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The same can be said for relationships. Achieving your goals is wonderful, but the journey you take toward achieving those goals is the true prize. Be mindful of the moments you spend together as your work together, and appreciate the teamwork it takes to reach your goals and get through your challenges.