Transitions are tumultuous times that can stress anyone and can be particularly hard on relationships. But there are ways to successfully navigate them together. Communicate. Propagate. Advocate. Alternate. This Provision coaches you to enjoy the dance of life with your partner.
People say that my wife and I have a remarkable relationship. For one thing, we hardly ever argue. For another, when we do argue it never develops into anything big. And then there’s our level of intimacy and joy, which • as we approach the celebration of our 26th wedding anniversary later this month • is definitely more satisfying, stimulating, and salubrious than any time in the past 28 years. We are blessed with a simple case of falling and staying in love.
How do we do this? Interestingly enough, it doesn’t take much effort. We have good, basic instincts when it comes to relationship building. For instance, we’ve developed good communication habits. It’s not hard for us to put our feelings into words, to listen to what each other have to say, and to follow through with appropriate actions. If at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again. Then there’s the matter of being givers rather than takers (as I wrote about in a recent Provision). Put two givers together, and things roll along pretty smoothly. Finally, there’s a tremendous sense of gratitude that God brought and kept us together for the living of these days. Life has been good to us, without any of the terrible catastrophes, hardships, or hurts that so often make the headlines.
Our gratitude was kindled again as we discussed the recent reader reply to my series on how to successfully navigate life’s transitions. “Many times during transitions,” this reader wrote, “it appears to be a challenge to keep synchronized with your partner. As transitions involve many profound and fast-paced changes that are not always easily grasped by a partner, relationships can come under strain. Personally I draw the parallel with ice-skating: each partner being one leg • or skate for that matter • and the body the relationship. To get ahead you must move your skate one before the other. Yet, if you put one skate too far from the other, the body loses its equilibrium and falls. Similarly, if you keep the skates statically together no progress is made and the body loses its heat. The trick is to find the balance between moving forward and falling down. Now that proves difficult in times of transition.”
Remarkably, staying synchronized has not proved particularly difficult to us in any of our great transitions (geographical, professional, or personal). Although challenging, our transitions have produced more light than heat. We’ve therefore spent the last two weeks talking about and reflecting on how this has happened. Without trying to be comprehensive, here are a few of our insights.
1. Communicate. No relationship can long endure a lack of communication. Couples in trouble fail to communicate. Couples who lack constructive communication skills will eventually end up in trouble. Couples who develop healthy habits of regular communication, in good times and bad, will eventually end up more in love as time goes by. Our habits involve daily, weekly, and holiday routines. We talk or journal, however briefly, on a daily basis about how we’re feeling and what’s going on. We lounge around together, at least once a week and with no pressure to wrap up by any particular time, in order to communicate more deeply. And we especially cherish the more relaxed pace of vacations in order to step back, have some fun, and communicate about the big picture movement of life.
This regular communication lies at the core of finding what our reader described as “the balance between moving forward and falling down.” Through good communication, my wife and I have always managed to move forward • together. But communication alone will not a good, synchronized relationship make.
2. Propagate. No, this is not another one of those admonitions from your mother-in-law wondering just when you’re going to get around to having children. But there is something to the notion that a healthy relationship propagates something. If not children, then ideas, service, or projects. Couples who appreciate, value, and sense their legacy as a couple, not just as individuals, will have an easier time staying synchronized in the many transitions of life.
In our own case, we have proclaimed in our wedding vows that we were more effective together than individually. Believing, trusting, and knowing that truth has all but eliminated conflict over our great transitions. In every instance, we have looked to see the new opportunities not only for us as individuals but also as a couple. That openness has never gone unrewarded. We find ourselves ready to make changes and move forward together.
3. Advocate. It may seem obvious, but couples who do well together champion each other. They want to see nothing but the best and nothing but success for their partner. There is no sense of jealousy and no jockeying for position. There is, rather, a heartfelt joy when one person accomplishes something, has a special opportunity, or locks on to a target that beckons. One person’s dream is not another person’s nightmare, even if they don’t share the same interests. My wife has no interest in running marathons and I have no interest in painting watercolors, but we both appreciate the other’s interest and we advocate for their fullest expression.
This works professionally as well. It’s not uncommon for my wife or I to make connections, recommend, and advocate for the other as outstanding leaders in our respective fields. In other words, we advance each other’s careers as best we can (which becomes all the more important in new situations and changed circumstances).
4. Alternate. This one should not be taken in the sense of scorekeeping. It’s not a matter of one by one, turn by turn, “she loves me; she loves me not.” But there does need to be some recognition that over the course of a lifetime there will be some give and take as to who’s in the lead and who’s following. Gone are the days when one partner, traditionally the man in a heterosexual relationship, could just assume that he or she will always be in the driver’s seat. Regardless of one’s earning potential, there will come times when the lead in the dance of life changes hands.
Ten years ago my wife followed me to Columbus, Ohio. While there she got her Ph.D., established herself in the field of educational leadership and positioned herself for the opportunity that brought us to Virginia. This time I became the so-called “trailing spouse,” finding a wonderful opportunity to expand the scope and reach of LifeTrek Coaching International.
Communicate. Propagate. Advocate. Alternate. These four have made our relationship what it is and our transitions a success. We hope you can appreciate and incorporate their wisdom as well.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Just a quick thank you for your newsletter. I get to read maybe 2 in 5 but it is always worth it when I do. I was thinking just this morning about how easy it is to let life slip by, and then you can only look back and see where you should have taken the time to invest in your life quality. I’m at risk too but at least thinking of it. Seems you are tracking to successfully commercialize your biz. I have been moderately successful in a freelance consulting thing but struggling with a workable model and managing personal finances following job loss, divorce and a round of health issues with my one daughter. It may force me back into the corporate world but I’m still in the game for the moment!!! Good luck in your endeavors. Thanks for the perspective!!!
Your continuing series on transitioning and your personal transition experiences and perspectives as conveyed in the newsletter have been very timely for me • even changed my initial approach to some aspects. Thanks.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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