Facing challenges together as a couple

Author: Canadian Living


Facing challenges together as a couple

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just freeze-frame those fleeting, blissful moments when everything in your relationship is perfect and preserve them forever? But that's unrealistic and, the truth is, often the person that you fall in love with changes over time for a variety of reasons. (And, of course, you can change too.) But what happens when you don't grow and change together? Is it possible for your love to survive a big life change?

Meet Lisa Paz, a marriage and sex therapist who doesn't think change is such a bad thing after all. In fact, she says that it is something women should expect. Whether his weight, workload or anxiety goes up or down, Paz shares her thoughts on how much change is healthy, what it takes to get the attributes you liked in him back and when you should just walk away.

1. Manage expectations

"It's important for women to recognize that the beginning of the relationship is not necessarily reflective of how it is going to be long term," says Paz. Expect that there will be some change when it comes to actions, but be attuned to whether core attributes are changing. "You can't use the first six months as a barometer. The relationship is going to evolve into a more settled state over time, and that's OK," says Paz. "The first six months will evolve to something maybe less romantic, maybe less intense, but not less meaningful."

2. Assess the level of change

Paz says the next step is to determine if your partner has done a complete turnaround, or if they are simply evolving their habits. "Assess if this is just a shift along the same continuum of behaviour, which would be completely healthy, or if this is a big change that is out of character," she says.

Page 1 of 3 -- Find advice on how to talk to your partner about big changes you've noticed on page 2
For example, if you chose your partner because you loved that he had a healthy work-life balance and didn't work late or on the weekends, but now he's at work every single night and frequently on the weekends for an extended period of time, that would constitute a big change. But if he's working late once or twice a week to meet a big deadline and still spending much of his time with you, that would be normal change. Alternatively, has he gained a few pounds or 30 pounds?

"They are going to change, so assess to what extent they are changing. Is it a normative change or a Jekyll and Hyde?" Paz says. "The six-to-12-month mark will be more representative of the relationship, so don't jump into anything too serious too soon. Over time, decide how much you can tolerate, and be mindful that relationships are built on compromise."

3. Confront the issue
When addressing your partner about a change that you're uncomfortable with, be gentle, not accusatory. "Use 'I' messages. Don't attack; don't accuse. Raise awareness from an 'I' position," says Paz. As well, make it positive. Paz suggests saying something like: "I know how important it is to have time apart, but I really love spending time with you. You're my favourite company. I haven't spent as much time with you as I'd like." Accusing him of neglecting you or pointing the finger will only make the situation worse, not better. "I" statements take the pressure off him and lead to more positive conversations overall.

4. Offer solutions
"If you are upset by a certain behaviour or change, you need to offer a solution in order to effectively have the issue resolved," says Paz. Men respond to problem-solving styles of communication, she explains. You can suggest that every Friday night be your night together, or suggest going away for the weekend -- whatever it is that will fulfil your needs. "You can most certainly make a positive request for change and state what you need, then step back to come up with solutions," says Paz.

Page 2 of 3 -- Find advice on how to re-evaluate your relationship on page 3

5. Reassess the relationship
If you fell for someone based on something you thought was a core value of his and have seen over time that it's not, consider how important that trait is to you and decide whether this is a relationship you want to move forward with. "If you've spoken up for yourself and they display an inability to meet your requests, you need to decide if this is the right person for you," says Paz.

When a person changes, it is usually just a sign of time and comfort, and not something personal, but it becomes personal when you've shared your needs and he fails to meet them. At this point, it's up to you to decide if the relationship has run its course.

Most of us change over time. In an ideal situation, both partners will grow, flourish and evolve together. But when couples do change significantly and their paths diverge, they should take the time to reassess their relationships and either get back on track to move forward together or embark on new separate adventures in which each partner can feel fulfilled.

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Facing challenges together as a couple