Life Transitions | Couples Therapy
A life transition is a change that forces you and/or your partner to examine life. Some transitions are expected, such as children leaving home for school, retirement, the birth or adoption of a child, the death of an elder. Other changes, such as unexpected health situations, a major accident, a recent diagnosis, the death of a loved one, and loss of a job or relationship are examples of changes you can never really be prepared for.
Whether expected or unexpected, these events have one thing in common in that they will force a change to your current life and sometimes to your relationship. This change is often met with resistance because we want things to remain the same.
Change can bring about an opportunity for us to evaluate and take a new path, which can also be imbued with a sense of hopefulness and excitement as you start to see new horizons. But whether you are conscious of it or not, even good events in your life can lead you to feel stress and anxiety. Change of any kind throws you individually and as a couple into the realm of the unknown and this is uncomfortable for most.
For example, retirement is a time many look forward to when they can leave work behind and finally relax. They imagine a peaceful time that will be marked by the absence of any stress. The reality is that this is one of the most difficult transitions for couples to face. Having to spend much more time together that is not buffered by a work week can lead to intense arguments and dissatisfaction. In addition, there is often a sense of self-value that is partially based on the work they do. When there is no longer a need to get up every day and head to work, it can leave some feeling completely lost and without purpose. This can lead to a number of issues around self-esteem, self-worth and meaning in one’s existence. These intense feelings tend to get acted out in relationship and manifest in increased criticism, blaming and complaining.
Whether change is happening to you or your partner, endings that feel particularly difficult and propel us to experience a wide range of emotions, such as grief, anger, sadness, blame, shame, numbness, helplessness, dejection, hopefulness and confusion to mention a few.
In general you will go through several distinct phases following an ending. First you may be in denial, as you can’t believe what has happened. Then you may feel anger as the pain you feel needs to be expressed. Bargaining is the next step as you say, “if only… then…” or “Please God, I will…if…” as you will do just about anything to have life returned to normal. Reality often crashes down following the bargaining period, and therefore you may feel deep sadness or depression. Since grief is a natural human process we see sadness as a necessary step towards healing. Finally, when you are ready, you will accept what has happened, learn to live with it, and begin to engage in your life again.
Life transitions force us to enter uncharted territory. Whether the change is a positive one, or it causes unspeakable pain and grief, we encourage you both to face this time with a skilled and trusted person by your side.
Questions for Thought
Below are a few questions that are intended to help you consider your personal situation more closely. If you are ready to improve and live your life to the fullest, we encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can best help.
- Are you or your partner experiencing anxiety over a change in your life?
- Is worrying interrupting your sleep at night?
- Are you or your partner dealing with a major medical condition?
- Is one of you having difficulty dealing with a life transition?
- Are you experiencing a life transition and don’t know where to begin?
- Do you need to make changes that you were not expecting to have to make?
- Are you feeling insecure about how an expected life transition will impact your lives?
- Are you feeling like you can’t talk to anyone about what is going on for you?