Learn about The Hierarchy of Dating and Relationships in the Coaching Workbooks:
I'm A Man, That's My Job and I'm A Woman, It's My Time
Couples in Transition
By Frank Kermit
When a couple is going through a change in the status of their relationship they are a couple in transition.
This includes couples that are transitioning from monogamy to non-monogamy, from non-monogamy to monogamy, and also covers life stages from new parenthood to entering the empty nest syndrome, as well as caring for an elderly parent or becoming a primary caregiver to your life partner.
With each transition is a change in your individual identity and how you both may define yourself as a couple. What is important is that you and your partner manage realistic expectations of what will be affected by the transition and let go of any harboring resentment that partners may unknowingly start to feel against one another. No relationship structure is perfect. No relationship structure is better than the other. They all have their positives and negatives. The key is finding what relationship structure works best for your needs, managing the reality of that relationship structure, and use the transition to help make your relationship stronger.
The primary reason that -Happily Ever After- does not exist in real life is because in real life change is constant (unlike a fairy tale fantasies where things can stay the same for a long time). From one year to the next, life has a way of putting you through traumatic events, bringing about tremendous loss as well as great fortune, and ironically presenting us with new opportunities that can be veiled as bad luck. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries can be serene moments of reflection to take in what has and has not changed for a person, couple and family in the course of a year.
There are times when we choose our transitions (like the active decision to invite a new child into the family). There are times when we do not choose our transition (such as an unforeseeable accident that leaves you or a loved one incapacitated and in the care of others). There are also transitions that we know are coming, but do not know when though have already agreed to accept for reasons such as feeling obligated, love or to keep a promise (just like when a widowed parent becomes unable to live alone and must move in with adult children and grandchildren).
The fact is transitional stages in life are a given. How and when those transitions occur is less in our control. However, what is within our control is how we choose to manage our transition.
One of the more dangerous elements of a transition is the RESENTMENT that can build up between couples. There is a difference between our intellectual understanding of a situation, and our emotional reactions to a situation. It is this RESENTMENT and how we manage it that will direct the future of our relationships. A person suddenly caught off guard and thrust into the emotional hardships of a transition, could easily direct lots of resentment against their own partner. For example, many new parents find themselves unready for the lack of sleep they experience caring for an infant. Intellectually they knew what to expect.
However, the lack of sleep robs them of energy they normally use to manage their emotional state, and causes them to have a lot less patience with their partner's idiosyncrasies (including those particular partner quirks that they have originally find endearing or attractive).
Many people are incredibly surprised to learn that they had emotional expectations that were different from their intellectual understandings. A person can intellectually understand that when they get married he or she is signing up for better or for worse, but when the -worse- part happens, and they can intellectually stay committed, that does not mean he or she is fully on board emotionally. In fact, it is likely that there could be some emotional resentment building that will surface as a fight, or a lack of interest, with the relationship partner.
So if you find yourself feeling resentful of your partner for something related to a transition going on in your relationship or in life, you may want to consider examining exactly what your expectations were on an emotional level when you went into that relationship. If you were emotionally banking on a happily ever after, even if you intellectually knew better, the issue might be a simple lack of maturity that comes with the understanding about the reality of life and relationships.
As I teach it, it takes more than love to make a long-term relationship work. It takes a commitment to commitment. Being committed to a person is fickle, as how you feel about the person could directly impact how you feel about keeping your commitment.
However, if you practice being committed to your commitment, you may stand a higher chance of sticking it out and making the effort to manage your resentment when your emotional expectations are crash against the wall of disappointment.
To all couples in transition, I urge you to hang in there.
There is a future if you are willing to work through it.