Talking Through Life Changes With a Partner

Set your priorities clearly

Once you think you want to make a big change like a career switch or accepting a job in a new city, it will be vitally important to communicate what really matters to you to those around you. If, for example, you accept a job across the country and suddenly announce it to your girlfriend, she might well feel left behind and out of the decision-making process.

Instead, I’d suggest starting off with a clear statement that the health of the partnership is what matters to you the most, and that any new job will have to work within the framework of the partnership as opposed to being something that could cause friction. That way, it becomes an exercise in working towards a solution together.

Shift to thinking about “We” instead of “i”

From a young age, men are taught to be decisive and think independently. And those are great tools to have at our disposal. But, they do not always help with the task at hand. When it comes to making a major life shift not just for you, but for others, you cannot necessarily count on the decision that you made independently being okay with everyone.

So, from the get-go, it’s important to think about the decision you’re making in terms of all of the people that will be affected by that decision. Making that shift in thinking right from the beginning will make the conversations about that decision easier since it will be an ongoing conversation with everyone relevant kept in mind rather than a unilateral one that you’re expecting other people to come along with.

There’s another major benefit here, too. No matter how smart, independent, and decisive you might be, you are always going to be limited in your perspective thanks to only being one human being. If you include your partner, spouse, etc. in early conversations about making big life changes, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from them as well. For example, I would have never considered looking for jobs that would allow me to commute back and forth to where she is working, but including her in my early thinking about my career moves gave me a lot of valuable perspectives that have opened up my options substantially.

Set Actionable Goals

It’s easy to communicate that you want a job that pays more, to move to a new city, and so on. But without a solid plan to talk through, the conversations you’ll have about those dreams will remain in the unknown, and that’s hard to deal with on a personal level.

Instead, I would suggest setting a big goal, then breaking it down into little steps. If you develop those small, actionable steps with your partner, it will be easier to talk through the process step by step. Even if you have the first few actionable parts of your goal in mind when you sit down for a talk with the people who will be affected by your decision, it will make the conversation easier, as you will come to it with careful planning as opposed to a half-baked dream.

No matter what you do, it’s hard to plan and execute big life changes. My hope is that reading this might make it just a little bit more manageable for you and those who matter in your life.

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