I have long believed that getting ready makes you ready. In “The Field of Dreams”, the famous line, “If you build it, they will come” promises a glorious outcome from having done the work. Regardless of outcome, however, working together with a loved one to prepare for change — whether planned, inevitable, or unexpected — can show love in powerful ways.
What do you prepare for?
- A change of role. Throughout life, our social and work roles change. Once dependent ourselves, we become caregivers as we raise children or tend aging parents. Once a young couple starting out, we become the pillars of the community and then its voice of wisdom. We begin one career, may switch to another (and another), as the work we do and prefer to do helps direct us to encouraging others and using our talents. Such changes are developmental, and thus they are inevitable unless we refuse to adapt to transformations inside our bodies and within our cultural contexts. Some changes, like a pregnancy predicting parenthood, force one to pay attention to an inevitable shift. Others, like an empty nest or retirement, can come with conscious planning or an organic laissez-faire attitude.
- A change of home. Independent of shifts in roles but at times intersecting them, we may be dealing with changes in “home” and its significance to us. What does it mean to leave the home where we grew up? To live with another adult or perhaps several of them? To choose a bunk-bed in a city box of an apartment over a long commute and open places to conveniently walk a dog? How much space do you need or want and why? Double these questions when considering a couple and amplify them more if you are in a family who lives together, and changes of or within a home are an opportunity to respond to individual growth.
- A change of responsibilities. A third strain follows us through our lives: responsibilities to others — and to ourselves. Shifts in physical, emotional, mental, social and work status influence our commitments and abilities to fulfill them. At times re-evaluation becomes necessary: do you trade staying put for opportunities elsewhere? Do you adapt where you are to changing needs? Are you forced by circumstances to change? The illness of a loved one may trigger a desire to have more time available to provide direct help or, its opposite, a desire to earn more income to hire more resources. A child’s departure for college may free up time once used for “family” purposes, making it available for increased self-care or development of other loving relationships.
How can you prepare? There are two major approaches to preparation, the destination-focused and the organic. Some people prefer to alternate between the two.
- The destination-driven. In this approach, people focus on a desired outcome and then ask what needs to happen to get from here to there. To follow this approach in a loving way:
- Collaborate on defining the desired destination. Is it external, like a new home or a new job? A new environment more conducive to nurturing your couple or providing resources needed by a family member? A new identity in a new career that might require retraining and a range of additional skills before it can be achieved? What needs to happen on the road from here to there?
- Make a plan. Assign roles and delegate tasks. Make sure everyone involved feels consulted and included.
- Agree on a way to assure that what needs to be done is addressed in a timely fashion.
- Celebrate triumphs along the journey.
- The organic approach. Sometimes a desired end-point cannot be defined, or individual temperaments may leave people preferring to pursue change organically. They take one step in a direction that makes sense or feels the most appealing in the moment and then evaluate the impact of the change.
Agree on that first step. When two people are involved, consider what each might choose and, if the relationship’s well-being is a priority, then decide what would be in the best interest of the couple, rather than each member individually. Choose one of the three options.
- Take that step, allowing yourselves to be fully immersed in it and able to discover paths it may open up and reactions you may each have, both anticipated and not. Perhaps the aspiring doctor’s first internship in a hospital leaves him or her intrigued — or repelled — by the life that would need to be led. Perhaps realizing a fantasy of living in the country leaves a person yearning for public transportation and nearby restaurants.
- Have the courage to correct course if necessary or to take an additional step in a direction that now seems like a more appealing path.
- Following this process over time leads people, when they are honest with themselves and with each other, to create lives that fulfill them and relationships that can support those lives.
Why preparing can help show love
- Sharing itself is a powerful expression of love.
- Preparing increases structure and structure and information bind anxiety.
- In addition, the stress of “unfinished business” can be lessened by doing what one can at any given moment in moving towards transformations.
- Change can be stressful as well as exciting. As such, it offers an opportunity to both appreciate each other’s reactions more clearly and also to grow in one’s repertoire of responses — both to change and to each other.
By preparing for a life filled with impermanence and for specific changes as the need arises, people can strengthen their bonds and intimacy, as they nurture flexibility in each other. They can work as partners, grow in each other’s presence, practice and improve their decision-making, and better appreciate the strengths that they each bring to the relationship.
When you think of a change you prepared for, what comes to mind? How did you coordinate the responses to change with your loved one? What were the moments of tension between you? In what ways did you become closer for having gone through the process together?
Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower
Visit me at www.miracleatmidlife.com
~ Napoleon Bonaparte