It was Heraclitus that said, “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change". The truthfulness of that statement can often be a tough pill to swallow.
Often times, when a big change shows up in our lives, our conversations within our relationships start to focus on what is about to change or what has changed. Regardless if it's a big move, job change, a new child, a shift in religious beliefs or daunting new medical diagnosis - we often don't take the time to get curious and mindful about what in our lives has remained similar and unmoving regardless of this new change or experience in our lives. As a result, we can get into a toxic pattern of highlighting our fears versus taking some time to clarify what has remained the same or similar.
One grounding exercise couples can consider is to write down the everyday actions, feelings, behaviors or beliefs that haven't changed in their relationship despite this new shift - this can often help create some stability when life throws you an unexpected curve ball.
As a couple, you could write individual lists from your personal perspective using "I" statements, or do a list using "we" statements referring to you as a couple.
A. List the really simple everyday things that are the same or similar:
- I'm going to still wake up everyone morning and do my best to honor our family commitments and financial needs
- I'm still going support the daily tasks of our family life
- We still have our support systems here to help us
- I will still make really amazing pancakes on Saturday morning
- I'm still able to coach the kid's soccer game
- I'm still better at cooking then you are (wink!)
- We are still working towards saving for our family home
- We still can make each other laugh
B. Highlight meaningful emotional commitments that remain the same despite the change coming your way:
- I love you and want you to be healthy and happy
- I love our children and I am committed to their wellbeing
- I'm proud of the life we've created
- Regardless, we have each other to lean on
- I still want to grow together and share a life together
- I am still dedicated to contributing to our marriage
- I still wake up every day glad to be your partner
- My love for you hasn't changed, I'm still here, trying.
- We are capable of hard things, we'll face this together
- We don't have to face this change alone, we have each other
- We are able to be brave and practice asking for help together
- Regardless of where we end up living, we have each other
C. List and highlight similarities or shared interests that remain the same despite the change you are facing:
- We still love spending time together
- We still love being intimate
- We still love our science fiction shows
- We still can't stand putting the kids to bed at bedtime*
- We still love spending time together
- We still care about the other person
- We still are committed to working hard to make this marriage healthy and strong
- We are still exploring how to support each other in our different needs
*Be sure to add some humor when appropriate - humor can be an important strength in navigating change
D. Take a moment to list the support systems that are available to help you navigate this new change in your life:
- Community Supports
- Religious congregations or faith support communities
Ideally, this exercise is to help us see that while big changes can alter our lives in many ways, they often do not change EVERYTHING about our lived experience or relational stability.
Sometimes in the midst of fear we only see what is changing instead of what remains. I like this practice because though change is the only thing in life that is constant, it is important to realize that change or faith often doesn't change everything - even though it can feel that way at times.
I look forward to you sharing thoughts and insights in the comment section. Is it helpful for you to ground yourself in what remains stable in moments of majors shifts?
Sara Hughes-Zabawa, LMSW has extensive experience working with trauma survivors, depression & anxiety, LGBT+ individuals and their families, and faith transitions. She is also a yoga instructor and uses mindfulness training to support clients in cultivating self-care practices.