How To Make Decisions + Navigate Change As a Couple
This episode features a very special guest, my husband Ryan. We’re answering a listener question about how we make decisions together and navigate big changes as a couple.
Together, Ryan and I have been together for 15 years and married for 10.
We’ve moved across the country, owned 3 houses, had twins and been through medical school together.
Recently we decided to sell our dream house, buy a trailer, and upend our lives to travel with our kids. These were big decisions that lead to big life changes!
Here’s how we make decisions together in a way that prioritized and honoured each others feelings, our self-care needs and our relationship.
How To Navigate Change As a Couple
Relationships are full of opportunities to make decisions together. With those decisions, comes changes – big and small. It’s a normal part of relationships, but how you navigate making decisions together and the change that follows can have a big impact on the quality of your relationship.
Whether you’re adjusting to having kids, deciding to go back to work after maternity leave, switching jobs or even moving into a trailer like we are – there are a few things you can do to ensure that you and your partner make decisions that work for you and navigate the change as a united couple. When done well it can bring you closer together as a result.
Ryan and I have been together for a long time and navigated many big life changes together.
Today we’re sharing the strategies we’ve used to make decisions as as a couple.
Focus On Your Values
In order to make decisions that are right for your family, you need to know your values as an individual and as a couple.
By knowing your values you’ll be able to make decisions together as a couple that align with your values and that life that you want to live.
Your values can also act as a touch point when navigating change becomes difficult – values are your why for making the change in the first place.
When you don’t know and make choices in alignment with your values, it’s easy to find yourself living a life that feels like somebody else’s. If your life is feeling burdensome or like you want to escape your life, then chances are you’re living out of alignment with your values.
When making big decisions as a couple, always do so from your values. Get crystal clear on what is most important to you both and your family.
Is it important that you have a lot of time together?
Is it important that you feel connected to nature?
Is it important that you maintain a healthy active lifestyle?
Have The Courage To Share That What You’ve Been Doing Isn’t Working Anymore.
It takes a lot of courage, trust and open communication to say “I’m not happy with our life this way, what do you think?”
Luckily for Ryan and I, we had created a safe space in our relationship to express our feelings without the other freaking out, and that we have the same values.
So when one of us expressed that we weren’t happy with how we were living, the other felt similar.
Creating a relationship that allows for safe open communication and having the courage to share how you’re feeling is a key part of addressing when and if things need to change.
Discuss The Pros + Cons In An Emotionally Neutral State
It’s important to approach big decisions from an emotionally neutral place.
Now by nature of “big decisions,” it’s likely that you will feel emotional about them. This is totally fine.
However, the discussions you have when trying to make big decisions have to be as emotionally neutral as possible. If you’re emotional, nobody does well in these conversations, because you can’t be effective in how you communicate when you’re coming at it feeling emotionally charged.
Regardless of the decision at hand try to come at to the conversation in an emotionally neutral state so that you can communicate clearly to see the pros and cons honestly.
Make Decisions Together By Going In With Open Eyes
Do your research so that you’re making the decision with as much information as possible. Also be sure to discuss what you learn with your partner, are you both okay with what the decisions means and looks like in real life?
For us, it was knowing exactly how living in a trailer and traveling with our kids would look like on the day-to-day. We did a lot of research and discussed all of it.
Maybe you’re making a decision about staying off work after maternity leave. How is that going to change our family’s income? What about your daily routines?
Prioritize Your Self-Care And Your Partners
If you know me at all, you’re not surprised by this one! Self-care is vital to making sure you feel your best, especially when you’re navigating changes and the stress that goes along with it.
Make sure you’re taking the time you need to feel your best, but also that you’re partner is getting that time too. Sometimes that means actually telling your partner to take sometime for themselves – going this extra step goes a long way in a relationship and helps the other person feel seen and cared for.
Create a Safe Space for the Expression of Doubt
When we first made our decision to sell our home and move into a trailer, we both had a ton of doubts.
Would we want to kill our kids being in that small of a space?
Would we regret our decisions to sell our stuff?
Would we wish we had a home base after all?
Making big decisions together as a couple means allowing for the expression of doubts, without your partner thinking you’re pulling the plug on the whole thing.
Doubts are a part of being human and a part of making big decisions. Create a safe space in your relationship for the expression of doubts, so they don’t build up and fester.
If you’re having doubts about a big decision you and your partner has made – share it! Chances are they’re feeling the same, and it gives you the opportunity to discuss the doubts and reassure each other.
Be Mindful Of Who You Share With
When you and your partner are in the midst of a big decision or big life change, be mindful of who you’re sharing with outside of your relationship. Especially when it comes to sharing doubts or concerns.
When you share these doubts and concerns with someone outside of your relationship prior to discussing them in your relationship, it can make your partner feel like they don’t matter. Or that you don’t value them, or their opinion. It can cause a divide and even more stress when navigating change or hard times.
Be open about who you and your partner will seek support from. Reassure eachother that it’s not that you don’t value their opinion, but that sometimes opinions from outside of the two of you can be helpful perspective.
Be cautious also of who you share your decisions or big anticipated changes with. Some people do not have your best interests at heart and are not capable of giving you the support you’re looking for.
Remember That This Will Pass
Once you have made the decision, you need to expect some growing pains as you make changes.
Even though we were so excited about our new adventures, it didn’t mean that the entire change process was peaceful or easy. Making changes to your life (no matter what they are) is stressful.
As parents we’re reminded of this everyday, with the challenging or annoying phases our kids go through. Eventually they will grow out of the phase, it will pass and things will change.
The same goes with the stress or challenges when navigating changes as a couple and a family. Although some days you may wonder if you’ve totally made the wrong decision, you can trust on the fact that you made it from your values, and weather the storm. Eventually it will pass, whatever was new will become normal, and we’ll all adjust. Growing pains are uncomfortable, but it will get easier.
Lastly: Don’t Give a Sh*t About Other Opinions When Making Decisions Together
This is especially true when you’re making decisions that aren’t part of the normal cookie-cutter life path.
People are going to have their own opinions about what you’re doing if it deviates at all from what’s “normal.”
They’re going to wonder if they should be doing what you’re doing, they might even judge you harshly about your decisions.
What really matters if that the decision is the right one for you, your partner and your family.
Ultimately it’s your decision and you’re not responsible for other people’s thoughts or feelings about your life.
THIS EPISODE DIGS INTO:
- How Ryan and I decided to sell our dream house to buy a trailer and travel with our twins.
- How to navigate big decisions, life changes and hard times as a couple.
- 9 strategies for couples to navigating big life decisions
- Relationship strategies that feel good and bring you closer as a couple
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AUTHOR: DR. CARLY CREWE, MD
Dr. Carly Crewe is a mom to twin toddlers, a modern day nomad and MD Psychotherapist specializing in women's mental health.
Carly believes that when women are well, they have the power to heal and change the world.
Her mission is to revolutionize the women’s mental health care, from fragmented and haphazard to a holistic, comprehensive and integrated approach that meets every woman where she is and addresses the multidimensional reality of mental health.
Dr. Crewe is the founder of Eunoia Medical, a speciality mental health clinic for women in pursuit of a well mind. Carly runs a revolutionary mental health membership for women, The Eunoia Collective.
Carly is the host of the Mind Over Motherhood Podcast and is an Amazon best-selling author. Her newest book You Are Not Your Anxiety: How to Stop Being An Anxious, People-Pleasing Mess will be launching for presale on International Women’s Day March 8th, 2021.