You’re the one changing careers, but is your spouse or partner with you on this one?
I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I have changed careers and I’ve also helped support my husband when he was making a career change. You hope that this can be a good experience for both people and that it can actually draw you closer and make your relationship stronger. But it can also test you in some new ways.
Keep in mind that on the days they fail to be a paragon of partnership, they may feel anxious or helpless. This is your thing, but it may have huge implications for their life.
If your love gets antsy, here are some ways you can help them.
How to Get Your Partner On Board For Your Career Change:
1. Listen to their fears and mirror them back.
Invite them to talk about what’s bothering them and just listen. When they’re done, summarize what you heard them say. “It sounds like you’re scared that…” “I can tell you’re anxious about…” Sometimes just being heard and understood is all it takes to feel better.
2. Show your partner that you’re serious about this.
This might be the most important one. Show them that you mean business. There has been some great research about the fundamental differences between the male and the female brain, so here comes my gendered-but-science-based advice:
If your partner is male: The male brain more so than the female brain quickly kicks into problem-solving mode when it registers something as a problem. If your partner interprets this situation as, “My partner is unhappy. My partner wants something to change – problem,” he’s immediately going to start trying to figure out what the solution is. That little part of his brain is going haywire. What you can do to help calm that is to give him evidence that you’re taking care of this and that the problem is being solved.
If your partner is female: Rather than going into fix it mode, she’s more likely to slip into catastrophic thinking because she’s mentally mapping out all the ways things could go wrong or have gone wrong in the past. What you can do to help calm that is show her what your plan is and make her feel safe.
3. Ask them how you can support them, and tell them how they can support you.
“What I really need right now is a hug.” “I need to feel in the loop, so let me know what you’re considering.” “I need you to dance in your boxers while you explain this to me.” (Ok, maybe that’s just my house.)
4. Get additional emotional support for yourself.
This is a gift for both of you. Career change can be a really emotional time, understandably. Of course, you want to be able to turn to your partner for support, but you don’t want to barrage them or you dump on them all the time. Having some other places where you can take these feelings and these questions is really healthy for both of you. Talk with trusted friends, mentors, or work with a therapist so you have other outlets to explore some of the stuff that’s going on with you.
5. Share your vision.
How is your life going to change as a result of your career change? And more importantly, how will it make things different for your life together?
“I want to come home from work full of energy instead of being wiped out. I could cook more often, we could have friends over some weeknights, and I could stay awake long enough for us to binge watch Netflix together.”
“I could have more time off so it wouldn’t be a big deal for us to finally take that trip to Costa Rica.”
Help them see how changes in your work could positively affect their life.
6. Take some space.
If things get stressful, it could be best for both of you to take a week off from talking about career change stuff. Set a date when you’ll revisit the conversation. A lot can change in a week. In the meantime, get the emotional support you need from someone else you trust.
7. Thank them.
Frequently. Genuinely. Being the partner of a career changer can take a lot of love and patience. I’ve been on both sides of it in my marriage, and we found that a little show of appreciation for being supportive goes a long way. Take care of each other. You got this. Both of you do.