Congratulations – you have made the decision to relaunch your career! This is a very exciting decision, and you want to hold on to that excitement as you journey down the path of finding work. No matter the length of your career break, your decision to head back has likely propelled you into planning mode so that you can reengage with colleagues, retrain and brush up on your technical skills, be up and out the door each day, reorganize your personal commitments, and make arrangements for your children or others who depend on you.
And what about your spouse or partner? It may be that they are very supportive of your relaunch and genuinely committed to seeing your success. But even if they are your biggest cheerleader, please remember to put them at the top of your list when planning your relaunch.
Relationships fall into patterns of behavior over time. Some patterns are intentionally designed and others just arise naturally. The expectations that emerge from these patterns are often not actively communicated until a change occurs, and daily routines are affected. It is not uncommon for spouses or partners to cause some bumps in the road as you return to work. This is NOT because they do not love you or support your relaunch. In fact, your relaunch may be required for financial reasons within your family and so, of course, they are supportive of this decision! However, when it comes down to it, change is difficult for many people, even if the change is good.
Harriet Lerner, a well-known author on relationships, describes the nature of change with spouses and partners as being akin to dance steps. You develop dance steps with your partner that you both automatically perform each day. You cannot require your partner to suddenly change these steps, but as you change yours (which you will do as you relaunch), the dance is never again the same. They must adapt, and this is not easy.
To assist you with this change, here are some strategies to use:
- Step into their shoes: Spend time thinking about your spouse or partner’s life and all of the factors that contribute to their work success. What role do you play? Go through the weekly schedule and see where you fit in, from cooking, childcare, daily chores, social planning, and emotional support. Much of this may need to change when you are working, and this can cause significant stress for your spouse or partner – you are forging a new partnership and it will help if you can empathize with them as their support system changes.
- Start talking now: It is never too soon to start talking to your spouse or partner about the changes that are about to take place. These changes should be co-created between the two of you, based on each other’s needs and the new reality that is about to set in. Through these discussions, figure out what matters the most to both of you, and do not make any assumptions. Co-create a new routine that honors your individual values and needs.
- Start as you mean to go on: Once you have started talking about the upcoming changes, and once you have put yourself in their shoes, you are ready to practice. Even if you haven’t started work yet, start making the changes now that will be required on that first day back. Surprisingly, it is often easier for your kids to adapt than your spouse or partner so give them time to settle in. Do not adopt a ‘wait and see approach’ because you want to pave the way now for the most success possible in your first few weeks back.
When you relaunch your career, you are finding your professional identity again, and there is so much to celebrate about that. With these tips in mind, you and your loved one will be in good shape to partner for these changes and celebrate this milestone together.