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Ask Coach Pamela: “I Want Change, My Spouse Says No”

A partner’s opposition can mirror our own anxiety. Reinvention is scary. Squash your fears and get your spouse on board

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by Pamela Mitchell

Relationships
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I'm struggling to get my partner to accept that I'm ready to start a new chapter in my life, leaving the corporate world to pursue my passions. I won't bring in the salary I currently earn, so this will affect us financially, and he is dead set against it. How can I build my case for reinvention? Coach Pamela: This is an extremely common problem. Sometimes we get lucky and our spouses are on board right from the start. Many times, though, they feel scared or threatened by the change we're seeking. This is normal. As human beings, we are hardwired to have an aversion to ambiguity, and reinvention is inherently ambiguous. People have different tolerance levels for change.

Your partner is probably fearful not only about the shift in your financial situation, but also that you will be different. What if you change into someone who no longer wants to be in the partnership? This is scary. Another thing to keep in mind is that our loved ones oftentimes mirror our own anxieties. It's easier to fight the fear we see in others than to acknowledge it in ourselves, so your desire to build a case for reinvention with him can also be a way of trying to reassure yourself. Even though you're the one seeking change, not knowing how your reinvention will play out is unsettling. Ambiguity causes fear; real data brings solutions. Right now the best strategy is to let go of your investment in having your partner's approval. It's okay for you not to be on the same page at this stage of your reinvention; give yourself permission to explore your options, and give him space to have his feelings.

Your plans are new, so instead of arguing for support, use your energy to nurture your dream and see how it will grow. Turn to your friends for an impartial sounding board and to get the emotional reinforcement you need. Once you've figured out what you'd like to do for your reinvention, you can sit down with your spouse and talk about the specifics. You will then know what the impact will be on your partnership, financial and otherwise, and can discuss how to manage the changes in a way that works for you both. Pamela Mitchell is founder & CEO of The Reinvention Institute, a boutique firm that offers seminars, workshops and group programs for individuals interested in transforming their lives.

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