How to Make Decisions That Affect Your Family During Times of Stress: Four Steps Towards a Unified Path

The current pandemic has put many of us in a place where we’re having to make big life choices, for ourselves and our families, amid stress and uncertainty. Some have lost their jobs and are having to decide whether it’s time to leave their industry for something more stable. Even those who are lucky enough to still be employed may need to consider whether their industry will be viable in the near future, and some are simply having to mitigate risk, prioritizing their family’s physical health while also considering mental health and quality of life.

The bottom line is, now that the world is changing, we’re all finding out that certain aspects of our life and plans must change also. With change comes grieving, whether it’s for a job you love or the future you hoped for and planned towards, and making big decisions in a fearful and uncertain time can be difficult, especially when that decision encompasses our spouse and our children as well. We tend to regress to our emotional minds, which are valuable in their way and work hard to protect us, but they don’t help us reason and prioritize; they scream, “Danger, run!” when it’s so important to slow down and think things through as partners. Here are a few steps to consider when you’re faced with a big decision.

  1. Look Inward
    First, it’s important that we each take this opportunity to look inward as individuals in a way that the busyness of the life we used to know may have made it difficult for us to do. This is a new opportunity to look inside and identify our own core values, our hopes and desires, and get curious about the different forms these hopes and desires can take.
  2. Understand Your Own Priorities
    Ask yourself what you’re feeling. Then, begin to prioritize and identify what you want. Get really clear on what matters most to you; what you value most, and what that means to you. Determine your relative priorities.
  3. Cultivate the Curiosity To Know Your Partner
    It’s important to acknowledge that your partner may be struggling through this process, as well, perhaps at a different pace. Be patient and compassionate, and then cultivate a genuine curiosity and desire to understand your partner’s priorities and the emotions behind them. What are they seeing as they look inward and explore their own hopes and dreams and the new shapes they might take? This is a great opportunity to revisit these conversations together, making understanding your highest priority.
  4. Come Together As Teammates
    In our understanding of one another, we have the opportunity to move toward each other and come together as teammates around the issue. For important decisions that affect you both, it’s often helpful to remember at this point that, “if only one of us wins, we both lose.” Instead, we have the opportunity to arrive at what becomes “our decision,” and do so in a way that makes our relationship stronger. Most often, “our decision” will include some of each of our most important priorities. In this way, we can create something that is bigger and more meaningful than ourselves, and we can create it together.

Making big decisions that affect our spouse, our children and the rest of our lives can be stressful and daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. These are unprecedented circumstances, and our clinicians are experienced in helping people navigate through difficult times such as these. Ethos Behavioral Health Group healing centers such as The Lovett Center offer a variety of services to help you work through this process yourself, with your partner or as a family. Contact us to find out how we can help.

Tad Bodeman, MA, LMSW is a clinician at The Lovett Center whose focus is serving individuals and couples with issues of the heart and trauma, easing human sadness and loneliness and fostering joy, peace and intimacy. He has over 36 years of combined clinical and executive-level business experience and is clinically trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, The Gottman Method, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and clinical social work. Tad has been married for more than 35 years and is father to an adult daughter and son.

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