Q My wife decided to leave her successful career to follow a passion. How do I support her while dealing with my insecurity about money and our future?
A Acknowledge your concerns and look for ways that you can support each other during the transition.
It's great that you're supporting your wife in her endeavors; at the same time, your support doesn't invalidate your emotional or practical concerns. Breathe, let yourself relax, and let go of your concerns. When concerns push into your mind, let them go; we will come back to them later.
Disentangling the emotional aspects from practical concerns will be helpful. Starting with the practical, how would you complete the sentence, "I'm concerned that ..."? You might not have a roof over your head? The retirement you envisioned? Education for your kids? As many vacations? You get the picture -- consider how serious your financial risks are and then how realistic you're being. Think through any other practical issues, too, such as family scheduling or whether you'll have to move to a new location for her to follow her dream.
The emotional aspect is essential to consider. To what extent do you feel this changes the agreements you've made in your marriage? Are you worried about being left behind? You may also be somewhat envious. Examine these points so you can envision a successful, but different, future.
How openly do you and your wife communicate about sensitive issues? If you're not in the habit, this situation will be more challenging. Working with a coach or counselor who specializes in couples work may be very helpful in bringing up good questions and providing a neutral space to discuss these matters.
Success will depend on mutual support, which will be more apt to occur if you do some planning about it together. There are at least three areas to focus on: your needs, her needs and your family needs.
What would you like? It may be as simple as acknowledgment of your concerns, or include a reality check on financial concerns, perhaps meeting with a financial planner. If this new direction is going to cause day-to-day financial pain, look for mutually agreeable ways to supplement your household income or reduce expenses. Note that this does not equal accepting a lower quality of life -- there will be an accompanying improvement from a happier spouse.
What are her needs? Apart from practical support, she likely needs to know that you support her agenda for her life. Talk together about whether her needs are being met.
What are your family's needs? What effect is it having on any children you may have -- is the household energized or stressed, excited or tense? The change may be making it easier to manage day-to-day schedules if your wife's schedule is now more flexible, or it may have added more challenges.
Take care of yourself. Be sure you're getting enough external support from friends and family, and are doing things you enjoy. Don't forget to have date nights, too.
This time could be an adventure if you ask to get your needs met so that you can enjoy the ride, too.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting. She can be reached at email@example.com.