How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy Through a Mid-Career Reinvention

I made a big mistake when I left my career in the nonprofit world to launch my own business.

My mistake? I didn’t sit down with my wife and having an “all cards on the table” talk about what my career transition would look like within our relationship and household.

That mistake led to a lot of angst.

Career reinvention is a B.I.G  F.R.E.A.K.I.N.G D.E.A.L.

But, as big of a life event as it is for you, your life partner/kids/dog/cat will continue to see you as their loving partner, mother, cuddler, giver of treats.

Yes, things will most likely change. Perhaps instead of being out all day, you will work from a home office and have to negotiate working hour norms with the other members of your household. (No, kitty. This doesn’t mean everytime I walk into the kitchen to get water it’s time to eat).

For me, it felt very vulnerable to have a conversation with my wife about what it would mean for us if I left my job to launch my own business. When I look back at that time, I was excited but I was also really scared. And, instead of just saying that I was scared to my wife, I pretended that everything was going to carry on as it always had. But of course it didn’t.

If I could do it all over again, I would sit down and design a sort of “Reinvention MOU” with my wife. Here are the three things I would put in my MOU.

#1 Emotional Support

Reinvention is hard. I’m birthing a new professional (and personal) identity. I might feel like I’m no longer relevant. I will probably feel alone. There might be times when I need more of your attention. And there might be times when I don’t want to talk about it.

There will definitely be times when I want you to celebrate big and small wins with me. I will want you to be excited for me and show me that you are interested in what I am doing.

I don’t need you to fix anything. I don’t want you to handle me with kid gloves. I don’t need you to play the role of coach or therapist.

I will need you to say occasionally, “Babe, you’ve got this.”

#2 Time Support

I’ll need some time to figure out where I am going. I’m happy to pick up extra responsibilities around the house but I also need time to work on finding my new career or starting my business. I’d like to reserve Monday-Thursday mornings for my work. The rest of the time I can run errands and wait for the cable company to show up.

#3 Financial Support

It’s important to me to contribute financially to our lives and futures. That said, I will need financial support in the form of $INSERT AMOUNT per month to cover household expenses until I find my new career or get my business going.

I will also need to spend money on finding my new path. This might include hiring a coach, getting help with my resume, and/or training as a speaker, etc. This is a critical part of my journey.

Depending on your situation, your conversation might be different. The point is, talk to your loved ones what your reinvention means to you. And let them continue to play the role of loving spouse or friend. Don’t expect them to step into the role of career reinvention coach or therapist. That’s not what they are there for.

Kirsten Bunch