I wrote The Ethics of Caring for professionals — therapists, providers of medical care, teachers, clergy, etc. — but many of the InnerEthics™ concepts in it can help us all in ordinary life, especially when we encounter challenging times in relationship.
Major change, even good change, is always partly loss, and difficult losses (e.g., death, job loss, illness and loss of function) really require us to summon all our caring and skills to be present for each other. At these times more than ever we need safe ways to have good communication and connection to support each other.
Here are some examples of challenging times in a relationship when one or both partners are dealing with major change.
- sleepless new parents
- co-parenting after divorce
- illness (diagnosis, crisis, prolonged, or terminal)
- sudden change in physical ability
- cognitive impairment
- recovery (addiction, PTSD, accidents, chemo)
- deep personal change through therapy, breathwork, medicine work
- personal paradigm shift (deep and sudden shift in belief systems)
- job loss
- other financial loss
- graduation and job search
- adjustment to new living situation (military service, marriage, cohabitation, college)
In any of these situations, one or more significant others (spouses, family members, friends) may be called upon to take on the role of “Responsible Party.” That role may be temporary (days, weeks, or intermittent) or prolonged (months, years, and constant). The person or persons that the one in the Responsible Party role is caring for may need help, attention, listening, advocacy, protection, or just space from having to solve other challenges while they focus on adjusting to or figuring out how to be with their new circumstances.
Those of us in the Responsible Party role may miss our usual equality with the person, our back and forth interaction. It may be a hardship not to have their advice, or their help while they are adjusting to their new situation. We may have to sacrifice what we need because we are called to be the caregiver, the one who is willing to show up and meet the other’s need for the duration of the situation.