Head­case

How to broach the topic of down­siz­ing.

Good - - Contents - with Dr Alice Boyes Psy­chol­ogy ex­pert Dr Alice Boyes is the author of the book, The Anx­i­ety Tool­kit. al­ice­boyes.com

Dis­cussing down­siz­ing

There are lots of rea­sons why cou­ples down­size their homes. Some­times it’s seek­ing more sim­plic­ity; some­times it’s to free up money for other things (e.g. travel or chang­ing to a lower-pay­ing job). Down­siz­ing can be re­lated to life stage or ill­ness – a large prop­erty can sim­ply be­come too bur­den­some. You may re­alise you’re liv­ing be­yond your means, re­ceive an un­ex­pected of­fer on your home, or get a job of­fer that would in­volve mov­ing to a city where apart­ment liv­ing is the norm.

What­ever the rea­son, cou­ples are faced with broach­ing the topic and then work­ing through their op­tions.

Here are some tips and con­sid­er­a­tions for help­ing those con­ver­sa­tions go smoothly.

Be con­fi­dent you can work it out

Re­la­tion­ships are a team ap­proach to the sport of life. Don’t ap­proach ne­go­ti­a­tion with the as­sump­tion that the two of you will be on op­pos­ing sides of a bat­tle. When you’re in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship, your in­di­vid­ual hap­pi­ness is de­pen­dant on the other per­son’s hap­pi­ness. You’re not look­ing to get ‘your way’ or ‘win the fight’. You’re look­ing for the so­lu­tion that will pro­vide the most calm, and sense of your lives be­ing on track, for both of you. Have an at­ti­tude of cu­rios­ity about what so­lu­tion will best achieve that.

Part of be­ing con­fi­dent that you can make ma­jor life de­ci­sions col­lab­o­ra­tively with your part­ner is un­der­stand­ing their re­ac­tion style. Some part­ners are nat­u­rally en­thu­si­as­tic about change. Oth­ers are nat­u­rally cau­tious with a ten­dency to point out the risks and rea­sons why an idea might not work out.

Re­spect your part­ner’s pri­or­i­ties

Even part­ners who gen­er­ally share the same val­ues can have dif­fer­ent spe­cific pri­or­i­ties. For ex­am­ple, you might both love ex­pe­ri­ences over ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions, but your part­ner might have an in­ter­est that re­quires stor­ing a large vol­ume of gear. Ac­cept what your part­ner tells you about what’s im­por­tant to them, rather than try­ing to con­vince them that the way they feel isn't im­por­tant.

That said, we can’t al­ways pre­dict what will make us happy or how we’ll ad­just to a new sit­u­a­tion. Of­ten we need to try things and see how they work out. For ex­am­ple, you might think that hav­ing a house with a bath is es­sen­tial but, in re­al­ity, you don’t miss it much (or equally, the op­po­site is pos­si­ble where you un­der­es­ti­mate how im­por­tant hav­ing a bath is to you.)

Ex­pect to swing be­tween logic and emotion

Con­ver­sa­tions about ma­jor life de­ci­sions are go­ing to elicit a mix of logic and emotion. For ex­am­ple, oth­ers' re­ac­tions to your de­ci­sions might not bother you, but your part­ner might care deeply about what his or her par­ents think. Even if you be­lieve your part­ner shouldn’t fac­tor that in, the re­al­ity is, it mat­ters to them.

If you tend to get swept up in emotion, you might find your part­ner seems un­feel­ing. If you’re prag­matic, try not to get an­gry if your part­ner doesn’t seem to see things in a ra­tio­nal way.

Con­sider mid­dle ground or ‘step­ping stones’

In terms of tem­per­a­ment, some peo­ple pre­fer to make big life­style changes in one swoop. Oth­ers feel more com­fort­able with grad­ual changes and need back-up plans to soothe their anx­i­eties. There are lots of op­tions that you can ex­plore: You could rent out your cur­rent prop­erty and put your be­long­ings in stor­age for a year while you ‘road test’ an al­ter­na­tive liv­ing sit­u­a­tion. You could prac­tice liv­ing in a smaller area of your cur­rent home, or liv­ing with­out cer­tain pos­ses­sions – box every­thing up ex­cept for the things you most want to keep. To­gether, you’re in charge of your lives and your de­ci­sions so ex­per­i­ment in any way you wish to.

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