Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Relationship.

We all know of relationships that have ended because one party claimed the other had changed and was no longer the person they married.

This always made me pause. I have no doubt there are many reasons couples choose to separate, but using change as a reason seems disingenuous.

Most people aim for a long and happy marriage or relationship. We dream of being with someone who we can love and support and who will love and support us no matter what. It brings us comfort to know, as the years unspool, our partner will be there for us through good times and bad. 

Consequently, if our goal is a relationship that stretches over many decades, isn’t it taken for granted that the other person will change? More importantly, do we truly believe we won’t?

I think most young adults know that marrying based solely on youthful attributes (good looks, strong, shapely bodies) is hardly a stable foundation for a long-term relationship. By its very nature, youth is fleeting, and our appearance will change. We may still be beautiful at eighty, but we aren’t the same kind of beautiful we were at eighteen. 

Assuming most people understand that physical change is inevitable, we can suppose that after the initial rush of physical attraction, most relationships are based on an attraction to the person’s personality. 

Their brilliant mind, quick wit, unflappability, generosity, kindness, and so on are traits that will most likely remain stable for decades. Naturally, they will evolve, but someone who has a great sense of humor as a teen will not lose their ability to find enjoyment in pleasant fun. Granted, it may lessen due to life circumstances (a stressful job and three children), but it will remain part of their nature forever.

So, what do people mean when they say the other person changed and became someone they no longer recognize?

Do they mean the stay-out-until-dawn party animal is no longer because she needs to sleep so she can get up at 5am to get to her high-level job?

Or do they mean the generous partner who booked five vacations a year has changed because they are planning for a secure future?

I think it is easy to overlook that life has phases, and that  people will need to adapt to the current stage. 

The conscientious executive is still the stay-out all-night person, but maybe it is limited to vacations. The financially conservative spouse is still big-hearted, but perhaps they are waiting until mortgages and college fees are all covered. 

They are still there. They are probably just adapting to the new phase they’ve entered

As the years pass, we need to remind ourselves that phases come and go; no phase is permanent. The years when I was raising two small children in a foreign country while my husband worked out of state for months at a time felt endless. But I knew it was a passing, albeit a rather long, phase! 

However, if I was evaluating myself in terms of whether I changed, the answer is a resounding yes. 

I wasn’t the carefree university student of our early years or the driven business owner I later became; I was the 24/7, stay-at-home-home mum. But I was still me, just me in my child-rearing phase. 

I understand when a particular phase feels like a relentless grind, many people look over at their spouse or partner and don’t even recognize who they’ve become. 

But, I suspect that in many instances, the “unrecognizable” person is still the one you married. They are simply trying to adapt to life’s ever-changing challenges. 

The trick is to keep talking. The love of your life is often still in front of you. Share your feelings and expectations with them, and then keep quiet and let them share theirs. 

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