If you desire to be in a long-term relationship, you have to go into it with the understanding that your partner is going to change over the years. You essentially will have been with several versions of them. Change is a part of life, and just because you get into a relationship doesn't mean that it stops. Think of who you were 5, 10, 15 years ago. Are you the same? So who will you be 5, 10, 15 years from now?
“Grandma,” Chris asked, “how did you stay married to one man for so long?”
Grandma laughed. “Honey, I wasn’t married to one man. I was married to five.”
Chris’ eyes bugged out. “But you were never married to anyone but Grandpa!”
“Yes, but first I knew him as a young man in love who wanted to give me everything. He then became focused at his job. Later he was a man determined to be the best father he could. After all the children left home, he was trying to find himself again. Now he is a man nearing the end of his life and looking at his mortality. I love them all.”
You Can't Fight It, So Embrace It
Change is a healthy part of life, and a sign of being emotionally stable. The best thing you can do is expect and prepare for it. For instance, when you notice that your partner is starting to change, the best you can do is try to adapt to this new version of the person they are becoming. More times than not this will present a challenge, because people get comfortable with having familiarity around them. Plus, some changes may be for the bad, causing the dynamics of your relationship to change just as much as the changes for the good can.
This is why, when dating someone, it's important to get to know them for who they are, and who they've been. But, don’t forget to understand they are still becoming other versions of themselves that you’ll have to get to know as well. If you only consider the snapshot of the person you see in front of you right now, you will set you up for failure. Anticipating the change will help prepare you to also make changes along the way. Fighting against the natural course of change, is what causes people get to make statements like, “You aren’t the same person, I fell in love with.” Well, technically, they are and they aren’t.
The good thing is that these changes can be for the better. Next week I'm going a blog about different behaviors a person can have, picked up throughout childhood, that can impact how they view relationships. Well during these times of change is where some of the more negative habits can be overwritten. Habits like drinking and addiction, not keeping commitments, hurting people through anger, belittling or bullying others, being selfish and stubborn. But, it will not happen with ease because these types of behaviors are ingrained into a persons fabric. This means they are resistant to change.
If you encounter traits like these early on, you have the opportunity then to decide “yay” or “nay” before moving forward with commitment. If you decide yay, then you are taking a gamble, because they may not ever go away. You could spend countless years waiting, hoping, for something that never happens. Now there are several other factors that play into a persons ability to overwrite ingrained behaviors, but again you can never really know for sure, and take a gamble in proceeding.
This is a common mistake many make due to misplaced optimism. People like to assume that they are special enough, or that their love is important/strong enough to be the catalyst for someone to change and better themselves. True change can only stem from an internal desire to do so. You ever hear the saying, “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig?” The energy you are putting in trying to fix it, could be better placed somewhere else, and with someone else. I know it’s easy to feel optimistic, and responsible, but we also have to get comfortable with the idea it’s ok to walk away.
“They would be so perfect, but…”, “Everything is going great, but…” Those buts are important, and what you have to do is have a serious conversation with yourself. You have to decide if those “buts” are something you are prepared to live with on a daily basis. You have to consider if those are traits that will change down the road. So much happiness is wasted by people chasing potential. And the crazy thing is that some people get caught in this trap multiple times. Fool me once shame you, fool me twice shame on me…right? Or, to just call a spade a spade, this is insanity.
In summary, change is a natural part of life, and it will continue until you die. When you are in a relationship with someone, make sure you anticipate this change happening. The more you know a person, the more you can get a feel for the directions they may go. But, don't assume that change will happen for the better and ignore blatant red flags that appear. Also, don't be afraid to call out changes that are happening for the bad, get ahead of it so you both can course correct together. A quote that I like is, "Marriage means falling in love multiple times, but always with the same person."
1. How long have you been in your relationship? What changes, in regards to your relationship, have you noticed in yourself? In your partner? If you aren’t in a relationship, what changes have you noticed for yourself in the past 5 years?
2. What are three behavior patterns you would like to have in a partner? If in a relationship what are three (if applicable) you would want them to lose?
3. What are three behavior patterns that you currently have? Are they conducive to being in a relationship? What are three (if applicable) you want to develop?