Change is inevitable; make room for it

My wife and I joke about how, if our relationship could survive a quarantine together (which it did!), it can survive anything. It’s kind of a joke. But it kind of isn’t.
I mean, if you still want to be with someone after the stress and the isolation of a global pandemic, that feels like a pretty good sign. But I realize that the one thing harder for a relationship to survive than forced isolation is inevitable change.

I’ve watched three close friend couples go through divorces over the past year or so. And it was no fault of COVID. Sadly, it was because of the one thing that none of us can stop doing — growing and changing.

At least, the hope is that all of us continue to grow and change. Nothing worse than a 45-year-old acting like a college kid.

And yet, when we marry someone, it can be hard to remember that, although we are marrying that person in the here and now, we are committing to the person they will become in the future.

It’s a gamble, sure. I mean, someone could change so radically that they are no longer recognizable. A liberal turned staunch conservative; an atheist turned Orthodox Jew; a casual drinker turned heroin addict — I’m talking major fundamental change.

Chances are, though, that’s not what’s going to happen. It’s far more likely that a person’s tastes and interests will grow and morph and become more refined.
And that is what we should hope for our partners, that they will grow into their true, authentic selves; that they will find their passion; that they will have the chance to live out their dreams.

Maybe your partner was a picky eater when you met and now is a foodie. Maybe your partner was scared of dogs when you met and is now a trainer. Maybe your partner went to school to be a fashion designer when you met and now wants to get an MFA to write best-selling novels.

It can be hard. I get it. You fall in love with someone, and you want them to stay that same someone. And they should in terms of their core values. That is something you should be able to hedge your bets on. Make sure they don’t belong to any secret organizations with questionable motives. Ask them if they’ve ever seriously considered running away and joining the circus. But everything else, well, that’s a bit of a crap shoot to be honest.

When we commit to someone, we are committing to a journey, not a destination.

The trick is to stay open and aware, to pay attention all along the way, to listen to what they are telling you and what they are showing you, too. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s far less abrupt if you keep your head in the game. It can be all too easy to get in a rut. You both just keep on keeping on, so you hardly notice the subtle differences — the mentions about wanting to go back to school, the magazines left open to the page about Bora Bora, the links they send about changing careers mid-life.
If your partner starts showing interest in making changes, listen up. Ask how you can support them. Inquire about what steps they want to or have taken. Show interest in their evolution. The thing is, when you do that for them, they are far more likely to do it for you. And, hopefully, you’re on a journey to become the best version of yourself, too, even if that means seemingly dramatic changes.

My guess is, if you watched your relationship unfold on a movie screen, you would see the signs and how you missed them, and you wouldn’t suddenly be looking at your partner and thinking, “Who are you? What happened to the person I married?” Because you would have been witness to the change.

That’s one of the best parts of being in a relationship, actually — bearing witness to how your partner changes and grows, supporting them in their new endeavors and discoveries, getting to go along for the ride as they make their dreams come true.

Now, if we ourselves have long been resistant to change or don’t like how we’ve changed or somehow think we’re exactly the same as when we met our partners (even though that’s impossible), it makes sense that we wouldn’t be able to see and embrace the changes in our partners. So, look deep in the mirror first.
Look and accept.

And then, open your eyes. See your partner — like, really see them, the way a stranger might. Look at all the things that make them who they are today and get onboard for all the marvelous ways they are about to become their whole selves. Otherwise, you just might miss out on the very best parts or you just might lose your partner all together.

Change is not a curse. It’s a blessing.