Singlehood is fertile ground for change, growth and development. The inherent freedom of not having another person (or people) to hold you to account, and for you to not have to consider, leaves plenty of room for self-analysis and introspection.
But what happens to people once they enter into a long-term relationship? The desire to grow, explore, learn, change and try, doesn’t get erased or diminished by being in love. But growing, exploring, learning, changing and trying new things can be harder within a relationship. The ‘non-changing’ partner might feel threatened, and act in a dismissive or unsupportive way. The ‘changing’ partner might repress their desires to appease their partner. Not an ideal scenario for either partner in the long-term really.
So how do you approach individual growth, when you’re in a long-term relationship? Here are a few ideas:
Deal with the fears
Fear is a good starting point for figuring out what’s going on with someone. If a partner is afraid that you’ll leave them once you starting working out and improve your fitness (and by consequence, appearance), it can provide an insight into some of the issues going on with them. Is it bringing up past fidelity issues? Do they not feel secure within the relationship at the moment?
These aren’t easy or particularly fun questions to deal with (especially in comparison to say streaming and binge-watching past seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race). But it’s stuff that needs to be done and dealt with in a relationship. Otherwise my dear, you might find that the time has come for you to lip synch – for your life!
Talk it out
And really, talk it out. Be honest and upfront about what it is that you want and why you want it. Talking about all the details (big and small) might help to bring a degree of certainty and comfort to both partners.
Sharing your motivation for whatever it is you want to do, will also make it easier for your partner to support you. If your partner understands the underlying reasons for why you’re doing something, it will hopefully make them more about to support you as you go about what it is that you want to do.
There’s always a risk
For many people, change is associated with loss. In a way, that’s an undeniable truth. Whenever you change one aspect of your life (you get a new job), another aspect of your life is affected (you might get home later, or you might have to work weekends).
That’s why talking about why you’re doing something is so important. Sharing that you’re changing careers because you want to save up for a deposit on a home together, will make having less time to socialise with friends more bearable. It also engages both partners and in a way, something what was solely a “me” thing, becomes a “we” thing – in a good way.
Figure out what you want
Before you can share your motivations for wanting to make a change, you yourself need to have some stuff figured out in your head. Are you wanting to take up a new hobby because it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, or are you unhappy in your relationship and just looking for an excuse to get out of the house?
You can’t expect a partner to be cool with something if a) you haven’t really figured it out yourself and b) you’re not telling them what’s really going on with you. Change always starts within yourself, so it’s important that you take as much time and space as you need to figure out what you want.
It might be time to move on
In the overwhelming majority of cases, relationships can handle one partner going through a period of change and growth. Some bumps during the adjustment period are normal. Ultimately, it’s worth it though and both partners end up happier. As a result, the relationship ends up being stronger.
Sometimes, that’s not the case. It’s a fact of life that people do grow apart. Sometimes, it can be wanting two separate and incompatible things (one partner wants to live in Australia, the other wants to live overseas). Other times, it can be a case of one partner stopping the other partner from getting what they want (having kids, for instance). In both of these cases, it might be better to move on.
After all, you’re either going to have to do something you don’t want to, or give up on something you had your heart set on. In the long-term, will either of these two choices make you happy?…