When we set out on a journey of personal growth, it can be saddening when those we love don’t join us. Here’s advice for those wondering “what can I do?”
Have you ever secretly wished you could time travel back to the Victorian ages, when you and your partner would’ve had defined roles for life, and hardly grew or evolved?
Of course, the social oppression and strict class system in Victorian Era was not the ideal way of life…but at least it provided some comfort. You knew your destiny and exactly what to do with your life at any given moment. For example, if you were born a Lord, you married a Lady and you both remained Landed Gentry all your life; if you were born a peasant girl, you married a peasant boy and you stayed peasants all your life. As you all stayed in set roles all your life, the relationships you formed tended to be much less volatile, since the people in them seldom grew or evolved.
Fast-forward to today.
The modern ages have brought to us breathtaking chances to grow and evolve; but as we are constantly presented with opportunities to change our lives, many of us find ourselves and our relationships in upheaval.
Perhaps you’ve been selected for a Fulbright study abroad project to Turkey with the prospect of entering politics, but your partner is not interested in getting involved. Perhaps you’ve picked up a new streak on mindfulness and meditation for fitness, but your partner prefers to stay a gym rat. Perhaps…you fill in the blank —I’m sure you’ve been through these scenarios once or more. Perhaps you are going through it right now!
Whether it’s a career advancement or a new-found passion, there is always the risk that you and your partner will grow apart—especially if you are growing or evolving, but your partner isn’t…
When this happens, what can you do?
1. Include your partner (if possible).
Try to include him/her in your newfound passion or path and see if they’ll pick something up so you can grow together in the same direction. The key is to plant seeds and see if they grow—encourage, without being forceful.
Let’s say you were the one going on the Fulbright program, you could test the water with your partner by asking: “Would you like to visit me in Turkey while I’m studying there? I know you always wanted to go. It’ll be fun!” You may not, however, want to make a strong demand that will probably backfire, like: “You have to come with me to Turkey! I’m sure you’ll see how right it is for us once you get there.”
2. Converse with yourself (first).
If s/he is unwilling or incapable of growing in the same direction or at the same pace with you, have an honest conversation with YOURSELF first. Can I still accept him/her as who s/he is, even as I grow or evolve into a new person?
If the direction of your growth will change the fundamentals of who you are and how you deal with the emotional, physical, and financial aspects of your relationship going forward (the key aspects of long term relationship compatibility), then the answers might be a brutal NO. But if it’s merely a newfound passion in fly-fishing or pottery, there might still be plenty of room for your independent growth without affecting the strength of the relationship (e.g., perhaps she can go on a ladies’ trip to Cabo while you go fly fishing for a weekend or two).
3. Converse with your partner (next).
Finally, when you’ve had your own answer, have an honest conversation with your partner to see things from his/her perspective. See if both of you are open to exploring possible options of staying together, or face the reality and have a cordial breakup.
Approach the conversation as a friend with kindness, so your partner will feel comfortable sharing his/her honest opinions, concerns or fears with you. And when they do, pay close attention so you don’t miss any potential opportunity to find a solution together. Give your partner a fair share in the final decision—either in making a realistic plan to stay together, or having a friendly break up. This is important because even if you’ve decided you can’t accept your partner’s choice to not grow with you, s/he might still be able to point out solutions to stay together that were previously in your blind spot. On the other hand, even if you’ve decided you can still accept your partner, s/he might no longer feel comfortable with the new you; you’ll have to respect that and let him/her go, as hard as it may be.
At the end of the day, let us remember that whether it’s the Victorian Era or modern age, it will always take both partners’ willingness, efforts, and consistent communication to build a relationship that flourishes.
If anything, our modern pace of personal growth helps us find a better life partner in the long run, by throwing us into these scenarios more often than ever, so we can practice and learn at a faster pace. If we are willing to confront ourselves and practice communicating with our partners about what we each truly want from life (and whether we can grow together), in the end, we are more likely to find a life partner that we CAN happily grow together with.
What do you think? What happened the last time you were growing or evolving, but your partner wasn’t? What did you do?
About the Author
Keira Peng is the Founder of WeLove, a premium Love and Lifestyle coaching service that helps singles find love with better online profiles, better interactions, better real life dates, and better relationships. She’s helped thousands of singles improve their dating life and find their dream partners. Connect with Keira through her website.