‘There is nothing permanent except change’. Heraclitus
This particular Greek philosopher had life pegged some 2,500 years ago: change is inevitable.
The world around us changes, as do we as life progresses. Aside from the physical aspects of ageing, over time we evolve in our attitudes, beliefs and priorities.
Change can lead to new opportunities, experiences and personal self-improvement. When it is considered in the context of relationships however it can be perceived as a threat.
‘But I don’t want them to change’
In the midst of a happy, contented relationship the prospect of a partner changing – for example, their outlook on life – is capable of instilling fear.
Thoughts race through our minds at the prospect: ‘I love him/her as they are now’, ‘I don’t want our relationship to change’ or ‘I want them to stay the same’.
The idea that they might be losing interest in shared activities or their attitude to work (why they do it and who for) can feel like the beginning of the end. Or result in us forcing our loved one to stay as they are, leading almost inevitably to resentment and anger.
Change is scary
Naturally we are averse to change and have been since our earliest years.
As children we are reluctant to sleep in our own beds, relinquish the comfort blanket and sleep with the light off.
Those strong emotions never really leave us completely once we reach adulthood, like loss, sadness or anxiety.
From our experience counselling couples for over 50 years, almost all long-term relationships experience multiple periods of change.
During that time we have also determined that it does not need to be a frightening or divisive process.
Change creates powerful emotions
The first step in dealing with change in a relationship is to accept that change naturally creates powerful emotions.
It takes time to come to terms with them and to rationalise the impact they are having on you and your partner. Being patient with yourself and each other is important as such emotions rarely normalise in a short period of time.
Recognise the sacrifices that need to be made
Relationships are built on compromise and recognising sacrifices that are willingly made. Therefore during periods of change, recognition becomes even more important.
It is all too easy to forget the sacrifice made by a partner in our quest for personal change.
Conversely it is common for the individual making sacrifices to keep their feelings hidden, instead of communicating their concerns and emotions. In either case resentment and bitterness can soon follow.
Embrace it as a couple
Perspective is important in coping with change as a couple, as is the understanding that your relationship is an entity in its own right.
We need to view any period of change as an evolution in our relationship and not something happening to one individual.
Couples that embrace this concept of relationship thrive compared to those that do not. Instead of allowing the fear of change to overwhelm, they explore what it could mean for them.
This comes from an acceptance that both perspectives are valid and require appropriate consideration. Similarly it requires both individuals to embrace aspects of the other’s interests.
There is nothing permanent. Accept change
We all change over time. Our perspectives on life, our priorities and how we want to live out our time on this planet will evolve.
It need not be a reason to fear the end of a relationship.
Instead it is an opportunity to deepen existing relationships and form even stronger bonds with each other.
Counselling and support for couples
Navigating periods of change in a relationship can be a challenging process. The support and guidance of a professional couples or marriage counsellor can offer a stability and impartiality that smooths the process.
At The Spark we have been supporting couples navigate the ups and downs of life for over 50 years. We can do the same for you.
Locate your nearest The Spark counselling centre or contact us to discuss your needs.