One of the most common factors among long-lasting marriages is the recognition that there have actually been multiple marriages between the same two people. That is the premise of Ada Calhoun’s 2017 article for the New York Times. Calhoun, along with an innumerable list of fellow authors, argues that change is the only constant in marriage. It can be challenging, but it is also one of the most rewarding facets of a continuously developing relationship when both partners are open to change.
The Evolution of a Person
If you’re struggling with changes in your partner’s behavior or life goals, the first thing you have to do is take a step back. Shakti Sutriasa writes in Huffpost that you have to make sure you’re in the right mindset before addressing change in your relationship. Human beings naturally evolve throughout their lifetimes as they experience more of what the world has to offer. Therefore, you have to accept that it is unrealistic to expect your partner to enter stasis the moment they say “I do.”
Take a few days to consider what about the change is causing you stress. Is it uncertainty, the feeling that this person is different from the one you married? Is it actually harmful, or do you perceive it as a threat to your comfortable status quo? Is there an aspect of the change that makes you feel unloved or unappreciated? Once you’ve identified exactly how you feel about the changes you perceive in your loved one, it’s time to talk about it.
Broaching the Subject
Carmel D. Brown writes for Marriage that approaching your spouse on the subject of change in your relationship is a sensitive subject. Your tone and method can make the difference between a meaningful conversation that allows both of you to feel seen and a fight that could threaten the integrity of your relationship as a whole.
Remember to stay calm and focus on coming from a place of love. Award winning marriage counselor Caree Brown suggests balancing any one criticism with at least one compliment or affirmation to maintain a relationship fueled by positivity and respect. Following this rule is especially crucial if you’re trying to work out a potential conflict.
Start by telling your spouse how much you appreciate who they are and how they’ve grown. Verbally recognize that change can mean growth for you as a couple and that you’re ready to embrace the healthy evolution of your relationship. The entire conversation should come from a place of love. Gently address that you’ve noticed changes in their behavior, and make sure they know that you just want to be on the same page. It may even be changes in yourself that are triggering what you’re seeing.
The whole point is to maintain open communication and give your spouse the opportunity to embrace new evolutions of themselves. Let them know that they have your support. Understanding your spouse is the first step to being understood yourself. That being said, not all couples are able to work out how to deal with change by themselves, especially when one or both partners are engaging in harmful behaviors. In these situations, you should always seek help earlier rather than later.
Speaking with an Expert
Caree Brown, L.C.S.W. estimates that most couples slog through at least six years of unhappiness prior to seeking professional counseling. At that point, untangling years of resentment and small upsets that have grown into defining moments in the relationship can be challenging. If you’re trying to discuss changes in your relationship and your spouse is unresponsive or combative, then it may be time to suggest speaking with a therapist. Frame it as a way of improving your relationship as a couple, but if they are unwilling, you can still meet with a therapist on your own.