This is the last article in the relationship section of the LOVE Series. We did not hold back when it came to discussing relationships. Today is another rather large topic that we all face at some point, and that is how to navigate growth in long term relationships. It is inevitable that we all grow as each year passes. Some grow leaps and bounds, some mere inches, both are perfect measurements. However, it is tricky to be in a long term committed relationship where two people are growing at different rates or different directions. So what do you do when this occurs? That is what we are discussing today. Again, I am not a relationship expert, but I am pretty awesome at reading people and situations like these. Let’s begin!
Two People, Two Directions
It’s actually recorded in the United States that the first time a woman marries is at 27 years old (on average). The average age of death in the United States is near 80 years old. So now, we all hope to be married to one person for the rest of our lives. That’s the plan, right? Leaving us with 53 years to live happily with our chosen spouse. FIFTY THREE years! That is a very long time and a lot happens during those five decades.
Naturally it is common people grow. Sometimes those people grow in different directions. This occurs due to trauma or tragedy. It may be self discovery or realization that shifts their direction. Possibly the growth is due to needing a change and more variety. But what happens when the two individuals in a relationship grow in different directions?
It depends on how strong the relationship is. Do you have sound communication? Are you secure enough to do separate things? Is there enough room to grow individually? How extreme are the directions? These are all questions to ask and start formulating a plan. Growing up in a culture that is about instant gratification, it is easy to want to toss out a perfectly great relationship and start again. It’s the reason why the divorce rate has been so high for decades. However, working on repairing and mending the relationships is an option as well. If the relationship is healthy enough, and the two people want the same goals in the end, it is very doable to grow together while growing separate interests.
The other common situation is where one person grows faster than the other. Who knows why this occurs, but it happens. It is possible to out grow people. It’s very possible to move too far ahead and the other stays exactly still. This situation serves more complexity than the last because usually in these situations one person feels resentful while the other person feels insecure. Not all the time, but typically that’s the emotional story behind the situation.
The one who is outgrowing the other can typically feel like they are being held back and leads to an underlying resentment. While the one that is staying still feels insecure with there little growth and sometimes angry that the other person has changed so much.
If there isn’t a ton of communications and constant checks with each other, what often happens is the one who is insecure, cheats. It’s a tough concept to swallow, but that’s what happens. Again, not in ever situation, but more likely than not the person not growing craves some sort of external validation and love to cope with their insecurities of not being enough for their partner. At the same rate, the one who is leaps and bounds ahead, may feel the weight of the relationship on their shoulders. Or they feel like they want to do a number of new things but can’t because of their partner.
With that said, it’s not hopeless for this dynamic to work but it will require a bunch of work from both people in the relationship. There will need to be validation, support, and clear communication on both sides. Also, it is important that despite the growth spurt, each member is pulling their own weight within the relationship. Both are contributing their strengths to form a strong bond. Lastly, there needs to be effort or signs that show the second person will eventually catch up to the one who grew extraordinarily. If each member shows motivation to grow and it’s a matter of time, that’s what truly matters.
Tools To Strength
These may seem rather obvious, but to have a healthy and strong long-term relationship it requires a set of skills. It is important to apply them even more so during change, rough patches and of course growing pains. Here are tools to strength your relationship:
- Clear, respectable, consistent communication
- Regular date night and quality time together
- Sharing your honest fears and feelings about what’s happening
- Addressing issues as they come up, not years down the road
- Intimacy and affection are key, especially if you or your partner’s love language is touch
- Kind appreciation for one another through gestures, gifts, or words
- Say I love you
- Vacation or fun times together to build new memories
- Listen to each other, even if you don’t agree with what is being said, listen
- Validate each other’s feelings
- Share openly your thoughts, ideas, and desires for the future to make sure you both are on the same page
When To Give Up & When To Fight Harder
Ending any type of relationship is difficult and one of the worse pains in life. Ultimately you have to ask your self and each other, “am I happy.” Trust your gut instincts on whether this issue is fixable. Take time to sit, journal, and communicate your needs to your partner and vice versa.
If it is a healthy relationship and you both have the same long term goals in mind, anything is possible. If the relationship is breaking, becoming toxic, or you simple want two very different things in life, then it may be time to part ways. Do what you can to salvage what you have, but at the end of the day, we only have this one life to live. Make sure you are both in a happy and healthy situation.
Question Of The Day
What is the trick you use when growing in long term relationships?