It’s no exaggeration when people say that long-term relationships take work. I don’t know of one marriage that is smooth sailing all the way through. The truth of it is that we are all human. We change and create hundreds of new identities for ourselves throughout a lifetime.
Growing with our spouses can be challenging because, over time, we realize that they aren’t the person we fell in love with all those years before. They’ve changed, evolved, became new versions of themselves. And sometimes, this causes riffs in a relationship.
What we often willfully ignore is the fact that we’ve changed too. We are no longer the person that they fell in love with either.
So I guess the real question is, how do we learn to accept our spouses' changes to nurture a happy and healthy union?
After 15 years of being with my spouse, I've learned that there are several habits that we tend to take on that may provide us with a surface sort of comfort but aren’t providing healthy coping mechanisms to the stresses that come along with marriage.
When you refuse to be honest with one another.
Often, we try to avoid honest conversations with our spouse to “keep the peace.” My husband and I both are very non-confrontational people, so it is easy to slip into the habit of ignoring specific issues we’re facing rather than having difficult conversations.
Yes, the idea of a perfect relationship without fighting is a nice fantasy. But unfortunately, that is all it can ever be — a fantasy. We are, after all, mere humans. We get upset. We become annoyed. We sometimes even feel trapped within our current confines.
By not allowing ourselves to be open and honest with the grievances we have, we’re allowing those feelings to build a wall between us and our significant other.
By talking plainly to your spouse about your relationship and what may be lacking, you’re opening up an entirely new world of possibility. There’s no shame in reflecting on the hard truths that every relationship goes through overtime. And, real talk here, these issues are a lot easier dealt with when both parties of the relationship are engaged in active brainstorming and conversation.
Not supporting one another's goals.
Of course, we all try to be the husband or wife of the year by outwardly supporting our significant other's goals. We give them cheers and hurrahs in day-to-day life, but quietly we are stewing inside. Maybe their new passion takes time away from the relationship. Perhaps it is the reason for the shift in personality and demeanour in our loved ones. Maybe the new job or career goal makes us nervous because if our spouse achieves this goal, what will happen then? Will they leave and move on to greener pastures? Will they all of a sudden hold the financial cards in the relationship?
Oftentimes, the large goals of one particular spouse can cause shifts in a relationship. It means that the union that we’ve become so comfortable with might change, and/or the person we love might change with it.
The thing is, it’s probably going to all change whether we like it or not.
The real question is, what side of the fence do you want to be on when your spouse finally does achieve their goal? Do you want to be the person who was quietly resenting them for not spending enough time with you while working so hard on themselves? Or do you want to be their cherished partner who is standing excitedly at their finish line holding out a cold bottle of water, saying, “I knew you could do it, hun, I’m so proud of you.”
Unwilling to accept growth in oneself and your spouse.
I wouldn’t want to meet a person who never grew in their emotional or mental well-being from the age of 20 to their deathbed age. The thought of a person like that makes me really sad. I look at the ideals and convictions I held at 20 years old and shake my head and laugh. I knew nothing back then. Just as I’m sure when I’m 60 and rereading these articles, I’ll think I had known nothing at 35.
Even our values and dreams for the future are constantly shifting with each life experience that comes along. We cannot expect to be with the same person we met 25 years ago.
My husband and I were teenage sweethearts. Back then, he’d buy me just-because flowers and tell everyone we knew that I was the most beautiful woman in the world. He’d write me love-notes all the time with literally the sweetest of sweet nothings written inside.
Now, after ten years, the just-because flowers and love notes are a thing of the past. We don’t have the time for that kind of sappy thing anymore. Does this fact make me sad at times? Of course! But I am well adjusted enough to understand that as thirty-somethings, raising two tweens and launching our careers, we don’t need those extras — at the moment at least.
We are certainly not the people we were when we met 15 years ago. My husband was a mohawked punk kid who sold pot as a side gig when he wasn’t cooking fried chicken at KFC. I was a cashier at KFC (that’s where this love story began) while writing doleful poetry that not even my high school English teachers could appreciate.
We’ve both come a long way, and although some of the young-love-spark has left us over the years, there is something to be said with growing older together while also growing comfortable with one another’s evolution.
No relationship is perfect. But understanding the importance of honesty, support and acceptance in a maturing relationship is sure to put a couple on the right track for a healthy and long-lasting union.
First published on Medium.com