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Your Partner Will Change Over Time But Your Relationship Doesn’t Have To Suffer

Mental Health

Like the people in them, relationships change over time. In fact, you’re not the same person you were ten years ago even when considering your relationship with your parents! In romantic settings, change in the relationship can feel scary and unexpected. Because you chose to be with someone for who they were at a specific time, accepting a different version of them is bound to cause tension. 

But (like people) relationships can also be flexible and responsive, absorbing change and producing a greater amount of strength and stability over time. 

Our hope is that your relationship grows and matures to fit you and your partner, even as you both change with time. In fact, we believe it’s very possible for the conflict resolution tactics, expressions of love languages, support, and love in a relationship to develop so that the people in it feel seen and cared for even in seasons of change.

Why Relationships Change

There are many reasons that contribute to shifts in your relationship; some factors might be huge and easy to identify and other times, small changes compound over time, like the incremental changes of a turning ship. Here are a few reasons your relationship may have changed significantly:

1.     Natural Relationship Rhythms

Relationships change naturally. 

We hear all about the “honeymoon stage” being one of the most exciting times. This stage is the beginning of the relationship when two people can’t get enough of each other. They’re newly together and are enjoying a largely-friction-free season when there’s little conflict and plenty of infatuation. 

From there, couples normally come together and begin to commit to each other. Whether by moving in together, labeling the relationship or otherwise showing commitment to the other, couples take the bliss of the honeymoon stage and dedicate themselves to the relationship in a deep way. 

Many couples also experience a stage marked by difficulty and tension. This is when the couple is no longer on their best behavior with each other and let their mental and emotional guard down. Unguarded, each person may start recognizing the things in the other person that they dislike—things that were endearing in the honeymoon phase. 

Couples that push past the difficult stage often enter into a commitment stage. For most, that means marriage, but regardless of what commitment looks like for each couple, once two people learn to navigate the rocky parts of a relationship, a deeper love and trust typically follows. 

With the natural changes that tend to happen in relationships, it’s important for people to discern the best ways to navigate things.

2.    People Change

Every day, you are a different version of yourself. The events of today help shape who you are and how you think tomorrow—even small things at work or at home or in your social settings can slowly shift your character and identity. These small, and sometimes huge, shifts are happening in your partner as well. 

Here are some small and big experiences that can change someone in a relationship leading to a change in how they relate to their partner. One of you:

These may seem like minor shifts but can cause tensions in how two people relate to each other. Changes don’t mean a relationship will fail, but that the people in the relationship need to adjust along with these shifts and the new dynamics of the relationship. 

3.    Circumstantial Change

Life doesn’t stay the same for very long but lasting relationships can weather life’s ups and downs well. While two people may stay the same for a few months or years, events outside of their control can affect their relationship. Anything can happen; one of you can:

These life situations can create tension in one of both individuals, shifting the relationship dynamics. Suddenly, one partner may be the breadwinner which can be stress inducing or both individuals may experience deep grief over the loss of a close friend. Emotional distress can cause either individual to be overwhelmed and irritated which will require the other person to be more patient and kinder than usual. These kinds of shifts can feel burdensome over time and require both people to change to meet the challenges of a new situation.

What Now?

Change in a relationship isn’t always bad, however, us humans are often change averse! So if something shifts in your relationship, avoid the temptation to believe that the change is a bad one.  It’s important to note that conflict in a relationship is natural and not always "bad" either. It may feel bad in the moment, but the occurrence of conflict is actually an indicator of a healthy relationship when handled appropriately by both individuals. 

Shifts in a relationship, whether a seasonal, individual, or situational change can be the catalyst for growth and deeper connection depending on how you or your partner handle it. And remember, some changes are good, though uncomfortable at first. Your partner inviting you to the gym with them might feel like an intrusion on your quiet, lazy evenings but the time together can be a great weekly bonding opportunity for y’all. A close friend getting sick may mean weeks of hospital visits and a strain on your finances as you try to help that person—it can also give you both an opportunity to show up for each other in new, empathetic ways.

We encourage you to have honest conversations with your partner when the relationship changes—discuss who or what changed and how that affected your situation. Be open about what you think needs to be adjusted to make the best of the new situation and what you need in order to flourish.  

If relationship changes are hard to navigate, be open to inviting a trusted friend or counselor to help you both. An outsider can add helpful perspective or offer helpful advice. The truth is, others have experienced some of the same challenges you may be facing so it can be encouraging to hear how they maneuvered similar situations. Professional counselors, like those at The Source, can also help.

Written by:
Davina Adcock

Davina is a native of Grenada and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. She's a content specialist with a passion for empowering women to thrive and reach their full potential. In her free time, Davina is probably painting, reading, or baking something unnecessarily sweet.

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