At the beginning of a relationship, you want to imagine that the amazing bubble you're in will last forever. You’re completely in awe of your partner, they’re in awe of you, and your compatibility feels totally unbreakable—and maybe it is unbreakable, at least for that moment. But the truth is, nobody stays the same, which means that no relationship stays the same. But as both people in a relationship change and evolve, they don’t always evolve together—and that can be a very difficult process to accept.
The important thing to remember is that, even though you might find yourself changing or your partner changing, you don’t need to panic—your relationship can almost always survive that. You just need to figure out how to get past the growing pains. If you can keep the lines of communication open and be willing to reimagine certain aspects of your relationship, it can be an amazing opportunity for growth. Here’s how couples can cope with both of you changing over time, because if you approach it with an open mind, it can actually improve your relationship.
Remember That. Both. Of You Change
When you see your partner changing, it can be a jarring and even upsetting experience. Maybe they become more devoted to work, maybe they get more into yoga and mindfulness, maybe they just seem more stressed and less fun than they used to be. You start to wonder not only if they’re still the person that you fell in love with, but also if they’re still the same person who loves you. It's easy to start feeling insecure.
But before you start to worry, take a look at yourself. You’re probably not the same person who your partner met. Remember the fact that you used to be able to party until 2 am but now you want to stay home and watch Law and Order—or that you never thought you’d want kids and now you couldn’t live without them. You’ve changed since you met your partner, but you love them just the same. So don't see this change as something unique to them, remember that it happens to all of us.
Don’t Worry In Silence
As couples see themselves changing, it’s important to talk about those changes. It doesn't always have to be a huge, serious conversation—you can just tease each other about how you thought you’d never go to an Ikea on a Sunday or actually enjoy it or how they’ve started skydiving to handle a midlife crisis. Reminiscing about the past and tracing how you’ve changed can be a fun bonding experience and keep you from feeling like strangers to each other. The changes didn’t happen overnight, so have a laugh and look back on how different you used to be.
That being said, if you do feel like your partner has changed in a way that's affecting your relationship, you should feel comfortable to bring that up to them. Start a dialogue by saying what you've noticed and, crucially, how it makes you feel. They may not have realized how it was affecting you.
Make Sure You're Finding Things For Yourself
If your partner has gone through a renaissance and is suddenly spending more time socializing or working out or discovering themselves, that can be a great thing for a relationship—if you’re not sitting at home twiddling your thumbs. A lot of the fear and resentment around change comes from finding yourself at a loose end or feeling abandoned. So, if one partner is finding new things that they love to do, they should encourage the other to do the same. You can both have new adventures separately, as long as you support each other and keep a strong base at home.
If your partner is still being good to you, you shouldn't make them guilty if they're spreading their wings a little.
Keep Making Time For Each Other
If your changes over time have started to affect your day to day life—the way that you spend your time, the people you socialize with—make sure you’re still making time for each other. If your partner has discovered they love climbing and spend weekends away scaling mountains, that might be an amazing source of fulfillment and socialization for them. But you need to make sure you’re still spending time together. If you evolve in different directions that’s OK, independence can actually be a really nourishing part of a relationship, but you need to make sure that you don’t evolve into totally different spheres.
Carve out time to spend just the two of you, watch your old favorite movies or go to a favorite restaurant—things that remind you why you're so compatible.
Know If You’re Not Longer Making Each Other Happy
Normally, change is a healthy—even beneficial—part of a relationship. But sometimes, people just do grow too far apart. If you feel like you really don't know this person, that you don't have anything in common, and that maybe you don't even like who they've become, it may be time to reassess the relationship. It may be that their personality has changed fundamentally into someone you don't like. If you've really grown that far apart, don't be scared to find someone who can make you happy. It's rare that you can't find a middle ground, but sometimes you may just need to be realistic about whether you've just become too different.
Changing as people throughout a relationship is totally natural—and can help keep your relationship fresh as you discover new interests and passions. You just need to keep connecting to each other. Even if the superficial things and the trappings change, you're still the people who fell in love and built a life together—and that's more important than the small changes.