How we watch television, communicate with extended family, and even play video games with friends has changed tremendously in the last 20 years. Change is inevitable.
But what about when your spouse changes? Notice I said, “when,” not “if.” TV viewing, phone communication, and gaming was and is going to change. And there’s a good chance your spouse will also, which can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are 1,000 different changes a person may go through during the course of a long-lasting committed relationship. Some good and some not so good. (For the purposes of this blog, we’ll spend the majority of time focusing on changes that are meant to be for good.)
It may be a change in lifestyle, such as eating habits, a massive weight loss effort, or a change in thinking about things like politics, family, religion, etc. I’ve watched my spouse change and admittedly, it can be uncomfortable. You may question the security of the marriage, whether your spouse will still like you, or how it will affect how you do life together. Though you may know your spouse is growing and evolving as a person, the uncertainty can create anxiety.
There also may be the concern of, “Will we grow apart?” You had grown to really like the person you married. Now they’re changing. You’re not sure whether the two of you will continue to get along and enjoy one another.
Yes, there are some changes that are not healthy. They may be triggered for a number of reasons. Discussing those is for another blog.
In general, people grow, evolve, mature, and change as they learn and experience more of life. What drives couples apart is when we hold our spouse back from growth out of insecurity or fear.
How do you deal with a changing spouse?
Is the change bad for them as a person? Did they stop drinking or going to clubs? Did they start eating a vegan diet? Are they forming some new beliefs? If they’re changing for the intended betterment of themselves, then you should explore what really concerns you. Understanding their motivation can give you insight into the mind of your spouse.
Communicate from a place of curiosity, not fear or defensiveness. You will never stop getting to know your spouse. It’s easy to become comfortable with the image of your spouse, but marriage can stay fresh when you are continuing to learn about your spouse. Their changes don’t necessarily make your current way of thinking and doing things wrong. Your spouse may question things that you or they have done for years. They may not want to do them anymore. Be willing to ask questions and listen to their thought process.
Share your concerns while still giving your spouse the freedom to grow. The changes your spouse goes through do affect you and your relationship. Change isn’t always easy. Encourage your spouse to better themselves. Discuss the effects that changes can have on the relationship and the family. That will help everyone’s eyes be wide open as your spouse and sometimes the entire family changes their lifestyle. Stay connected and committed to the relationship as your spouse is learning new things.
Be patient. Your spouse may not understand how they’re changing during the process. This makes it difficult for them to communicate all their thoughts and desires. There may be some flip-flopping, for example going from vegan and back to non-vegan as they learn and become settled on what they feel is best for them. It’s a process. Keep a long-term view. Frustration may set in. Remember it’s a process that sometimes includes trial and error.
Know that you’ve changed. We’re all changing. Some in small, subtle ways. Others in big, major ways. Your changes could be easier to adjust to. Some people simply adjust to change more easily than others. Knowing there are some things that are different about you since the two of you met can give you comfort that change is inevitable. It can also be positive for the relationship.
As a married couple, part of our desire is to help our spouse be the best version of themselves. You grow with each other even if it appears your spouse is the one doing the growing. Through communication, understanding, and commitment to the relationship, you may simply be getting a birds-eye view of your spouse growing from good to great.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***