I met Jonathan Fields, the creator of The Good Life Project, a few years ago through mutual friends. I had always been a big fan of his work so I was excited and honored when he invited me to be a guest on his GLP podcast. Jonathan asked my professional opinion on what couples should do when one is growing and evolving more or differently than the other. He went on to explain that some members of his intense mastermind were experiencing conflict in their relationships, as a result of their participation in his group. Jonathan asked me if I had any suggestions for how to remedy the situation and of course you know I did!
Personal growth at a different pace is common for many couples, especially if you were married young. In my client sessions and online, a lot of people come to me seeking guidance around their romantic relationships. They may say ‘I am on my path, but my partner isn’t. I’m scared we’ll drift apart.’ Or ‘My partner and I have completely separate interests, how can we stay connected?’ Jonathan is not the only person curious about how to handle growth in a relationship.
The first truth about romantic love is that not all relationships are meant to last forever. Some are for us to learn about ourselves, to stop repeating unfulfilling patterns or to learn for sure, what we don’t want in a relationship. For example, I had a client who married her high school sweetheart at the age of twenty one and by her mid thirties she had done a lot of personal growth work. She was in therapy and wanted to go back to school to get her masters to become a speech pathologist. Her husband, like her father, had never been supportive of her doing anything different. He was jealous and insecure and as she grew over the years, he remained the same. When she first came to see me she wanted to ‘work’ on her marriage but her husband was not willing to get into therapy as he saw the conflict as her problem. He repeatedly said, ‘You knew who I was when you married me. YOU are the one who has changed.” From the moment she walked in my door, I knew it was only a matter of time before the marriage ended because to resolve conflict, you need two people who are willing to work at it and he wasn’t. Humans evolving is inevitable. You can evolve consciously and with intention as she did or try to use a skill set and the self knowledge you had at twenty for the rest of your life, as he did. They split and she got her masters, started her new career and is about to get engaged. I believe there is a way for two people to continue to grow together and apart but both people need to be interested in striking that balance and finding the solution.
As a psychotherapist I am all for individual therapy and personal growth. However, it is vital to the success and happiness in relationships that couples consider each other on their paths. In healthy relationships, we grow and we want our partner to grow too. Creating a Couple Vision that you discuss and revise at least once a year is a great way to stay on the same path. This includes deciding how to spend your time, energy and resources. To keep the communication open I suggest all couples meet once a week over a meal or tea to have what I call, the State of the Union (get it?). This is an hour a week to give gratitude for what is working, share any grievances and make any simple requests you may have. Having a standing date to opening discuss any resentment that make be building is a way to normalize what may be considered difficult conversations. The more you talk the easier it gets and the closer you become.
If two people are willing to work on a relationship, there isn’t much that can stop their success. I truly believe that couples that spend time together in ways that exercise their bodies and expand minds continue to grow together. So whether you are in a relationship that is new, or one that has lasted decades, now is the perfect time to reconnect, regroup and refocus on where you are, and where you want to be. And to all my singles out there envisioning how you want to feel in a relationship can be an awesome way to manifest new potential connections!
Now I want to hear from you in the comments below. What is your couples vision? Do you already have one? Or do you and your honey need to come together to create a shared outlook for the future? Either way let me know because you know I love connecting with you!
As always, take care of you.
Love Love Love
*image courtesy of Jimmy and Sasha Reade