The other day I was reading an article titled “To Stay Married, Embrace Change.” Here’s the sum up: “I’ve had at least three marriages. They’ve just all been with the same person.”
How much change will happen in a marriage? From what I’ve read in this article -and many others- marriages swing frequently through a jungle gym of personality shifting, with both people completely overhauling basic facets of who they are multiple times over the course of 20 or 30 or 40+ years.
I think about who I was at 22 and I guess I do feel quite differently now than back then. I travel a lot more and worry less. I meditate almost daily and work on way less theater. I have more boundaries at the same time as I’ve loosened up. I’m less likely to put up with people walking on me. I’m a bit more myself and try less to act like someone I’m not. But a lot of my personality remains the same. Do you feel differently than how you felt 10 years ago? Now imagine how you’ll feel 20 years from now. It’s very hard to completely predict.
Marriage adds an extra layer of complexity because both people continue to change- but not necessarily at the same time. Careers change, friends shift, moves happen, babies are born or not born, deaths may occur, there are true times of sickness and health, money situations evolve… so many variables.
The question this brings up in my mind is: how do you know if you can or should stick with your spouse/significant other through personality changes that you really don’t like? Do you not love them anymore or do you not love the change itself? What types of changes are unacceptable? These are semi-rhetorical questions, although I did once have an ex go through a major personality change which ultimately broke us up. But- I want to protest- the change was him becoming emotionally abusive/never around and was extremely detrimental to my well being. The change wasn’t something simple like him becoming really messy.
Which changes are too much to handle?
“He’s not the person I married.”
“We grew apart.”
“She didn’t change. I did.”
These are such common phrases- but how should we handle the feelings they bring up?
Why haven’t we been made aware early in life that personality evolution on both sides of a marriage is an absolute definite? Why isn’t it common knowledge that these changes will scare us and possibly lead us to contemplate divorce? Armed with preparation, we might be able to navigate these relationship changes and not get blindsided by them. Change scares us, but with marriage, can it sometimes be better to ride the current, knowing that waves and storms are par for the course?