Dear Coach Laura,
I met a wonderful man 10 years ago. We had similar goals and liked to do many of the same activities. In the last 10 years I’ve spent considerable time and effort learning to become a more confident, less problem-based person. As we all know, life is a journey, not a destination. The journey I started when I began my self development isn’t the same path that my mate chose to begin. Now 10 years later I’ve grown/evolved into a different person with different needs/desires. I have a feeling there are so many things to learn from this experience. As much as I love him, we are in a place where who we are as people is too different to stay in a marriage. After healing from this relationship, should I get into a new one, I would not want this to happen again. What advice can you give me so I can be aware of the beginning of the drift apart?
Sincerely, Healing Soul
Dear Healing Soul,
Last night my husband mentioned the old adageâ€¦ â€œWomen marry men hoping they will change, and men marry women hoping they wonâ€™t.â€ Knowing this I caution every woman getting into relationship about changing your man. The greatest thing you can do for yourself and your relationship immediately is to dismiss those hopeful thoughts of him changing. If youâ€™ve thought to yourself, â€œIf heâ€™d onlyâ€¦. do something thoughtful, buy me flowers, tell me more of his feelings, etc.â€ youâ€™re on course for disappointment if you are expecting him to do so. Iâ€™m not saying he wonâ€™t or ever will. Rather, I am letting you know that your expectation will get you into trouble. In fact, I recommend relying upon the wisdom that Pat Allen says in her book Getting to ‘I Do’ . That is, you will see the best of your guy come out in the beginning of your relationship. In general, the beginning of a relationship is the time he is on his very best behavior. Accept this and otherwise you are headed for heartache. If you feel that what you are seeing in the beginning of your relationship is not good enough for you, do not get deeply or intimately involved with that man. You can be friends but not lovers.
According to David Snarch, author of Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships, having expectations for your partner is a detriment in any relationship. Any expectation of your partner changing in relationship sets you up for deep heartache, disappointment and unhealthy relationship patterns developing. Yes, people change, after all you have. So you wonâ€™t be able to predict whether you will grow apart at some point but you can give yourself every opportunity to grow together by taking a few very important steps.
First, understand that expecting him to change in the way you want is the problem. Having expectations that someone else needs to do something in order for you to be happy, puts that partner in a very uncomfortable position. After all if he loves you, he wants to do things for you and be a source of happiness in your life. At the same time if he is compromising himself then he will resent the change you feel you must have in order to be happy. I am sure you donâ€™t want to be with someone who resents you.
Next, you must know define the non-negotiable qualities of the mate and relationship you want to create. The goods news is that you have the time and space to clarify that for yourself.
Clarify the top 3-5 shared values that must be a part of your relationship. To do this, first reflect back on the previous relationships youâ€™ve had. Note the common values you shared. Note the values that are important to you but were not shared. This is a good start of the values clarification process. Each time you go on a date or have a conversation with a man, check in with yourself and ask yourself the following questions:
- What values did he represent?
- Do they match mine?
- Are there any values he projected that I could see enhancing my life?
- Are there any values he projected that didnâ€™t feel right to me?
I recommend getting to know someone really well before getting physically intimate with them for just this reason: To keep a level head where you can discern the nuances of this man. Explore him curiously while holding onto whatâ€™s important to you. Donâ€™t give yourself to him until you know there is a synergy of values and you deeply trust him with your heart. Finding out if you are matched in your personal relationship values will be a huge factor in the joy you both will reap in your relationship over time.
No one is perfect. And the one thing most of us deeply desire is to be loved, appreciated and accepted for who we are exactly as we are. That being said, women who are focused on personal development may also want to consider another area to explore for personal growth. That is the practice of acceptance of another in relationship, enjoying the best of him and all the while taking responsibility for and cultivating your own happiness. Then if you can get your needs met, your guy can be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself and you have retained your power.
Women who are taking steps in growing themselves often miss something when they are in a relationship that doesnâ€™t bring them joy. I should know, I mastered this one early on and became a profound lesson for me. We find it easy to point out those areas where our partners are not evolving. Now I recommend honoring where another is at. This can be especially difficult for a woman who is missing a deep compassion for herself. In reality, it is arrogant to proclaim oneself more evolved than another. You know that this man has helped you to grow in ways you never would have without him in your life and your relationship with him was therefore profound and perfect. And if where he is at doesnâ€™t work for you or you canâ€™t accept that for whatever reason, you must be honest with yourself and make the choices that are right for your true fulfillment.
Honor your process for you are definitely on a path to more joy just by asking this question. This is a wonderfully rich time for you to get to know yourself more, step more fully into your authentic feelings and desires and you will consciously create a new relationship where you can blossom further.
Hereâ€™s to your joy.