The impact of individual change on your relationships
September 19, 2012 by
Categories: Relationships, Therapy

There have been many conversations on this blog about changing selves and growth. Many factors contribute to change: environment, people, travel, pain, and emotions in general. But the focus has largely centered on the individual self and not as much on how change affects relationships as a result.

I’m very aware of my own fluid change and shifting identity and that everyone experiences this. But something I have neglected to think of is that as a result we never fully know people the way we wish we would. I read recently that we only get pieces of our closest friends and I am finding that to be true.

That feeling of being “known”  and “knowing” so well is a significant aspect in my friendships and what makes them meaningful, familiar, fun, and loving. When you’re in a close relationship, knowing that person better than anyone else is something that you may even take pride in. And that person knowing you is special, because often only few people can see beyond your exterior and understand things differently.

It can be difficult to acknowledge that what you know of your partner or friend is based on limited information, because there will always be a gap created by the change occurring in each individual.

Not only that, but what we know of people is also made up of memories and images that we constantly edit. You interact in different ways, but once you are apart you each walk away with a variation in perspective of what actually transpired. I know that I do this. This does not mean that these memories are not based off of truth, it just means that we unconsciously imagine people to be the way we want and need them to be.

 

Still, we long to know all parts of people, or to have people know all parts of us.

This is not something to despair over. Truly understanding that you will change and others will change too is knowing that the ebbs and flow in closeness and distance  is inevitable and even positive.  Knowing this and accepting this limit in fully “knowing” others can be freeing and move your relationship towards interdependence.

Thinking back to many couples I have worked with, much of the struggle is that one or the other has changed into a seemingly unrecognizable person. The foundation, the fact  they thought they knew about their partner is now a mystery and that can be frightening and uncomfortable. Things you may have previously agreed on could look different. Ways of thinking and values could transform over the years. And what you hoped would be stable could start to shake.

When struggling to accept that your friend or partner is going through a change that you cannot fully know or understand, think back to a time where you were doing the same. What was helpful to me was not that the person could read my mind, but that they were supportive and present throughout. Though change may have affected the dynamic of the relationship, they were able to see that it didn’t have to end the relationship.

Just as you do not always understand yourself, you will not always be fully understood. That is okay. The best gift you can give a self,  friend or partner is room to grow.

 

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One Thought About The impact of individual change on your relationships

  • Trent September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm Reply

    I think that one of the difficult parts of being aware of how our changing affects others is maintaining that balance between doing what is good for ourselves and what is good for our relationships. That being said, I agree that we do need to not only accept, but expect change in the people we love (which is another difficult thing to do at times).

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