After the shock and horror at the realisation that someone we love has changed, there is still hope for a relationship. The first lesson we can take from this life-changing event is that they are still alive, thankfully. Once that has been cleared up, we can realise that the person has taken their personal growth into their own hands and has taken charge of their life – which is rarely a bad thing. Another way to look at it is that someone is comfortable enough with you to reveal new things about themselves to you and has identified you as a safe space for them to grow in. These are signs that your relationship is alive.
We cannot be the dragons guarding the gates to change for our loved ones. Those around us do not need our permission to evolve and become better versions of themselves, but they do need our support. Often in our quest for companionship, we look for the comfort of similarity, which is understandable, but sometimes that turns into wanting clones of ourselves. We also want to establish relationship dynamics that are predictable and unchanging – again, for comfort. These are not bad things, but they are unrealistic and reductive. This need for predictability is what makes us spiral when confronted with change.
Being able to participate in and support the growth of those around us is a useful tool for creating living relationships. Our relationships stay alive when they can draw from a core connection that nurtures the changes it undergoes throughout a lifetime and that core connection should be the understanding that we have chosen each other for the people we are first. If we can hold onto the connection with the person first, before dealing with the peripheral differences and changes that come, we can create channels of communication that guide how we relate to each other, without prejudice.
When those around us change and grow, it also permits us to do the same. Often we are held hostage by what we think a loved one’s perceptions of us might be if we introduced new parts of ourselves to them. These are sometimes valid fears, but living relationships are always open to change. When we create environments in which everyone is allowed to change, we allow for new learning experiences to enter and for our relationships to build a character that makes them more resilient. Denying each other the opportunity to change, robs us of meaningful engagements and meaningful relationships.
There is also the reality that despite our best efforts, some relationships end and cannot be sustained. This is also an acceptable part of relationships and it is okay to let them go. Sometimes, to support people’s growth, we have to let them go – a difficult realisation. Whatever the case, the point about growth and change is that we must not deny its progress. It is harmful to us and those around us. Whether we grow together or apart, it is always for the best and it is how we know we are still alive.