The Real Reason Your Relationship is Falling Apart
Years ago, I married someone who speaks nine languages, fluently. I, on the other hand, speak “American,” I’m not exactly stupid… I have two master degrees, a PhD. in abnormal psychology underway, I’m writing my third thesis and a couple of people, other than my parents, feel I might have something to say worth hearing. Regardless of my accomplishments, I was no match for this woman. She’s in the top 1% for intelligence on the planet. In reality, I could not compete, nor could I bring anything to the table she didn’t already know… it was like living with “Google”. As long as the sex was great we were great, but eventually, we grew bored with one another and wasted years we’ll never get back.
In the throes of a hot romance, we eloped to the Bahamas and married at sunset on a sandy beach…. Just the two of us. It could have been perfect, but it wasn’t. My mother never cared for the woman, because she saw her as an opportunist, and to be truthful, the woman never liked my mom, so there was no love lost.
When I came home and announced what we’d done, my mother looked me in the eyes and said, “this woman will outgrow you!” Those were the most insulting words ever spoken to me. They were also completely right! She did outgrow me, and I was totally bored with her. It was like a tea leaf prophecy; the future is seen before it’s lived. It was what it was…. nothing would change it.
This is normal, expected and makes complete sense. If you continue to grow, you’ll continue to outgrow things. However, as we get older and especially after we’ve been working for a while, growing stops being the norm. We fall into a routine and so do the same activities over and over again. We watch the same type of shows. See the same group of friends.
Think back to your past year. How much of it was similar to the year before? If everything around you remains constant, it is a clear sign that you’re not growing. And in the words of an American journalist, Gail Sheehy, “If we don’t grow, we aren’t living.”
Now, we all grow in different ways. Just because I outgrew eating out every meal doesn’t mean eating out is a bad thing. It just means that for me and in the direction I’m growing, sitting in 730 restaurants a year just don’t fit anymore. It’s like size 3 shoes, middle school and partying until 6 am. There is nothing wrong with these things; I just outgrew them.
Growth, if you think back to your adolescent years, is not always easy or fun. Unfortunately, this still holds true even in adulthood. When I hear everyone talk about the Oscars or the big game, I feel like I missed out. When I see people partying or dancing in the Hollywood world I call home; I want to jump in. In these moments, I find it helpful to remember my reasons for stopping these activities and the exciting things that have filled its place (like MJ).
One of the hardest things to accept is that if you continue to grow, you will outgrow people close to you… your friends… your family… even your spouse.
The only way for you to authentically stay close to these people is to:
Shrink when you are with them,
Help them grow with you or
Fully accept who they are and understand their influence on you.
By shrinking, I refer to behaving in a way that no longer works for you. . Unfortunately, as you get older, you’ll find fewer people who continue to grow, and you’ll find that you are shrinking more often to fit in. The danger of situationally shrinking is that it will stunt your growth especially if you need to do it often. Find ways to balance this and refuel your energy by seeking out and spending time with people who value growth.
Another way to maintain your relationships while still growing is to help proactively those around you to grow. You can do this at work or home. The drawback is change only happens when the other person wants to change not when you want them to change. If they’re not open to growing, they are entitled to that decision. Don’t let your good intentions fall short and resist becoming a snob.
A third way to stay with the great people you love even if you’re growing at various rates is to accept them fully for who they are while keeping in mind the consequences of growing at different speeds.
When you outgrow someone else, your interests begin to differ and your personal outlook and philosophy on life and views on how to live it starts to change. Since life strategies influence behavior, you may find that you’ll gravitate towards different and sometimes opposing activities. Most of your fringe or weak relationships end here because you and the other person won’t be willing to put in the effort to keep the relationship.
In your stronger relationships, compromise tends to happen. You may shrink, or the other person may grow or both. Typically, if the commitment is one-sided for too long, that could strain and eventually end the relationship. Now if both sides stop to grow, the relationship might stay intact, but other areas in your life might begin to suffer. No one said life would be easy.
Look at your life… have you been growing, shrinking or staying the same? If you’re growing but feeling guilty because you’re leaving things you once treasured behind, don’t feel bad about it. It’s part of living a fulfilled life and a natural consequence of growth. If you’re not growing, what are you going to do about it?
Don’t waste another moment… we’re only dancing here for a short while.