What to Do When Your Partner Changes

WebMD Blog:

What to Do When Your Partner Changes

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

You’ve always felt like you know your partner so well, but recently all of that has been changing. Whether your partner is actively pursuing self-development or the changes seem to be coming out of nowhere, this is not the person you have been accustomed to. So, it’s not surprising that the differences you see are making you question your relationship.

One approach to re-evaluating your relationship is to think about the changes from the perspective of how they have affected your partner, you, and the relationship:

Understand your partner: Consider the changes and where they are coming from. As you do so, put your reactions about how they affect you aside for the moment. Instead, focus on trying to empathize with your partner.

Is your partner spending less time with you? If so, perhaps this is because they have gone back to school or are pursuing some interest. You might recognize that they are summoning their courage and working hard to grow in ways that are important to them. In thinking about this, you might empathize with their fears, frustrations, and hopefulness.

Or, maybe your partner is physically around, but is spending more time in bed or distracted by mindless activities, such as surfing the Internet. You may sense them shutting down and feeling depressed, leaving you to feel sad for them.

Understand yourself: While it is important to be able to understand and empathize with your partner, you are equally important (and arguably more important to yourself). So, it’s important to balance your concerns for them with concern for yourself.

In a circumstance where your partner is growing in ways that feel good to them, you will hopefully share in these positive feelings. However, you may also think they are being selfish, and fear that you will be left emotionally alone.

Whatever your feelings, attend to them. Start by identifying them. Are they in proportion to the situation? For instance, your partner does not seem to be considering you in doing what they want to do; and so it makes sense that you would feel unloved. Or, are your feelings of abandonment out of proportion to the situation? While your partner is not spending as much time with you, they continue to make it a priority to find time for your relationship. This does not mean you “shouldn’t” have your feelings, but it does mean that there is more going on in you than just the current situation. It can help to talk with your partner. Assure them that you want them to be happy and grow, but describe your struggles and look for support.

Understand your relationship:By understanding your partner and yourself, you can relate in a positive, supportive way to both of you. When your needs or desires conflict, use clear, respectful communication to work together to attend to your differences. Remember, you want to care about your partner along with caring about yourself – not instead of caring about yourself.

Explore with your partner the ways in which changes in them are benefiting and hurting each of you. Also consider the ways in which they are bringing you closer together or driving you further apart. Then, hopefully, you can enjoy the positives and work together on problems.


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