Coping with change
Posted Saturday, March 2 2013 at 02:00
- When one partner changes — even for the better — it can put unnecessary strain on a relationship.
Thirty-six-year-old Rosemary acknowledges that smoking is not a healthy pastime. But for six years, it was something she and her husband enjoyed doing together.
“Usually, we had our heart-to-hearts while smoking in the evenings or late afternoons. He was a hearty smoker. Six months ago, he quit to signal the start of a healthier lifestyle, which he hoped we would enjoy together,” she says.
Ordinarily, this kind of change would be a cause for celebration, but for Rosemary, it has become the biggest source of rows.
“Now that he’s done it, he keeps pressuring me to quit. I can only smoke outside and I also have to be conscious of my breath around him. It’s hard relating to him. I want things to be as they were before,” she says.
She did not know how big a role smoking played in their relationship. “Now we spend less time together and the quality of our relationship has dipped. I feel neglected,” she says.
The way she sees it, smoking was one of the things that attracted them to each other in the first place. Now that he cannot enjoy it with her, she feels as if he has outgrown her.
Even in relationships, people are bound to grow as individuals, so change should be expected. It can act as a boost to a relationship, especially if it is mutual and desired. However, committing to a personal change which your partner resists can be a lonely experience.
After years of marriage, Hilda experienced what she describes as a spiritual awakening. she decided to get more in touch with herself and with God.
“When I broke the news to my husband, he hit the roof. He called our friends, claiming I had contradicted his beliefs and that this was not what he had signed up for. He felt insulted by the fact that I had changed my denomination,” she says.
While Hilda believes her spiritual change made her a better person, she acknowledges that it put a strain on her relationship.
“It’s been two years and I am always careful not to make a mistake he will attribute to my change. He is uncooperative and still takes every opportunity he gets to sabotage my successes,” she says.
What to do
When change affects only one partner, marriage therapist Ezekiel Kobia maintains that it is vital that this person understands that.
“You can only change yourself and you have to accept that your partner may never change. When one feels good about his success with a positive change, it is easy to subconsciously push his loved ones towards the same so that they too can enjoy similar successes,” he warns.
Often, out of fear that change will lead to incompatibility, your spouse will not be receptive to the change or the new you.
“It is not uncommon to find one partner subconsciously putting on weight as soon as the other has taken up a weight-loss regime. When this happens, it is easy for you to equate their willingness or unwillingness to change with their love for you,” he adds.
His advice? Work on accepting the difference and giving space to your partner to change at his own pace. You can only hope that with time, your passion will inspire them to change with you.