It would be helpful in all relationships if we reflected on how we change over time: as an individual and as a member of a relationship.
Our needs and our deeds are different at various stages of our lives.
When we are young, we are incomplete, still feeling our way: exploring, experimenting, discovering. What do we like, dislike? What do we want, not want? What and who inspires us to develop within? Some relationships that we build will bond forever. They become part of our foundation – cemented by who we essentially are at our most basic. Some, we find, are not of the same material, and these will fall away like bark from a tree.
Between young and middle age, we are building our lives along with ourselves: our careers, our homes, our families. These external pursuits bond us to those in the same position: peers, neighbours and other parents, joined by commonalities. Activities, struggles and achievements shared, tighten these bonds. But as we develop and commonalities pass, only those that have grown together and have respect for the emerging differences, will survive.
The relationship with one’s child and the relationship with one’s intimate, “romantic” partner undergo the largest changes and strongest stresses.
The child needs to be nurtured to grow well. Each child requires our individual attention for it to be the best it can be. We give our children everything, until we feel sapped of nutrients ourselves. We must take time out to replenish ourselves. We need space, time and pursuits of our own. We must continue to look after ourselves in order to look after our children, and in the process, our children learn to be independent. The relationship changes and if we resist, it will break. We need to release our children for them, and our relationship with them, to thrive.
Perhaps the intimate relationship with one’s partner, is under the most strain. It experiences the greatest external pressures: work commitments, finances, household chores, dedication to children, influence of parents, siblings and friends, the minutiae of life. It changes constantly with circumstances. Our responses and feelings ebb and flow. The demands we put on the intimate relationship – predictability, stability and consistency – can be so great they are impossible to achieve.
The intimate relationship begins in a state of perfect compliment. We cannot get enough of each other’s eyes, thoughts, bodies, company. It is a self-enclosed world of perfect unity.
It eases off into a companionable sameness; two separate people heading in the same direction, reaching for the same goals. Loosely hand in hand, supporting each other, learning from each other, admiring each other. This relationship can build a life together; a family, a business, a mature self-sufficiency in an ever-expanding membrane.
In middle age, when we have built our worlds, raised our children, reached or given up on dreams, there is, inevitably, another change. There is opportunity for growth. Without clinging nostalgically to the past, we can adapt to the new circumstances and reach for possibilities. Our goals may differ, pursuits diverge, viewpoint shift. If we allow freedom rather than restriction, growth rather than stagnation, respect rather than criticism, our intimate relationship can thrive in a state of ongoing friendship. For this to happen, we need to understand and accept ourselves and our partners.
External and internal circumstances cause everybody and every relationship to change. We need to hold loosely, dance lightly and be generous to ourselves and of ourselves, for any relationship to thrive with these changes.
The inspiration for this blog came from reading, Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
“The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.”
The novel I am writing explores these changes in relationships. I would be interested in your thoughts.