1. You’re both going to change and evolve over the course of your relationship.
One of the things that stifles a lot of relationships and ultimately results in their demise is the fact a lot of people can’t handle seeing their partner change. You meet someone and you develop a relationship based on who they are as you know them now, but if they decide to make a career change or pursue a new passion or interest, it can feel uncomfortable and threatening to the relationship.
For a healthy couple to be successful they have to accept that both people in the relationship are individuals with their own set of desires, dreams, fears, and insecurities. This doesn’t mean you have to accept everything they do, especially if their behavior becomes damaging to you and your relationship, but you can accept and understand your partner will change and evolve over time because that’s a part of being human.
Elizabeth, 32, said when her longterm boyfriend suddenly lost interest in his career she became alarmed there was more going on.
“He seemed unhappy with his entire life. For awhile I thought he could be cheating because he was taking longer lunches at work and coming home late. Finally, after I pressed him, he said he was miserable with his job and needed to do something completely different or he was going to burn out soon. He said he wanted to go back to grad school. It took me by surprise because he had never expressed any interest in going back to school before. We talked things over during the duration of a couple weeks, figured out our finances, and decided how to make things work. It was easier for him to quit his job and make a huge life change knowing I was there to support him in any way I could.”
2. You can’t change their past or their emotional problems.
We all come with our own set of baggage – the experiences we’ve had over the course of our lifetime that’s shaped who we are and influences our behavior in interpersonal relationships.
When someone has been hurt before and they’re still reeling from what’s happened to them, it can be easy to want to fix them and to want to be the person you think they’ve always needed. You can be there for them, of course, and you can listen to them and empathize with their pain, but you’ll never be able to rid their mind and soul of the things that have happened to them.
David, 27, didn’t understand his girlfriend’s emotional struggles that developed when she was raised in the Los Angeles foster care system. “She has been through so much pain and suffering. I just wanted to try and take care of her and let her know that as long as she was with me, nothing would ever be bad again. Everything would be okay. I realized that, over time, she has to deal with her experiences and pain on her own and nothing I can do will fix her.”
3. You may have two completely different social styles.
Often when people have different social styles, it can create issues within their relationship. The key to thriving as a couple with different social styles is to meet in the middle and compromise. For example, if your partner wants to go to a party and you’re just not feeling it, talk about how long they expect to be there and if you guys can agree on a time to leave by. Or if your partner wants to have a quiet night just the two of you, discuss how to make the night fun (cooking together, watching a movie), and ask if the following night you’re both free you can do something together with your friends.
Michael, 29, says he had a hard time adjusting to his girlfriend’s more introverted social styles.
“I’m not a party animal by any means but I love being with my friends when I’m not working. On the weekends we love to go do charity events like softball games or volunteering and when my girl wasn’t into it I was like, ‘uhm…do you hate my friends or what’s the deal?’ She explained she had no problem hanging out with them once in awhile but every weekend it likely wasn’t going to happen because she gets tired being around big groups after awhile. Now I realize we aren’t exactly the same on the social front but as long as we talk things out, we can make adjustments and plans accordingly.”
4. You both have a past that can’t be changed.
In the digital age, we all have relationships that continue to live on, even after we’ve parted ways. There are old photo albums on Facebook, tagged statuses capturing a fun time together, moments documented on Instagram.
When you date someone new it can be easy to take a look through their past with just a few clicks and get worked up about how their relationship or life differs in comparison to what you have now in the present. Everyone has a past, either good or bad, but the only way you can build a future with someone is by accepting their past existed and move on.
Tina, 24, said she had a bad habit of obsessing over the amazing life her boyfriend had before they met.
“His ex was in medical school and she came from a very proper, wealthy family. I saw pictures of them going to all these nice places and doing all these cool things. I’m a social worker. I come from a broken family. I don’t have the money to do anything like what they did together, so I got down about it. I tried to compensate for my lack of wealth by going overboard and charging things on credit so we could have fun together. In the end, it wasn’t worth it. I was in debt and miserable all because I thought I had to live up to this weird standard my boyfriend didn’t even care about. ”