The evolution of marriage: Why change is OK

The only constant in life is change. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus summed up that sentiment most eloquently when he said, “No man steps into the same river twice.” Life, in this case the river, is constantly moving—and we are constantly evolving as that movement shapes us.

I can vividly recall being confronted by a friend a few months after the birth of my first child. “You’ve changed!” she shouted at me—like changing was a searing indictment of my character. I’ll tell you now what I told her then: “Yes, I have. If such a momentous event had not changed me I would be guilty of sleepwalking through life. And stay tuned, because there’ll be lots more where that came from.”

When you committed to your partner you vowed to love him for eternity, but which version of him? Expecting your mate to remain precisely the way he was when you walked down the aisle isn’t a marriage, it’s a hostage taking.

It’s time to release your hostage. It’s time to wake up to a new reality: marriages morph. They must (unless somehow you think yours is the one and only union capable of evading Newton’s laws of motion). Each of you will have to adapt—to new circumstances, to new dynamics, to new selves. Sure, there will be a few bumps. But here’s how you can ride through the turbulence:

Stop seeing change as a threat to marital security: Just because the spouse who swore she’d never eat meat is now mastering filet mignon marinades doesn’t mean her feelings for you have changed. Nor does it mean you no longer share the same core values. You could read a whole bunch into it, but don’t.

Get to know him—all over anything: See change as an opportunity to rediscover—the world, each other, yourself. I mean, fess up, haven’t you been complaining of a marital stagnation since your 10th anniversary anyway? You fell in love once; this is a chance to fall in love again. Explore new territory, together, as a way of growing together.

Don’t get left behind: Insinuate yourself. If you want to go along for the ride, be the wind in her sails, not the anchor. Ask questions, offer encouragement—and you’ll be included on her growth journey.

Become a change agent: If you fear change, it’s likely because you have a fear of the unknown—or, because you are threatened by a perceived loss of control over your environment and the people that populate it. The best way to overcome those growth-limiting fears is to practice. So what sorts of changes? Alfred Adler called life a great “becoming”—as we grown and age, we become more truly ourselves. (I like to say that we go in as we go on.) What bits of yourself have you left behind, or neglected? Is it time to retrieve them? If you always dreamed of a career in photography, maybe it’s time to pick up a camera. If your prized sense of humour is a little rusty, what do you need to do to polish it up?

Read more: How to re

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