Change is inevitable in any relationship, regardless of how close you start out. When you first get together, you may have many of the same hobbies, interests, and opinions. As you grow older and go through more life experiences, both of your views will start to change. Rather than changing together, you each are changing in ways the other doesn’t understand. Before you know it, you may not even recognize the woman lying in bed next to you.
Often, this will cause issues in the relationship. Both of you want the other person to change in the same direction. Perhaps you take up a hobby that you think is the best thing ever, and your wife thinks it’s dumb and a waste of time. Maybe your wife stops working out, and you get back into the gym. Maybe your wife decides to go vegetarian, and you love steak. All of these things will eventually cause stress in the relationship – simply because you and your wife have incompatibilities.
Don’t panic just yet though. Change is normal and healthy. If both of you were to stay the same, you’d both get bored. Your conversations would be stale and unexciting. Change, as scary as it is in a relationship, is very important to keep things hot. Alongside that, no one wants to date themselves. You need to have some difference in a relationship to bounce ideas off of, have things to talk and debate about, and cause the friction that is necessary to draw two people together.
So how can you and your wife make these differences work for you?
1. Take an interest in your partner’s hobbies
It’s so easy to discredit or toss aside things that you don’t think you’ll like. It’s very easy just to say, “Nah, that sounds stupid!” and go and do your own hobby. You know you already like your hobby anyways.
The problem with that is that you’re missing an opportunity to get to know your wife in a new way before you’ve even tried it.
If your wife is passionate about something, take an interest in it! And by that, I don’t mean you have to go to her knitting meet-up or Jiu Jitsu practice – but just ask her about it. Try to find out why she finds it cool or relaxing or interesting. When she starts raving about something new she learned, stop what you’re doing and listen. Even if that hobby doesn’t specifically appeal to you, at the very least, you can pretend to care about what she’s saying. If you just show her new passion respect, she’ll feel loved and heard.
If you have even a small amount of interest in her hobby, try incorporating that into your life. For example, if she loves yoga, go with her to a yoga class and see what it’s about. If she’s started learning the guitar, take her to a show on a date. The more you spend time with her doing those hobbies, the more time you have together doing something fun. Plus, you’ll see what she values in her hobby, and that will give you more to talk about.
On the other hand, you should try to invite your wife to join in your hobbies and passions. If you love playing board games, teach her the rules to one of your favorites. If you’re getting back into fitness, invite her on a date where you go for a bike ride together and grab dinner after. Of course, you can’t force her to join you – but if she seems tentative, try to think of subtle ways to get her to partake in your hobbies. Eventually, she may learn to love your hobbies too. ‘
Hobbies are a fun way to spend time together….especially because it’s been proven that hobbies release endorphins and those hormones create a feeling of bliss that can bond couples together. Changing together doesn’t sound so bad when I put it that way, does it?
2. Spend time together (and make it non-negotiable)
One of the main reasons people grow apart is because they let life get in the way.
Jobs and kids and extended families and traveling and money all start to overshadow the actual relationship. Suddenly, it isn’t you and your wife against the world – it’s you and your roommate against the world.
Don’t let that happen. Don’t take each other for granted because before you know it, you both won’t know who the other person is and you’ll be left wondering why you got married in the first place.
The easiest way to combat this issue is to spend time together. Yes, it sounds easy. In reality, it’s not. This is one of those things that tends to sneak up on couples. You both live together, and you think that means you’re spending time together. In actuality, you’re just both doing different things in the same area. That hardly counts as quality time.
So, make “You-time” non-negotiable. If you have kids, get a babysitter or the in-laws over to look after them and then go out. Talk about things other than your children and have fun. Hell, go on a week-long vacation without the kids and reconnect over margaritas and sunsets in some tropical location. If you can’t afford that, then go for a picnic at a State Park and reminisce about all the crazy things you used to do. Make an effort to keep the bedroom hot and spicy (easier said than done) and continue to reconnect sexually.
It all comes down to making an effort to spend time together. You both chose each other for a reason – so remember that. If both of you make each other a priority in your lives, you’ll enjoy changing together. You’ll discover new things together and have more to talk about during the more mundane parts of your lives.
3. Ask important/thoughtful questions
The longer you’re with someone, the less you have any need to talk to each other. You’ve seen those old people on park benches or sitting in Denny’s, right? They sit there in comfortable silence because they’ve seemingly talked about everything and they have nothing left to say to each other.
Don’t be them.
If your conversations with your wife are shallow all the time, everything’s not okay in your relationship.
I’m not saying you need to fill every silence with deep, meaningful life changing questions – but what I’m saying is that every question shouldn’t revolve around what your kids did at school that day or what’s on TV. You and your wife should be having fairly deep conversations about your values, passions, and plans. This will not only show you a side of your wife you might not have known, but you won’t be hit over the head when she tells you that she wants to move to Mexico and learn Spanish. If you guys have consistently been honest and had fairly involved conversations, these kinds of life-changing talks will inevitably come up.
Along with that, most people enter marriage with the hope that they’ll be able to share themselves completely with another person. Of course, this probably isn’t completely realistic – but the ideal is there. Asking your wife deep questions about who she is, what she values, and what she pictures her future to be like will make her feel that she is important to you and that you still care about her as a person. Alternatively, you’ll learn new things about your partner that will enrich your life together.
Sometimes for men, it’s hard to talk about these kinds of things. That’s normal. A very easy way to break the ice is to look up “Questions to ask your Partner,” get out a bottle of wine and some good food and spend the night trading questions. Make it into a game if you want. Have another couple over and play “The Honeymoon Game” where you have to guess your partner’s answers. Just get talking.
Once you’ve started asking harder/deeper questions on a regular basis, you’ll find that things end up getting easier in your relationship. You’ll have a greater respect for your wife, she’ll have a greater understanding of what makes you tick, and overall your relationship will just feel stronger. You’ll both start changing together, and a lot of the issues you have will be more about working through them together than fighting against each other.
4. Embrace/respect the changes being made
Sometimes you won’t understand the change your spouse is making and you won’t be able to relate to her. This is particularly the case when it comes to big life changes in your spouse. And what constitutes a big life change? It could be something such as quitting her job, becoming religious, deciding she wants to move, changing lifestyles, etc.
The first thing you need to do is evaluate the situation. Sometimes people change in ways that are ultimately incompatible because it crosses a boundary. For example, if you both got married under the assumption you would one day have a family, and she no longer wants children – this will probably cross your boundary. Another example could be that your wife wants to open up the marriage and you don’t. In these two situations, there is very little room for compromise, and so it will be hard to respect or embrace the change.
But in most situations, a clear boundary is not being crossed, and although the change will impact your life, your wife is ultimately doing it because she feels it will improve her life.
It’s hard to accept change that you don’t understand so the next step is sitting down with your wife and trying to figure out why she feels she needs to make this change. Why does she think this change will benefit her? Why does she want this change in her life? When you have this information, you can start to see things from her perspective, and that will make the transition easier on everyone. Perhaps she’s going to church because she enjoys the social atmosphere or maybe she wants to quit her job because she’s bored and unhappy at her current one.
Whatever her reasoning is, don’t try to poke holes in it. Nothing will make her pull away (and change without you) more than you trying to destroy something she thinks is valid. Instead, try your best to understand. Be respectful and don’t get overly emotional.
You don’t necessarily need to change with her, but if you’re supportive and try to understand the value it brings to her life, you can grow alongside her. She’ll feel that you are her ally, and she’ll be happy to share the changes she’s going through with you. If there is something that will affect you, she’ll be more likely to want to cooperate if she feels you’re supportive of her life changes and on her side.
And of course, if you do have concerns, you need to tell her about them. If something is impacting your life and making you miserable, then an open dialogue is where you both need to start. Being open and communicative with your wife is going to be the first step to fixing any issues that may come up between the two of you. Changing together sometimes won’t be easy, and compromises will have to be made, but it will be a lot easier if you’re both respectful, direct, and open about what’s going on.
5. Focus on the positives in your spouse
When your wife starts to change in ways that you don’t understand or in ways you don’t really like, it’s easy to start to see the negatives in her and the relationship. Maybe you resent the fact that she’s decided to change without you, or in ways that you don’t like, and you feel yourself growing distant and angry.
When you get into these downward spirals, you need to stop and remember all of the good things about your wife. Perhaps she’s started to spend more time with her friends, and you feel neglected. Instead of feeling jealous that she’s spending more time with other people, think of how that makes her happier when she comes home to you. Maybe she’s become more religious – instead of focusing on how you don’t believe in what she believes in, start to think of how that might be nurturing her compassionate side. A change in your perspective can stop those negative thoughts in their tracks and help to connect with what you initially loved about your wife.
There’s a theory called “the broaden and build” theory that shows that positive emotions open your mind more and broaden your sense of possibilities, which helps you build new skills and resources that provide value in other areas of your life. So not only will positive thinking help you in your relationship, it may help you in other parts of your life also. If you can spin a negative situation into a positive one here, what’s stopping you from doing that in your job, with your friends, or during your hobby? And hell, your wife will probably appreciate your new optimistic outlook and want to spend more time with you, doing things you both enjoy. Honestly, it’s a win-win for you – you see your wife in a new light, and the world seems just a bit brighter than it did before.
Changing Together Adds Spice and Excitement
You and your wife will not be the same person throughout the marriage – that’s a given. You’ll both change in a myriad of positive and negative ways. The key to improving your marriage is in making an effort to understand each other and see one another for who you are. If you both take the time to see the world from your partner’s perspective, you can use these changes as a way to add spice, excitement, interest, adventure, respect, and love to the relationship. If you focus on how terrible these changes are, then you will be fighting against something you can’t win, and ultimately, your relationship will suffer and maybe die. So respect your partner, enjoy the changes, and focus on the good. Ultimately, that’s the only true way to change together.
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