Growth isn’t always easy. It can be painful, it can be scary, it feels like we get lost sometimes. The reality is that is all true—I’ve talked about it numerous times here. I caveat this with I stand by the necessity of it regardless of the feelings surrounding it. I also add that growth by its very nature changes the opinions and feelings we’ve had/held about things. Like our clothes, depending on the type of growth we experience, whether we gain or lose, they no longer fit. The same thing is true of our ideas and beliefs. As we evolve in our paths, the things we identified with no longer seem to fit who we are. This too has its purpose.
My husband and I have been together 21 years this year. We’ve been together longer than we were alive when we met. The last few years, this past year in particular, I’ve seen us growing apart. For the longest time, I floated from thing to thing trying to find my identity, who I am, and as I become more solid in that person, I notice our differences are more pronounced. They aren’t things that destroy us, but I know these are things that can take us in different directions. And yes, that may eventually cause us to evaluate where we are as a couple. I know this is natural as well.
The other night (we spent a great day together), but one of those feelings that something was off kind of lingered in the back of my mind. During the course of the conversation, I realized something: things have been going really well lately and he has been making so much extra effort and it really feels good. I no longer feel like I have to carry the burden of being responsible for everything. I made the comment that I love being married to him. I honestly meant it and I am happy to be with him—I have witnessed growth and maturity because we came from along line of not being a healthy couple at all. But he couldn’t say it back. The spidey senses went off and I knew something was wrong.
As the conversation continued, I realized that I am happy because the things I need are being fulfilled. He is taking care of me as I need, as I have done for him for so long. And my heart sank as I realized he does these things not because he wants to, not because he is grateful for all I’ve done, but simply to keep me off his back. That isn’t how this works. I felt the familiar pit in the stomach as I now feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. He is allowed to have those feelings, absolutely. He was never raised with a really good vision of what relationships are meant to be like or how they work. I wasn’t either, to be honest. He told me, “I’m growing too.” Which, as sad as I am, also makes me happy because he is aware of where we are at too.
I do NOT want a relationship where someone has to bend or cater to my every whim. I want a person who is able to recognize the effort and reciprocate because they want to, not because they have to. Maybe it’s a matter of simply not speaking the same love language at this point, but I feel lost wherever I am. And THAT has nothing to do with the people around me anymore—this is where growth comes in. I find myself in this situation at work and with friends and family as well. That means it comes down to me. Don’t think I’m some tyrannical monster, dictating how things go, I’m truly not. I’ve just spent MANY years cleaning up after people and I got tired of it so I started voicing my opinions more. But clearly that point was missed because the result is the same. They do things to appease me, not because they genuinely want to help me.
It’s a lonely place. Having expectations isn’t always the answer and I guess constantly vocalizing my side of things isn’t either. My boss talked to me the other day and, in spite of the hiccups we’ve had over the last year, I recognize that she is very adept at handling situations no matter what they are so I asked her about it. She said, “Sometimes you really just have to listen.” And I think that is appropriate here. I’ve spent my life dragging people to meet me where I’m at and then demanded they do what it takes to stay here. I thought I was doing them a service because they said they wanted it. It took a long time to realize that how they got here was none of my business.
Growth isn’t about keeping people in line. It’s about letting them find the line for themselves so they can follow the path as they see fit. I have never claimed to be perfect and I am proud that I have learned this lesson. It’s tender for me now because I know the people I love feel impacted by this. Fearing someone isn’t the same as respecting them and doing something just to keep someone appeased isn’t the same as enjoying it. And having that kind of support isn’t the same as actually being loved. We are different ways with different people so the key is to allow it to shape you as much as you shape them. Trust it is all for a reason no matter how uncomfortable. Always be willing to keep the critical eye on yourself and trust it will work out.