A couple share an uncomfortable dinner

Relationship dilemmas: when one of you changes

by Eharmony Editorial Team - July 13, 2012

Has your partner changed so much you hardly recognise them, or have you changed and your partner is struggling to accept the new you?

eHarmony matches people on areas of compatibility. These are the things that tend to be solid and unchanging over time but there are many other things that attract people to each other like shared interests or hobbies. We all change and often the changes are almost imperceptible as we age and mature but occasionally someone can go through a rapid growth period leaving them so different that it impacts on their partner. Here we look at some of the most common areas of change and how to deal with them in your relationship.

Change of habit

Everyone has a few bad habits that they would like to change and this is usually considered a good thing. Like attracts like and often people are attracted to someone who shares the same bad habits. A heavy drinker will feel more comfortable if they are with someone who likes to drink with them; a smoker will be less self conscious of the smell of tobacco on their breath and clothes if their partner smokes too and an overeater will be much happier with someone who enjoys their gastronomic delights as much as they do. It makes sense – we like people who are like us. The dilemma arises if one of you decides they have had enough and goes on a fitness kick.

Although we all know that drinking, smoking and over-eating are bad for us the partner who hasn’t changed can often find it very hard to accept if they are not ready to quit yet. They may feel judged or start becoming very self conscious of their own habits which will make them uncomfortable. If the main bond of the relationship was the shared habit i.e. you spent most of your time together in pubs or restaurants, it can be hard to see what is left of the relationship if one person stops doing this.

One way a change of habit can impact negatively on a relationship is when the person who has made the change start to want the other person to change too. They feel so good about themselves that they start putting pressure on their partner. Unless you have made a joint decision to do this together you must respect your partner’s right to choose when to make the change for themselves. As tempting as it can be to nag, coerce, persuade or cajole your partner to join you it is unlikely that they will change until they really want to – if they do it just to please you they may end up resenting you for it later.

Change of behaviour

As people grow older, and as relationships develop, how you spend your time together will naturally change. We all have phases in life –  maybe getting really into tennis one week and obsessed with gardening the next. It isn’t necessary for all of our interests to be shared with a partner and it is healthy for a couple to have space between them where they pursue their own interests. The dilemma arises when one partner’s hobbies start taking priority in their life and the other person ends up feeling like a sad runner up fighting for even a scrap of attention. It is great to support and encourage each others new activities and interests but make sure that time for the relationship is pencilled into the diary first otherwise, like a plant with no water, your relationship may begin to wilt.

Change of life

These are often the hardest changes to adjust to because they aren’t usually chosen. Loss of a job, illness, financial problems or bereavement will all change the person you are with, maybe making them more thoughtful, conscientious or even depressed for a while as they adjust to the changes. For a relationship to survive  you may need to be able to  put your own needs to one side for a while and take the role of a supportive ally while your partner works their way through whatever it is.

Change isn’t a bad thing – it can often shake a relationship up a little and add a new dimension to it if you can learn and grow together, side by side. Resistance to the change is what often causes the pain – you just want things back how they were, but life isn’t like that. If you are finding it very hard to accept a change in your partner it may be because are you resisting change in yourself.