I remember being given relationship advice from some older women, back when I was in my 20s. My mom, my aunt, the older ladies at work, they all said variations on the same thing, “Don’t marry a man expecting him to change.”
I mean, I understand the advice they were trying to impart. If some part of your relationship wasn’t working then marriage wasn’t going to change that. If there was some flaw in your partner that drove you mad, don’t think that being a nagging wife, instead of a disappointed girlfriend, was going to magically fix it. Before walking down the aisle make sure this is the one. As is.
But here’s the thing, the one thing no one ever said to me was, “Don’t marry someone expecting them to stay the same.”
I started dating the fellow that is now my husband when we were in Grade 12. I was eighteen. That was over 25 years ago.
I have changed in those years, quite a bit. I have grown, evolved, adapted, developed into a person who finds it far easier to love herself in her 40s than I ever did in my 20s.
I am not the same person that walked down the aisle 14 years ago. Since then I have changed. I have grown. I’ve grown a little thicker around the middle, if we’re going to be bluntly honest. I became a mother. Had a c-section. Had a hysterectomy. Became a writer. Discovered a love for DSLR photography. Lost a parent. Weathered through anemia and uterine fibroids.
“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” – Neil Gaiman
I am not the same person I was 13 years ago, and I am most certainly not the same girl I was 26 years ago when I fell for this lanky geeky long-haired guy with glasses who happened to know dwarvish runes and GM a mean RPG.
I went into our marriage with all that advice drummed into my head, thinking, “This is ok. I love him as he is. I don’t want him to change.”
But I was wrong.
Life experiences pile up. Our circumstances change. The world changes around us. How could one possibly remain static, in the midst of that storm?
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” – Henri Bergson
“Marry someone you want to grow old with.” I used to think that particular bit of advice meant marry someone that you will still love when they are old and wrinkly. I thought it meant, look for something beyond physical attraction because none of us are staying young and pretty forever.
But over the years I have come to realize that there is more to growing old than sore knees and grey hair.
My husband is not the same boy that I started dating 26 years ago. He is not the same man that I signed a marriage license with 14 years ago.
He has changed over the years. Developed. Grown. We have weathered storms together. Heck, there are storms we are still riding out right now (parenting a special needs kid, having your mom come live with you – these are not necessarily fun things).
Frankly, I think he has become a better person over the years and I love him as much today as I did then, possibly more so.
I sometimes think of how shallow life would be if he were exactly the same inside as when we married. What a terrible wish that would be to have come true, to find that well over a decade later someone was just the exact same as the day you married them.
I have been delighted to discover that growing old together doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to physical flaws, but rather constantly evolving, changing and trying to be better people today than yesterday.
A lifetime of shared experiences can weigh you down – or it can build you up, brick by brick, until you find that maybe being middle aged is the perfect place to be, and maybe this guy, who most days you can barely recognize as the fellow who once asked you to go steady, is actually the perfect partner to be here with.
What about you folk? Do you agree that the secret to a happy marriage is change? Or do you actually think consistency is the key?
Elizabeth Matthiesen says
I loved this post and thank you for sharing. No one stays the same all their life, that’s impossible and is good so.
Lynda Cook says
I loved reading this post, and there should be change in a marriage, it can get quite boring if you never change and just stay the same
Sean Hamilton says
Can’t say I can answer it in the way of being married yet, but I’ve tried twice (as in was engaged), so I’m going to weigh in anyways and say this:
(Post script: I was intending to write a couple of sentences and leave it at that. But I got carried away.)
My long-held opinion about relationship advice is that it is all well and good, but in the end, it’s based on relationships between people that are not you and your prospective partners, so in the end, you’re just going to have to wing it, no matter -how- much advice you’ve gotten.
That being said, this all makes a great deal of sense. The nature of life -is- change, is growth to deal with the circumstances you encounter. And love’s the exact same way. You fall in love with a person, and then something happens – you both grow as a result of that, not in necessarily the same way. And then you have the experience of growing with that person again as well. Change is -every- bit as vital as any notion of constancy or stability, if not more. Because stability only gives you opportunity to make conscious choices. That’s perfectly fine, but due to life itself, the opportunities for stability are few and far between.
In the end, I think I can say this: stability is a minor part, but still a part. Change is the hugest part of life and love by far. I’ve had 4 major relationships; an engagement that ended when I changed and realized how I was being treated, a relationship that changed when the woman no longer felt the ability to be happy in this city, a deep relationship that changed when the woman I loved then got a huge opportunity that in order for our relationship to progress in the way I needed, she would have had to give it up, so I let her go.
And now, my current engagement – which has almost been my longest relationship of them all. 3 years plus a bit. And she and I have both changed an awful lot, some good (she’s more relaxed, I’m more active) some bad (I now suffer anxiety attacks which I never did before, she is -super- dependent on me for her mental health). And we’re continuing to change together. Every time life happens, we change again. I don’t foresee that stopping any time soon. Change is life. And I can see my future actually changing with this woman.
Paula Schuck says
This reminded me of being on a trip in Yellowstone this past week. Marriage and Yellowstone? What do the two have in common. Here’s the thing…our tour guide told us – the mountains are always changing. They are never the same. They may appear the same to you right now day to day but they are changing with weather and erosion every single day. So return to this spot in 100 years or 1000 years and it will look completely different. That stuck with me. Change is constant for everyone and every thing. Period.