Everything was going great. Karen was happy. Really happy. Her relationship with Doug was three months old. They’d enjoyed a thrilling, fun period of getting to know each other, and that’s when the trouble started.
“What’s the problem?” a friend asked her.
“Life,” she said. “We both have big projects coming up at work. His schedule is going to get crazy, and I’ll be super busy. We’re in this routine, and it’s all about to change.”
Her friend nodded.
Karen sighed. “I just like things the way they are.”
That’s the way it goes. We crave success, especially in relationships, but once we’ve found it we discover the unexpected enemy. Change.
It’s inevitable. Your relationships will evolve over time. You can’t stop that from happening. But when you find yourself in a comfortable place, the idea of change becomes very uncomfortable.
The kind of change doesn’t matter. Any change is likely to be perceived as a threat. It could be the amount of time you spend together. Or the pull of outside influences and responsibilities, like your job, family or friends. Or even the adjustment from infatuation to a deeper sense of companionship.
Regardless of the source, change can feel threatening for one simple reason: because it makes it hard to see the future.
When we feel threatened by something, we tend to resist it. Makes sense, right? But with change, that’s a bad idea. Resisting change typically means either burying your head in the sand in an attempt to ignore it or forcefully pushing against it. Neither works.
As the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” In other words, change happens. Nothing you can do will make it stop. Ignoring it only means it’ll run over you, taking you by surprise. And fighting it is totally useless.
So what do you do?
I like Mike Gafka’s advice. “To be successful you must accept all changes that come your way. You can’t just accept the ones you like.” That last part is especially important.
When you accept that change is inevitable, it alters your perspective. Instead of feeling only fear, your mental position shifts to a place of creativity, optimism and empowerment. Sure, it might still be scary at times. But when you choose to roll with changes instead of resisting them, you actually regain some control.
Take Karen, for example. If she can accept that change is going to happen no matter what, then she’ll be able to see the upside of change. Her relationship is growing. That’s good. She and Doug are learning how to be a long-term couple, which includes balancing their lives and time together. Also good. And navigating the change is something they’re doing together. That’s very good.
The key lies in understanding that relationships are like plants. They’re either growing or dying. If you want your relationship to grow, you have to be prepared for change to enter the picture because any kind of growth requires change.
It’s okay if you find change to be a little scary. We all do. But don’t run from it or fight it. Instead, accept it and find the good in it. When you do that, your relationship will thrive.