“The way I figure it, YOU were BUILT for relationships!” he said.
Sitting in the desert, I poured out my soul to a dear friend Jeff Martin. He had a deep well of wisdom from which to draw, and although I wasn’t expecting anything in particular, I was curious what he would say.
I listed off all the reasons I couldn’t be in a relationship. I was too free-spirited. I didn’t want to get ‘stuck’ in a resentful relationship or ‘settle’ into one. Doing that wouldn’t make anyone happy. And I didn’t want to have someone ‘stuck’ with me either. What kind of a life would I be offering them? How could I ever settle down and stop changing? I loved change too much.
Jeff smiled. “You say that you have commitment issues and that you can’t be in a relationship because you’re afraid of getting stuck, of being unable to change. You think that you’ll be trapped and lose your freedom to change. Well, you’re wrong.”
I was skeptical. I was wrong? I couldn’t see how. What could he possibly say that would change anything?
I nodded my head, inviting him to continue.
“Several years ago,” he began, ”I was working a lot with married couples who were separated, wanting a divorce, or already divorced. Their relationships were suffering, and they no longer desired to be together. In every instance–without fail–they had grown apart. One of them had changed in some way that the other hadn’t. One would always say to the other, ‘Why can’t you be like you were before?’ Each of them wanted the other person to change and meet them where they themselves were. Because one of them changed and the other didn’t, they literally grew apart. The couples who couldn’t change in the relationship as life evolved, ended up separating.”
I listened intently. He was talking about change, but so far he seemed only to confirm my fear, not remedy or lessen it. Where was he going with this?
He continued, “These couples grew apart because one of them changed the other didn’t. The point is, they didn’t change together. From everything I have seen, it is the people who love change the most who are best prepared for, and BUILT for, relationships. If you are willing to change, learn, and grow–together–you can succeed. It was the one thing consistent with all the relationships of the couples I worked with: they didn’t change together.
You love to change. So, the way I figure it, YOU were BUILT for relationships!”
He was right. Committing to a relationship meant committing to change WITH someone I love. We could change together for the rest of our lives.
What wasn’t to like about that?
In that moment, something clicked inside of me. I suddenly saw the world in a different light than before. I saw with fresh eyes the women and relationships in my life–as well as the actions I took on a daily basis to avoid both.
A pit of anger grew within me. I turned and swore at Jeff. “I can’t believe you told me that! Aghh! Why did you have to do that?!” I growled, and turned away.
He chuckled and began to laugh, “Wow. I hit that one right on the head, didn’t I?”
My hope is that I can pass on the gift Jeff gave to me in that moment–the gift of an altered perspective.
For many years, I didn’t want to be in a relationship because I worried it would stifle me, and that I would grow to resent myself and the woman I married. Jeff opened my eyes to the reality–and necessity–of change in relationships. I wasn’t some screw-up that could never be happily married. I wasn’t damaged beyond repair. Enjoying change wasn’t the kiss of death to a relationship. On the contrary, it was the breath of life.
That lesson is one I needed to hear, and I will be forever grateful for it. The moment Jeff’s perspective expanded before me, I knew that I could no longer live as I had before. The funny thing is, I was angry because I didn’t want to change!
After this conversation, the entire direction of my life altered, and I suddenly wanted to be in a relationship. I wanted to find someone I could love and change with for the rest of my life. That was an adventure, a life, an eternity, that I could commit to.
To those who are single, I ask: Will you commit to such an adventure? Will you accept that maybe–just maybe–you were BUILT for relationships, too?
And to those who are already in a committed relationship, married, or considering the possibility of divorce, ask yourself this question: Are you willing to change together?
If you want your relationship to succeed you must be willing to change, but not individually. You must change together. Successful and happy relationships are not about sacrificing yourself to become what your partner wants, nor about them sacrificing themselves to become what you want. This is not to say that you will sacrifice or change the same things, but that the sacrifices and changes you make must ultimately serve the same goals and bring you closer together. Support one another. Sacrifice together. Grow together. Change together.
Will you recommit, to the adventure you committed to in the past? Will you accept that maybe you were BUILT to succeed in your relationships too?