I sat in a booth next to the window overlooking the opera house across the street. The contracting company I worked for made some personnel changes and my new recruiter/rep invited me to lunch at HopCat. After he arrived and the waitress took our orders, we started chatting. He asked about my career history and family, and I asked similar questions in return. As it turned out, I had worked closely with his stepfather at a previous company. After thoroughly breaking the ice, we relaxed and enjoyed a casual lunch. While we ate he asked how long my partner and I had been married.
“Twelve years,” I said.
“That’s pretty long,” he said.
My wife and I had married in our early twenties. As it turns out, most people around our age, were either newlywed or working on their second marriage.
“I’m getting married this summer,” he said. “Do you have any advice?”
I thought for a second before answering.
“Don’t be an asshole.”
This weekend, my wife and I are celebrating our fifteenth anniversary. While my answer is still valid. I would like to take an opportunity to expand it.
You’re not marrying who your partner is, but who they will become.
At twenty-two, if I were able to have coffee with myself now, I’m sure we would have plenty in common on a general level. For instance, we both love coffee. But once we start digging deeper the commonalities would fade quickly. That people change over time is not a secret. However, when it comes to relationships we tend to overlook this quality in our partners. After a number of years, we start seeing new things about our partners we hadn’t noticed before or that perhaps didn’t exist previously. When we started our matrimonial journey together, we may have stood at the altar with our twenty-two-year-old versions, but we were committing ourselves to the people we would become.
A word of caution here. I’m not saying if your potential partner has some major character flaws you should pull the trigger hoping they will change and become awesome. Anything is possible, but it’s unlikely. I may not be the same as my twenty-two-year-old self but we still share similar qualities.
Don’t stay with someone you hope will make you happy. Find someone who does make you happy and find ways to encourage and grow with them.
Build a relationship that supports change.
Knowing your partner will change over time is part of the thrill and excitement of joining with someone. A strong relationship adapts to change and creates a space where change is encouraged. As people, we are independent and dependant on each other, so encouraging your partner to grow, the way they need to grow, allows you to connect with their growth and you will find yourself growing with them.