The Happiness Connection  

Are you still growing?

Whenever I see my friends’ young children and grandchildren, I find myself commenting on how much they’ve grown.

They tend to look at me with incredulous eyes. Of course, they’ve grown. What a weird thing to say.

The same thing happens when someone is sick or elderly. You don’t notice the decline or recovery as distinctly when you see them every day.

I remember looking at my son one day and suddenly noticing he was taller than me. How did that happen? I wasn’t conscious of how big he was getting until the alteration was too great to ignore.

Growth isn’t limited to physical changes. Mental, emotional, and spiritual expansion are happening, too. It’s unlikely you are the same person on the inside today, as you were 20 years ago.

Change happens at a slow, but steady pace. If you aren’t looking for it, you may believe it isn’t happening.

It’s a little like blowing up a balloon. You’re aware of the initial changes, but as it grows fuller the increase in size is less noticeable. Thinking it isn’t getting bigger is fine until you reach the breaking point and it bursts.

Perhaps you’ve been feeling that your life is maintaining a status quo, only to have your bubble burst. Without warning your significant other has morphed into an entirely different person.

There is a school of thought that believes if you marry young there is more chance that you will grow apart from your partner. That seems to suggest adults should come to a point when they stop growing and stay the same for the rest of their lives.

I don’t believe that is true.

That may have been easier to believe in the past because the world changed more slowly, and society had a bigger say in what life should look like.

Today change is a given, not a possibility and speaking out against traditional ideas is more acceptable.

I have friends who married in their late teens and early 20s and who are still happily married 35 or 40 years later.

You may have waited until you were established in a career and had a reasonably clear idea of who you were before you settled down with a partner. That doesn’t mean you will change any less than teenage brides or grooms do.

It wasn’t until my children were in their 20s that I took the time to discover me. That’s when I began to stop shoulding myself and began a conscious journey of personal development.

That journey had nothing to do with how old I was when I got married.

Personal growth is part of life, but it can create challenges for relationships.

Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of statements such as:

  • you aren’t the person I married
  • the person I married would never have done/said that?

Cast your mind back to the opening paragraph of this column. When I tell children they’ve grown, they think I’m weird. That’s partly because they are aware of and welcome that growth.

The same is true for people who are consciously striving to become a more enlightened version of themselves. When someone tells them they’ve changed, they look at that person with disbelieving eyes. Are you only just figuring that out now?

Of course, they’ve changed. Isn’t that normal?

Do you ever consciously look for the tiny increments of progress that are happening within you and those you have regular contact with? If you don’t, you may live in ignorant bliss until one day when the balloon bursts and you are forced to confront it.

If you are living your life without conscious awareness, you may dismiss variations in the behaviour and attitudes of your significant other as hormonal irregularities or phases they are going through.

It isn’t until the growth becomes too great to ignore that you suddenly wake up and realize those changes are here to stay.

That moment can bring with it, feelings of shock, betrayal, and irritation for both the conscious grower and unconscious partner.

When this point is reached, you both have choices. Everyone is on their own journey. What do you want yours to look like and do you want to support your significant other while they are trekking on theirs?

Maybe it’s time to dip your toe into the pool of conscious awareness or to invite your partner in for a swim?

The thing you can’t control is what your partner should do.

Don’t demand that they should stop growing and change back to the version of themselves that existed when you first met, or insist they live more consciously.

Invite safe conversation and new experiences and let your future unfold. Be open to seeing life in a new way with no expectation of outcome.

The key to individual growth within a committed relationship is to honour each other and the individual journeys you are here to take.

Consciously being aware of what is happening for you and for your partner will help you achieve this.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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