Last night, I had a conversation with my girlfriend about what she wants to accomplish in her life. Considering that she and I have been dating for nearly a year, this is a fairly standard conversation to have. We’re in that phase where the excitement of a new relationship has begun to give way to the plans and assumptions of a long-term commitment, so it makes sense to start asking the sorts of questions that can indicate whether we are going to be on the same path in the long run.
Now, a couple that’s been together for a year or two is different than a couple that’s been together for 15 or 2o, right?
In the episode “Conflict Resolution” of The Office (US), Jim explains that he got Dwight to hit himself in the face by slowly adding nickels to the inside of his phone until he got used to the weight, and then took them all out. Sadly, there is not a high quality clip for me to link to, but it’s a funny scene to imagine, but it’s also pertinent to what I’m talking about: change can happen so slowly that we don’t notice it.
After a while, we fall into a comfortable rhythm with our partners; which can blind us to the small processes of personal growth and change over the years. I can tell you that at 28, I am not the same as I was at 21. I really hope that I’m not the same at 35, 50, or 80. The process of change is slow.
If I suddenly shifted from being empathetic and fun loving person into a bitter, closed-off person, it would be very noticeable. However, if it happens slowly over the course of 20 years, my partner may wake up one day and realize she doesn’t remember what my laugh sounds like.
Whew, I just made myself a bit sad there…
Okay, so how do we keep that from happening? How do we stay the same for 20, 30, or 40 years? We don’t; we face change together.
Part of what makes the beginning stages of dating so much fun is that there is so much to learn. What music does she like? What’s his favorite movie? Where can we have the most fun on vacation? But after a while these questions get answered. If we stop with the “trivia” section, then we don’t really know our partners; we just know about them.
How do we really dig in? Ask open-ended questions. Going back to the question I asked my girlfriend yesterday: when I asked it, she answered it (I won’t tell you what she said, because that’s our business, not yours. #boundaries). I listened, and I shared my answer; and I will ask her again in the future because I know it will change. If I ask what she wants to accomplish this month, next year, or in the next 10 years, those answers will change too. But that’s where the real meat in the relationship is: Getting to know not just who your partner is, but who they are becoming.
So ask questions to your partner about what they want to be when they grow up, even if they’ve had the same answer for 30 years. Get to know who they are becoming, and who they want to become. Ask about their future; because ideally, that’s where the relationship is headed!
Please share your thoughts in the comments, like, share, and follow! Let me know what you think!