It seems we’ve all had this experience. Someone we are close to, perhaps your child, your brother or sister, your spouse, or a good friend starts to look or act like someone you’ve never met before. It happens suddenly or sometimes very gradually, but you wake up one day and realize that the person you love is different. And sometimes, maybe it is you who realizes that you have changed and the person you love has pretty much stayed the same. You have grown apart.

Relationships can accommodate and tolerate most of the ways our partners and family members change. People develop new interests or their political views evolve, they start getting piercings and tattoos, their taste in music changes or they become more involved or less involved in religion. At a more intense level, perhaps your loved one comes out as gay or tells you that they have fallen in love with someone else. Or illness changes a partner or child.

What kinds of changes can we handle and which changes are so great or disruptive that the relationship breaks or comes to an impasse? When a friend changes—perhaps moves away or can no longer physically do some of the activities you used to do with one another—such changes can be difficult, but often do not fundamentally alter the relationship.

When our children change in major ways, we often experience a greater feeling of alienation or disruption in the connection with stronger emotional reactions and impactful consequences to the relationship. Changes in our relationship with our partner or spouse can be equally difficult and sometimes even more difficult than changes in our relationships with our children. Religious, political and sexual differences are some of the most difficult changes to tolerate or accommodate, yet there are many couples that succeed in maintaining a meaningful bond even as they continue to grow and change. The amount of change we can accommodate in various relationships ebbs and flows. It is sometimes possible to grow back together even after we have grown apart from someone we care about.

Questions to Consider:
1) What types of change have you experienced in important relationships that resulted in growing apart? Was your relationship able to adjust to these changes and remain intact?
2) Talk about an experience in which either you or your friend/child/partner changed significantly and how that affected the relationship.
3) What has been the most challenging change for you to accept in an important relationship?
4) What types of change have made letting go of a relationship the right decision for you?
Created by Dr. Beth Firestein for Wise Women Group. [Copyright 2019]