While some people say that "people never change," others beg to differ. For that second group, the idea that people grow, evolve, and, yes, change over the course of their lives is absolutely true. And although change doesn't happen overnight and you may never feel like you're a completely different person, you've probably noticed that you can, in fact, learn new things, meet new people, and go new places that inspire you to act or think a bit differently than before. When this happens in relationships, things can get tricky. These signs your partner is growing without you — because sometimes people grow at different rates — can be important to notice or acknowledge because the way you both grow and the way you adapt to changes can seriously affect your relationship, for better or worse.
"Connection is the foundation of any relationship and in order to nurture it you have to grow together, this doesn’t mean you have to be the same — it’s very healthy to have outside interests and friendships and individual growth and fulfillment are great for love relationships, the problems arise when you don’t find a way to stay attuned and connected while fulfilling your personal goals," Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, a couples therapist, tells Romper in an email exchange. "These are often things that bring people to couples therapy and we have to trace the root of the problem to understand how they got there."
If you notice (or suspect) that you and your partner are growing at different rates, it could potentially be either good or bad for your relationship overall, but it's not entirely uncommon.
"This can be wonderful for your relationship, if you have the capacity to recognize your partner’s growth and begin to get curious about engaging in your own growth process," Erin K. Tierno, LCSW-R, a relationship expert and founder of Online Therapy NYC, tells Romper in an email exchange. "Your partner’s growth does not necessarily indicate their desire to leave you behind; instead, it means they are understanding more about the ways they engage in their life and in your relationship and want to take more responsibility. If you can acknowledge your partner’s growth, perhaps even let them know you admire their growth, and begin the process of engaging in your own growth then you have the opportunity to build something together that’s even more fantastic than it had been."
On the other hand, sometimes it's not initially all that obvious that one or the other of you might be growing without the other. In that case, it might be a little bit more complicated.
"This can be the kind of situation that is like a slow burn rather than an obvious crisis; it creeps up on you and eventually you realize you’re not as close as you used to be, that your partner is turning to someone else or an outside interest to satisfy needs that were once satisfied by you, your connection is no longer as strong as it was," Ross says.
Picking up on the signs that they're growing without you or trying to work through your connection issues when you do start to sense that something might be off can help you move forward together.