Have you ever made significant changes in your life and your partner had zero interest in making these changes with you, so you went ahead on your own?
I see it happen a lot in our community, and I have first hand experience with it.
We’ve always heard that couples either grow together or they grow apart, but I believe that there’s room for another option. I think it’s possible to have a successful and loving relationship even when one person makes big, beautiful changes in their life and their partner does not embrace those changes. This is assuming that both people want to stay in the relationship. If one person wants out, nothing can (or should) save it, and big lifestyle changes for one person might just be a catalyst to end the relationship. It happens.
However, if you and your partner really want to stay together and one of you is growing and changing and one of you is not growing and changing in the same ways or at the same time, there is a way to make it work.
When I met my wife, I drank a shit ton of alcohol, I smoked all the cigarettes, I ate an unhealthy vegetarian diet, I drank coffee, I loved cookies and donuts more than life itself, and I didn’t make moving my body a priority (unless it was to walk to a liquor store or a bakery). Fast forward twelve years – I have been sober for five years, I wouldn’t dream of putting a cigarette in my mouth, I eat a nutrient dense Whole Food Plant Based Diet, I don’t drink coffee, I don’t eat sugar (thank you Lighten Up!), and I have a daily movement practice that I never skip.
As a side note, if I sound really damn boring, that’s because I am. I am super damn boring. And I am totally okay with this. I traded fun and excitement for happiness and joy. It was a trade that I would do a million times over.
My wife no longer smokes cigarettes, but she does drink some alcohol, eats meat once in a while, drinks one cup of coffee everyday, enjoys eating chocolate, ice cream and cake, and she is not ashamed to announce that she is lazy and hates working out (but she does go to town in our garden and on the tennis court, so she’s not as lazy as she gives herself credit for).
My wife and I used to have a lot in common, now we have less in common because I have made some big ass changes in my life. So how does this work? How are we still happy together after twelve years when one of us has changed dramatically, and the other hasn’t made the same changes?
The answer comes down to one word, and that word is acceptance.
Radical acceptance in ALL directions.
And the best part? Your partner doesn’t even need to be on board the acceptance train to make this work. You can (and should) do it all by yourself.
There are three parts to this.
Accepting your partner.
Accepting your partner’s response and reaction to you.
Let’s unpack this and see what we can find.
Going through expansive personal growth and change is not easy. You face things along the way that make you howl in pain. You learn things about yourself that make you flinch. You face scary shit that you’ve been doing everything to avoid. You peel back the layers and remove the padding that has protected you your whole life. You get real. You get raw.
For as beautiful as the outcome, it’s not a pretty process. It’s bumpy, it’s scary, it’s uncertain.
Your job is to accept and love yourself through all of it. Accept yourself through the pain, the realizations, the frustrations, the regrets, the mistakes, and the breakdowns. Accept the things you could have done better. Accept the path you are on. Accept your decision to change. Accept the person you are becoming. Accept the person you no longer are.
When you have unwavering acceptance for yourself, nothing and no one can stand in your way.
Accepting your partner.
I’m not talking about accepting the things that you like about your partner or even the things that you find mildly annoying. I’m talking about accepting them for exactly who they are at any given moment. You accept their imperfections. You accept the way they love you. You accept how they operate in the world. How they sleep. How they fart. How they talk on the phone. How they express their feelings. How they eat. How they drive. How they entertain themselves. How they parent. Their sense of humor. What they choose to do on the weekends. You accept every little crevice of them.
Now let’s be clear – accepting someone and setting personal boundaries are by no means mutually exclusive. If your partner has a trait that is not working for you, accept whatever it is, and then set a boundary. Accept and set a boundary. Accept and set a boundary. And repeat.
Here’s what this might look like in action:
“I understand and accept that when you worry, it comes out as anger. I don’t feel safe when you are angry, so the next time you are triggered into anger one of us needs to leave the house or room until it is safe for me again.”
By accepting your partner and setting boundaries when necessary, you are showing a great amount of respect for yourself and your partner. You are also teaching them how to treat you.
If there’s something about your partner that you absolutely cannot, will not, no way accept, then maybe it’s time to explore why you are with them.
Accepting your partner’s response and reaction to you.
Part of accepting your partner is accepting their response and reaction to your changes and growth. If they don’t like what you’re doing, they have the right to feel that way. If they miss the “old you”, they also have the right to feel that way. You should absolutely accept how they feel about your changes, but it is never, ever your responsibility to take care of their feelings, to make them feel better, or to fix how they feel. That my dear, is on them. Your job is to love yourself enough to accept and allow them to have their feelings and go through their process, even if it’s hard for you to hear.
Your partner’s reaction to whatever it is you’re doing (or not doing) has nothing to do with you.
It has everything to do with whatever feelings are coming up for them based on your changes.
Maybe they’re afraid you will want them to change. Maybe your new healthy habits make them feel weird about their not-so-healthy habits, the ones that the two of you used to share. Maybe they know they have some work to do on themselves and they have fear around that. Maybe they don’t know how to connect with you now that you are embracing a healthy lifestyle. Maybe 10 million things. It doesn’t matter. It’s not yours. Put it down. Let them sort themselves out. And you focus on you – beautiful, fabulous, courageous YOU.
By accepting your partner’s response and reaction to your changes and letting them sort out their feelings around it, you never have to feel obligated to do something that goes against your goals or the general direction in which you are headed.
So maybe it’s not, grow together or grow apart. Maybe it’s more like, you reach for the damn stars, regardless of what your partner does and you radically accept in every direction along the way.
Now, I didn’t pop out of the womb knowing this stuff. It took me many years and many hours of counseling with one of the best relationship counselors out there. I first had to understand it and then I had to put it into action. It wasn’t always easy and there are times when I still stumble. But ultimately, this is the template that has allowed me to be unapologetically ME while enjoying a thriving relationship with someone who does not make the same choices as I do. She’s happy. I’m happy. The relationship is happy.
When you accept yourself, accept your partner, and accept your partner’s response and reaction to you, your perspective will shift and you will be able to continue to focus on what YOU want to do and not what someone else wants you to do, while at the same time, respecting your partner and not having your differences compromise the relationship.
The next time your partner isn’t being supportive of all the changes you’re making in your life, that’s okay. You can’t change them. You can only change yourself.
Breathe in acceptance and breathe out love. Over and over again.
You got this.
Do you have a partner who isn’t on board with your new healthy lifestyle? Talk to us about your plan going forward in the comments below.
Plant Based Sage-flavored White Gravy (oil-free)
Plant Based Sage-flavored White Gravy (oil free)
Makes about 2 cups
- 1/4 cup brown rice flour (30 g)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (470 ml)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (120 ml)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon white miso
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut aminos
- 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
Place the flour, nutritional yeast, sage, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper and paprika into your blender and process for about 10 seconds, until the ingredients become powdery.
Add the vegetable broth, non-dairy milk, soy sauce, miso and coconut aminos and process until smooth.
Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes until thickened.
Transfer to a container and add the dried thyme by crushing it between your fingers as you add it, and stir.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with acceptance.