We all grow. We all change. Some may prefer to dig into a comfortable rut, watch the shows they like and eat the meals they’re used to - but these aren’t the people I usually find myself spending time with.
No, the people I know are growing. Growing their minds. Growing their relationships. Growing closer, and growing further away. This can be very exciting, interesting, and inspiring. This can also be very frustrating.
I like when things fit into a nice model. Something I know and understand is predictable. Something I know and understand is scriptable. That’s the hacker in me. I guess that’s my comfortable rut. We humans like something we can classify and categorize. We coders like finding ways to automate things to reduce our cognitive load. Sometimes even our interactions.
I’ve been told that I can be very understanding and accepting. This is usually true. I take my time getting to know someone. Some people get close by opening up wide when they meet people. Others forcibly tear down walls until they get to the person hiding behind them. My style has always just been to relax and let people open in their own way, in their own time. Like when you want a cat’s attention - you just let it come to you. This is a slow, but rewarding process.
This is how it goes: You take the time to learn how someone likes to be treated. What they like to hear. What things warm their heart, and what things break it. You’re both happy because you’re able to communicate freely and honestly.
Then something changes.
A new need, or a fresh feeling. A different way of seeing things emerges.
Suddenly things that used to be alright are hurtful. Things that used to be powerful are hardly effective. And the person you love is left wanting.
For me, I can get defensive when that happens. “What do you mean? I’m not acting any differently - this is how I’ve always treated you!”, I may exclaim. “I don’t know what you want.”
And how could I know? The person I love is continuing to grow, continuing to change. Why would doing the same thing satisfy someone who’s no longer the same?
The challenge then becomes whether or not I have the same patience and understanding that I started with to continue loving and caring for this slightly newer version of my partner.
This was a recent epiphany for me and my partner recently. We were on a long road trip together, and even though we less than an arm’s length away, it felt like we were quickly drifting miles apart. I got felt frustrated and became withdrawn. She felt hurt and became upset. Things got even rockier when we tried to explain our frustrations over a campfire, and only felt more isolated from each other.
It wasn’t easy for her to explain herself, because the feelings were new. It wasn’t easy for me to understand, because I thought I already knew her.
Driving along the base of the Tetons we finally broke through.
Once we realized that it was simply new growth, we were able to find ways of growing together. While we were still trying to defend and explain ourselves it was difficult, frustrating, and even scary. Once we went back to that openness of a beginning, we were able to unlock these new doors, and walk through together.