Have You Outgrown Your Partner?


You’ve been part of “we” for a long time… perhaps too long. Though you don’t like to acknowledge it (even to yourself), the two of you don’t fit together quite as well as you once had. You have pursued interests, had personally meaningful and transforming experiences, and he has… well, he’s basically continued the same as he always was. While you wouldn’t have chosen the distance you feel, you do feel it. So, now what?

People grow and change at different times and in different ways. So you need to consider whether what you are feeling is just part of a temporary transition in your relationship or an indication of a growing distance. If you realize that you and your partner really are growing apart, you’ll need to think about how you want to move forward. You might decide to end your relationship, in hopes of finding a more compatible partner. Or you might choose not to do anything different and just hope that the situation will right itself – but chances are that the two of you will only continue to drift apart.

Many people, without even fully realizing it, opt to stunt their own growth in order to keep their relationship strong. The problem with this solution is that it usually eats away at them over time. They feel stifled and resentful. And no relationship is truly strong when these feelings rumble beneath the surface.

Instead, seriously consider the more hopeful option of working together to close the gap between you. You can do this by following the advice below:

Acknowledge the problem: Because differences between partners can be a serious threat to the relationship, many people choose to ignore or minimize them. The result is that those differences grow. So, it is essential to honestly acknowledge the changes you see in yourself and your relationship, and invite your partner to join you in addressing the growing distance.

Look for ways to reconnect: Talking about differences in values or interests is by itself a way to reach out to each other. You might decide to re-connect through shared activities or even re-align your hopes, dreams, and values. For instance, you might invite your partner to join you in your budding interest in art by coming with you to a museum, or by at least showing more curiosity about your recent visit to an art gallery.

Have “the talk”: You may need to be blunt with your partner about the seriousness of the problem between you. If you still love them, be sure to express it and your desire to grow together. However, also explain that not repairing the problem could mean the end of your relationship. Your goal is to get them to work with you to close the growing gap and reclaim the closeness that you both once enjoyed.

Resolve to persist: Relationships are “living” entities. They must be fed and attended to regularly, or they will die. So, be prepared to continue your efforts – this is not a one-time conversation.

Get help: Sometimes couples get so far from each other emotionally that they don’t know how to find their way back. You may find that you don’t know how to help him understand the changes you’ve undergone. And, he may not be able to fully express how this has affected him or what he wants from you now. For instance, he might be better able to support you if you could provide reassurance that you still love him. If you both express a genuine desire to save your relationship despite not knowing how to re-connect, then you may find that an experienced couples therapist can help.

Realizing you’ve outgrown your partner can be troubling, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. If you take steps to nurture your relationship and draw closer, you can create a happier future.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

by Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD