When One Changes: Can It Still Work?

When I wrote the post where I revealed the end of my four year relationship with Wil, I tried to remain pretty vague because while this is my place to share whatever I want about myself, I feel like its important for me to remain respectful of other people in my life who might not want to share so much.

That said, I got a LOT of questions about my thoughts on whether it can still work if you’re in a relationship with someone and one of you changes drastically over the course of it. I am clearly no expert here, but I thought I would shed some light on my thoughts on the topic since you asked.

When One Changes

In short, yes, I think it’s possible for a relationship to work. I think as long as you have a strong foundation with open communication and mutual support, then it really is possible for your relationship to stay intact. It could probably even cause a relationship to flourish if the changes are positive since generally the person who changes will be in a better place.

While I do strongly believe that the changes I made were very positive overall, I just changed so much that I found myself on a completely different page from Wil. I wanted him to embrace the changes I had made and make many of them for himself, but he didn’t want that for himself, and you know – that’s ok. You can’t change anyone but yourself, so if you’re unhappy with the person you’re with, unfortunately there’s not much you can do to control it.

Besides the obvious physical changes I went through, I made some strong internal changes that contributed to the breakdown of the relationship and I think are what ultimately caused it to end. I was a little too easy to settle and think that I should just take what I could get. I set expectations too low for what I needed out of a partner, and however sad and depressing it is that I felt like I had to settle before I made so many changes, it’s the truth. I guess I just didn’t feel like I deserved any better and didn’t have the confidence to trust that I would find someone who wasn’t just good enough, but was great.

Once the good things in my life started happening, it was really difficult when I felt like I couldn’t be happy when I was at home because my partner was not in a good place, nor willing to do what it would take to get himself there. It got to a point where home became more of a source of stress and unhappiness for me, rather than happiness and the icing on the cake like it should have been.

The easy thing would have been to stay.

We had been together for four years and were very intertwined in each others lives. Even though I was no longer feeling fulfilled in the relationship, staying it in would have been easy. I did do the easy thing for a while, even when I suspected it might not have been the right thing to do anymore, but getting myself to a place where I was ready to make such a drastic change took some time. I remember thinking a few times over the last year or so that I would want to take a break if we didn’t live together, but logistically it would be too hard without actually breaking up.

I can’t say exactly what happened to end everything, but the final straw came and it just got to a point where I knew the easy thing was no longer good enough for me. I knew I deserved more and needed more out of relationship. It was the internal changes that I went through that changed me into a stronger person and one who knew it was time to make a change. I found myself in a place where I knew I could do anything I set my mind to, and I knew it was time to set my mind to getting out of the relationship. And so I did.

Have you ever had a hard time doing something you knew was right, even if it wasn’t the easy thing to do?

19 Comments on When One Changes: Can It Still Work?

  1. Sara
    September 27, 2011 at 9:07 am (6 years ago)

    I know exactly how you feel. I had to break up with a boyfriend about 5 years ago after a 2 year relationship that I thought was going to lead to marriage. When I finally opened my eyes that I was seriously unhappy with him and our relationship it was very hard to break it off. It had gotten convenient and it felt scary to be single in the Real World since I had just graduated from college and jumped into the relationship with him. All of my friends were his friends – how would I make friends? All of the places we went were places he showed me – how would I find my own places? But I knew in my gut it was what I had to do in order to be happy and I faced the fears head on and I don’t ever regret it. Looking back, he was SO not The One! But without going through that relationship, I would never have the guts to stand up for myself now and demand the most from relationships that I now know I deserve!
    I’m very proud of you for standing up for yourself and doing what you needed to do. While it’s always sad to say goodbye to a relationship, it wasn’t for nothing and I know you’ve learned a lot from it that you can carry into your next relationship. 🙂 We all move on and we all survive. You’ll definitely be better off being honest with yourself and so much happier! 🙂

    Sara

    Reply
  2. Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt
    September 27, 2011 at 10:38 am (6 years ago)

    I have several long term relationships that had to end. None of those came close to hurting as much as it did the day I decided I needed to move away from my beloved south and take a job up north. In another state. Away from my family. Ugh. It hurt so much but I knew that I needed to do it to experience all that life had to offer me. It wasn’t easy and I was so depressed at first. And then it happened. My life kicked into gear and I realized what a great decision I had made. My mom said it best when I told her I got the job out of Florida…”I don’t want you to move. BUT I need you to move so that you can say you always did what was best for you.” 🙂

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  3. Katie
    September 27, 2011 at 10:39 am (6 years ago)

    I think it is very courageous of you to open your heart. While you certainly did not have to explain yourself or any details about your relationship, I think it is important that a message is sent of believing that you are worth not settling for less than you deserve. That doesn’t make Wil a bad guy, it just means that he wasn’t right for you at this moment. It’s ok for people to change within a relationship and I think sometimes people are scared to change for fear that it may change the relationship. As long as you make decisions that are best for you, you will always come out stronger and wiser.

    Reply
  4. Jennifer
    September 27, 2011 at 10:46 am (6 years ago)

    I went through this recently myself, ending a 2 year relationship. The tough part for me was he was honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever dated, I enjoyed his company, and we had a lot of things in common. The problem was my feelings for him were more like a friend. And for a long time I accepted that as ok, since he is such a great person. But it would nag at me, and I would push it down into the recesses of my mind. Finally, this past month, I ended it. It was so hard to hurt someone I cared about, but like you, I didn’t want to settle, and I had to be honest with myself and with him.

    My dad passed away 14 years ago at a fairly young age, and after that I really realized that we only get 1 shot at life, and I need to do what I can to create the best life for myself. I try to remember that when I face tough decisions.

    I’m proud of you for recognizing that the relationship wasn’t giving you what you wanted anymore. You are a smart, strong woman! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Jessamyn
    September 27, 2011 at 11:03 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for writing this, Beth- this spring, my gf and I broke up after 7 years and so many things you wrote in this post really resonate for me. You’re such a rock star.

    Reply
  6. Gretchen @ Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!
    September 27, 2011 at 11:13 am (6 years ago)

    Great post, Beth. I think that adaptability is a necessary part of every relationship, and realizing that if someone else is going to be able to adapt to the changes that you’re making (especially positive changes!) you might get to a point where things are going to have to end.

    My boyfriend (of almost 3 years) and I broke up for about 2 months, and it was near the end of that time that I decided to make the changes in my life that would lead me to my 60-lb-so-far weight loss and total 180-degree turnaround of my eating habits. We got back together but not without me making sure he understood that he needed to support me 100% and jump on board with me, or it wouldn’t work. So far, so good, but the temptation of lapsing into our old habits together does always loom.

    Reply
  7. Lisa
    September 27, 2011 at 11:53 am (6 years ago)

    From what you’ve said I think you made the right decision. It’s okay to change for the better and want more out of your life. Drastic changes like losing half of your body weight changes who you are, how you think, often times it changes the food you eat, the habits you have and the hobbies! It’s a shame he didn’t want to make similar changes but you are right–it’s his choice. You can only make the choices for yourself.

    Reply
  8. Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio
    September 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm (6 years ago)

    all the time! My boyfriend Neal and I broke up a few years ago for a month and it was extremely hard for us both… but it was the right thing to do. We obviously got back together, but going into it we didn’t know if that would happen. It can be so scary, but in your gut you know it is the right thing.

    We’re all proud of you!

    Reply
  9. Lauren @ Lettuce Eat Cake
    September 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm (6 years ago)

    What a brave post! Thanks for having the courage to delve into something that’s probably a painful reality for many couples. My fiance (wedding is in 1.5 weeks!) is thankfully extremely supportive of my healthy changes, and we’re also fortunate to be on the same schedule and get to spend a lot of quality time together. There are so many factors that go into a healthy relationship, and sometimes the hardest decision is also the right decision. Keeping you in my thoughts!

    Reply
  10. Liz
    September 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm (6 years ago)

    I’ve changed a lot since I met Neil. We started seeing each other when I was a senior in college and I drank like a fish among other not so healthy recreational activities. I also hated all fruits and vegetables.
    He has been really supportive through all my changes: starting to eat healthier, drinking less, starting to exercise, starting to train for crazy events and becoming a vegetarian. I guess it also helps that I never really had to change him to go along with my changes. He has always played a lot of sports, and appreciates a home cooked meal, even if it’s healthy or doesn’t have meat.

    Reply
  11. Roz
    September 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm (6 years ago)

    Love your honesty Beth! Breaking up is NEVER easy, even if both parties know its for the best! But the kindest thing you can do for yourself is say “enough”! As you said, it takes a while…..I stayed in a relationship about a year longer than I should have some years ago. But if I’d got out of it when I first knew things weren’t right, I’d never have met the man who later became my husband. You are a very brave woman, and I look forward to reading about all your successes as you journey forward. Have a great day!!

    Reply
  12. Christine @ Merf In Progress
    September 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm (6 years ago)

    I think you’re spot on, Beth. It can be done, but both people have to be willing to grow together. When people are growing in different directions, or one is changing and the other isn’t, it just doesn’t work.

    Reply
  13. Madeline - Greens and Jeans
    September 28, 2011 at 6:44 am (6 years ago)

    This is precisely why I broke up with John in December. I had moved, had a new job, a big new city to explore, and I was out doing different things and meeting new people while he was still doing the same thing. We weren’t connecting any more and it just wasn’t working. I know it was for the best because I never would have met Colin without taking that step!

    Reply
  14. Mandy
    September 28, 2011 at 8:40 am (6 years ago)

    Such a well though-out post. Those internal changes can either be a blessing (in your case) or a hindrance (in mine). I *thought* I was too good for my relationship and that I could do better, but when I let the new “smug Mandy” go away for a while, I realized that my boyfriend was the biggest cheerleader I have. He changed the way he eats for me, keeps me motivated to go to the gym, cheers for me when I lose one measly pound (or 0.4 pounds, like yesterday), and listens to my disappointments with myself. I have since apologized for my superior attitude during my emotional changing, and I kick myself whenever I feel like I’m slipping back. When you find someone who will support you regardless of what amazing (or dumb!) thing you want to do, you will know you have “the one”. Everyone is just out looking for their own personal cheerleader!

    Reply
  15. Hyla
    September 28, 2011 at 11:36 am (6 years ago)

    I am just glad you recognized the situation for what it was. So many of my friends continue to stay in harmful/non supportive relationships because it is easy. I tell them and then I back off but it is so hard to watch.

    Reply
  16. Megan C.
    September 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm (6 years ago)

    This is a well written post. And I think too often we stay in relationships, jobs, and even friendships longer than we should because it is easier than leaving and/or because we don’t think we deserve any better. I know I have done that too often in the past.

    I also think it is important for your significant other to embrace your changes in lifestyle, etc. I’ve tried losing weight with one who doesn’t and it is an uphill battle. Now I have a supportive husband and he is happy to be a guinea pig for new recipes.

    Take care of yourself first and foremost.

    Reply
  17. jassy @ Healthy Egg
    October 2, 2011 at 12:17 am (6 years ago)

    change is always hard, adjustments are always needed but in the end, if we knew that what we’re doing is right, it will still be okay no matter what 🙂

    Reply
  18. Evi
    October 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm (6 years ago)

    I can understand. I was in a 6 year relationship- and I realize that I wanted different things. And yes- I could have stayed, but I knew that I wouldn’t be happy. And waking up and being happy with my choices is way more important in the end. You have to make yourself happy, not others. It’s amazing that you took those steps, realized it, and did something about it- true to yourself! Congrats!!!

    Reply
  19. Tiffany @ texan on the run
    October 11, 2011 at 2:38 am (6 years ago)

    beth, you are so down to earth. i am loving your blog!
    thanks for your honesty and i love your deeper, more insightful posts!

    Reply

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