When we select a house to buy (or rent,) we try to pick a place that will best fit our requirements; from personality to functionality. With the passing years, we change — our perspective shifts, and so do our needs. Perhaps the kids have left the house and we no longer need those extra rooms; possibly we now telecommute, and thus desire extra space to serve as an office; and maybe, just maybe, we developed a hobby as serial killers and need a larger backyard to stash body parts. When such changes occur, they are mostly connected to major life milestones, and thus quite notable. We are then faced with a decision: shall we renovate or just look for new digs that will better suit us.
All this leads me to ask: would the same choices apply concerning our spousal lives?
When we originally fell in love, it was, most likely, with a person that was, hopefully, a good match. Ten, twenty, thirty years later, most people change. Shall we renovate or move on?
Reading a novel titled All The Light We Cannot See — a story that has nothing to do with this blog post, expect that the following metaphor was mentioned: if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. This notion is apparently a known myth that earned itself a heated discussion (*). Yet, regardless of scientific facts, it is a good, albeit gross, example of our blindness to slow-pace changes.
Watch your children daily, and they look the same. Meet a nephew you have not seen in years, and it’s, “oh my, have you grown!” Right, like that is a big surprise. Heck, even look at ourselves in the mirror every morning, and we see no change, except for, maybe, a little growth of facial hair. Stay away from the mirror for several years, (Selfies includes,) and you’ll wonder where is the hair that used to decorate your skull vacationing. Only exceptions are Dorian Gray and Donald Trump…
But I am telling you nothing that you didn’t know already; it is just that we often forget. Thus, under this pretext, back to discussing relationships. Unless something very dramatic happens e.g. a spouse caught watching Swedish porn on his desktop (not me, I swear,) or hiding a stash of heroine under the sofa (again, not me!) we hardly notice the changes our spouse goes through day to day. That is, expect for women when they have their PMS – that is definitely noticeable; and, to be fair, so are some guys during the Super Bowl. And so, years into the relationship, we may wake up one morning not realizing how much we have grown apart. This may be in the form of a shift in major life interests, or, in more extreme cases, spousal abuse. Yet, the changes that led the couple to drift apart were tiny, thus unnoticeable.
All this brings me back to the earlier question – if a relationship is like living in a house, when is it right to renovate and when to just move on? There is no simple answer as there are way too many factors involved. Sometimes the structural damage is so deep that there is no question as to what needs to be done; on other occasions the damage is invisible yet still there. Perhaps for some it is not a bad idea to bring over an engineer to inspect the foundations. And yet, at times, the issues go well beyond the physical construction; the energy and vibe are so negative that it is time to move on, even if renovations are feasible.
No, I am not getting divorced, nor am I going through therapy. These are just reflections upon a private case of gradual changes that I have been examining for a while. I have been contemplating a manner in which these fluctuations will not go unnoticed; concealed until it is too late. Ultimately it all boils down to being observant without judgment, meditative without a cause; a skill I am yet to master, but continue aspiring for.
(*) for additional reading about the boiling frog myth, please visit Wikipedia.
Learned from: or, more correctly, inspired by, a chat with my wife.