My Partner Isn’t Interested in Growing
Should I stay or leave?
You’ve likely heard me talk about alignment in the context of relationship’s early phases. Getting into them. And ensuring that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to needs, values, and vision.
But the conversation around alignment doesn’t end there…
Years into a relationship, what happens when one partner is growing and the other is static, or isn’t even interested in personal growth?
No matter your gender combination in relationship or marriage, this is a common crux that many partners arrive at in the long term.
Opposites are required to have this conversation. To help build a full perspective, I’ve laid out Six Considerations below. In them, I’ll be both as gentle and as blunt as I can be.
So, let’s start with the slap, then massage it out with some nuance…
Consideration Number One: There’s a difference between interests and values…
Your partner might say, “Hey, I’m really digging learning about this. I’m wondering, as I learn and expand, would you come with me?”
And we might say, “Nah, I’m not interested in what you’re interested in.” And that’s fair, right?
If one of you gets super into tennis or pottery, and the other person doesn’t want to do it with you—that’s not a big deal, because those are interests. And they’re different for everyone.
But when I hear someone say, “Our value systems are so different,” that concerns me…
Because I don’t know that you can reconcile value differences in a relationship. I’d love to say you can. But most of the time our values are deal-breakers.
Our values are things like growth, truth, honesty, integrity, adventure, mental health—things that are critical to the ethos of who we are as human beings…
And to abandon those values would be abandoning yourself, limiting your self-expression and growth, which leads to…
Consideration Number Two: If you stop growing in order to stay in a relationship, you will resent the relationship…
If you turn off your own expansion, and choose to stay small, to remain a match for someone else (because they don’t like your bigness, or they can’t handle it, or it threatens them) then resentment toward your partner is inevitable.
One way or another, you’ll be driven to leave the relationship, either by checking out internally or literally walking away.
Consideration Number Three: People change. Just because a relationship worked years ago, that doesn’t mean it works now…
If you get married at 20, your level of consciousness is very different than it will be at 30 or 40. You might be completely different people. And what you’re seeking in a relationship at 20 is very different than when you’re 30 or 40.
It pains me to hear people say, “Where’s the person I met?” As if staying the same is a desirable achievement, rather than growing, learning, or becoming better.
I’m so grateful that I’m not who I was at 20, or even who I was a year ago. Because there were aspects of me that needed to heal. There was more about codependency that I needed to learn. And I bet there always will be.
It’s only through transformation that you release the weight of the pain of your experiences. In growing from struggles, you can look back and say (in most cases, though not always true) “Thank God I went through that, so that I could learn about boundaries, alignment, expression. All the things I value so much…”
We need growth. We thrive in growth. So, if growth is a deep value of yours, and if your growth is pulling you away from a relationship, is there anything to be ashamed of? Or could letting go of that relationship just be a sign of your growth?
Consideration Number Four: Choosing to end a relationship isn’t a failure…
We need to eradicate this idea that you must stay together because you made a commitment, under every circumstance—abuse, neglect, or not sharing the mutual value of growth.
Our culture has made it so that leaving a relationship is some sort of flaw. The breaking of a secret contract we’ve all made about love, that must abandon yourself and stay together at all costs.
This is the kind of implicit, limiting agreement of tradition beneath beliefs like: “You can’t leave. You can’t change. You must navigate relationship this way. You need to live this type of life.”
The nature of relationship is in a transformational state, from one generation to the next. Relationship used to be something you just did. But now people are going, “Wait… I actually want more. But everything I learned about relationship was that you don’t get to have more. And that’s just the way it is…”
How many people do you know who just statically coast in relationships? How many times have you heard them say sh*t like…
“Well, this is just normal. This is just what happens. You’re not supposed to care. You’re not supposed to be attracted to each other anymore. You’re not supposed to hump. You’re not supposed to go down on each other. You’re not supposed to pop a finger in the butt from time to time…”
Too many people have given up. They believe that you’re supposed to just tolerate things in life, and they aren’t allowed to be better.
At any moment, you can wake up and realise that your potential is only limited by the limitations that you’ve learned. And that includes the potential of your relationship.
Which brings us to…
Consideration Number Five: Yes, people change. But relationships can too…
If you’re feeling misaligned with your partner, you can still try recreating alignment. Because a relationship can (and perhaps should) change as the people within it change.
You’re only “giving up” when you know there’s more potential. When you accept a sub-par dynamic in your relationship, and don’t put your best efforts into improving it.
So, consider inviting your partner into expansion. Invite them along for the journey. Say, “These are my values. This is what I want life to be. Let’s talk about our relationship and our relationship agreements…
What are you passionate about? What’s moving you? What do you want to create together? What’s possible for both of us?”
It’s through these kinds of conversations with your partner that you might cultivate, or reignite, an environment that invites the vulnerability to dream. Which is the sweet spot. Because your relationship is not the place where your dreams go to die, it’s the place where you’re empowered to pursue them.
However, a lot of the time we don’t send them an invitation to join us in dreaming and growing because, deep down, we don’t want them to. It’s this passive way of breaking off the relationship without really breaking it off. So, notice how you feel about the mere idea of extending this invite.
Consideration Number Six: Remember that we all go through funks…
When you’re playing the long game in love, you will likely experience temporary episodes of misalignment, which can seem more problematic than they need to be.
Humans go through seasons. We’re not going to feel switched on and fully in our power all the time. We ebb and flow. At some points, over the years, we’ll turn to our partner and say, “My life isn’t tight right now. I’m not in alignment. I’m out of integrity.” We may feel sad, anxious, or depressed…
BUT. We’re still moving toward healing. We’re still moving toward growth and expansion. Even if you’re in a funk, you’re still asking: “What am I doing to resolve it?”
As the partner in the supportive role, remember that enabling is not empowering. To enable someone to stay stuck is not empowering them to move through their stuckness. Instead, we might say…
“Hey, I’ve got your back and I’m here with you…
What do you need from me? What can we do? What can you do?”
Now, there’s a line here. In waiting for your partner, you’re making a negotiation with your soul. You decide that you can hang tight and be patient for X amount of time. Because after a certain length of time you’ll be self-abandoning. And you may keep staying because you think you have to, not because you’re choosing to.
That’s why it’s so important to add the following question:
“How do we know when we’re through it?”
Otherwise the grace period of allowing your partner to realign becomes endless limbo, carrying the same painful ambiguity as the dreaded words “I think we should take some space.” They almost never specify a time frame, and just say “I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”
Most often, space-taking is just softening the ground to prepare for a breakup. Yet many of us will blindly comply because we fear abandonment or rejection. We’ll do whatever it takes to prevent them from leaving.
Whereas a supportive partner in their power will ask clarifying questions like, “What are you doing with this space? What are your intentions? What’s the outcome you’re seeking? When will I know this space has been productive for you?”
In the same way, we don’t want to passively stand by and enable our partner’s languishing or tolerate misalignment. We want to have clear, mutual standards for behaviour and the quality of our relationship.
The key is to strike a balance between being compassionate, embracing that all of us go through phases, and granting our partner the opportunity to realign with either themselves or us…
Yet also self-honouring, in protecting our happiness, while standing up for our partner’s.
Integrating the Six Considerations: What Now?
On one hand, there is no simple answer. On the other, there is. While it’s not a quick fix, there’s a clear enquiry you’re being invited to have:
Am I compromising my values in this relationship, or do we merely have differing interests?
And if I am compromising my values, can I negotiate a change?
How much time am I willing to give to that negotiation?
If I can’t negotiate change, am I willing to leave?
Moving through this enquiry might take a month, or it might take a year. But it’s waiting for you nonetheless. And it’s urgent.
Because if you resign and turn down the volume on what you want from relationship, that means you must also turn down the volume on what you want from yourself.
There is no turning down awareness in one area of life and not turning it down in all areas.