If you’re in a longterm relationship, you know they can be filled with ups and downs and undergo many growing pains. Much of these highs and lows happen as each partner grows and evolves throughout the years. But while we would like to think we grow in tandem with our partner as time goes by, that’s not always the case.
“Every relationship has a purpose. Some are for the purpose of forever and most are for the purpose of ‘for now’ or ‘for some time,’” says Laurel House, dating coach and an eharmony relationship expert. “When you feel like you’ve outgrown a relationship, that relationship has reached its expiration date, and that’s OK. It’s a healthy time to let it go.”
At its most basic, House says feeling like you’ve outgrown your relationship could mean that you have changed, grown, ascended in your lifestyle, health, habits, career, or preferences, and your partner has stayed in the same spot—or hasn’t changed at the same rate and pace as you.
Additionally, she says, “you might feel like your partner is stagnant, you might look at them as a reflection of your past, you might feel like you have surpassed them, and it makes you uncomfortable.”
House says if you keep trying to force the relationship to be something it’s not, you risk turning the relationship from an opportunity for learning to one that is potentially toxic and even damaging.
“That doesn’t mean that the moment that you feel like you’ve outgrown your partner you should call it quits. This is the time to have a conversation and determine if it’s a transitional opportunity to inspire change and growth in your partner, too. Give your partner a chance to grow, too, if they want to.”
Outgrowing a relationship might be hard to accept but knowing and understanding some of its signs can be a good indicator of where you’re at and how you want to move forward from there. Here are some to consider.
Your partner reminds you of who you used to be and it triggers you
According to House, a major sign that you’ve outgrown your relationship is if your partner reminds you of who you used to be because they still engage in the same old outgrown activities, habits, and headspace you used to have when you first got together.
“You’ve worked hard to stop doing, grow out of, and move away from those behaviors but your partner is comfortable in that old place and it makes you feel frustrated, angry, resentful, or sad,” she says. “You might also feel like they are trying to hold you back, and that makes you angry. Or maybe there is a part of you that misses your old ways and lifestyle, and your partner tempts you to go back and makes it hard to continue to move forward.”
Typically this can happen when you have known your partner for a long time or before a major period of transition in your life. “You may have had a reality check or life-shifting experience that made you decide to change your ways and go about things differently, but your partner didn’t have that same change-making enlightenment.”
You feel like you’re constantly telling your partner to try harder, do more, and be better
Do you feel like your partner’s parent or mentor? Are you beginning to feel like a nag when you constantly have to ask your partner to make changes or feel like you put more energy and focus on your partner’s growth than your partner does? Then you probably have outgrown the relationship.
“Your partner might be more of a go-with-the-flow type, which you used to find attractive and admire at the start,” House explains. “But now that real life has hit, you need your partner to ascend in life and become better and more evolved. You start to resent your partner because you start to feel like the only one pushing for change when in reality you are pushing for betterment. This can happen when you have a stronger goal-oriented nature.”
You are embarrassed by your partner when you’re around new friends or colleagues
Another sign, House says, is if your partner fits in better with your old friends in your old life, but your new friends and associations are different and your partner no longer feels like they belong to this new group. For example, maybe you notice a disparate difference between them when it comes to communication, interests, or even how they dress.
“Since you are newly trying to fit in and create this group, the newness might feel fragile so you don’t want to introduce anyone who might make them question who you actually are,” House explains. “Since your partner is a reflection of who you are, yet they are still stuck in their old style, your new group might wonder if the presentation of your personality is just a veneer or façade.” As a result, you might feel like you and your partner are on two different trajectories.
You find yourself looking for someone who is more like who you have become
“As you’re growing and developing, your new interests, conversations, beliefs, and styles might lead you to look for someone who shares those same interests, conversations, beliefs, and styles,” House says. “More than sharing with you, someone who has the same preferences might help you to further explore, expand and deepen this new side of you. You are drawn to the excitement and adrenaline that comes from those conversations, and less interested in having the same old—albeit comfortable—conversations that you currently have with your partner. This can create an internal conflict resulting in sadness, regret, frustration, and annoyance. You might not like that you are mentally and emotionally straying, but simultaneously, you know that you need more.”
If you’d like to work things out with your partner, House recommends the 3Cs: Communication creates Clarity creates Confidence. “Communicate how you feel, what you need, and what your goals are. Talk about different action steps and how you can help each other to activate them. Talk about a realistic timeframe and decide to reconnect about their status at that point. If, after that amount of time, they have not put in the time or effort to make change, it’s possible that they actually don’t want to and they are only doing it because you’re forcing them to. If they are resistant to do that change or if they, in fact, do make the change, there might be resentment, and that is never healthy in a relationship. You both need to come to the conclusion that this relationship is not working and you have different life goals that do not align.”
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